5 Things Florida State Basketball Must Do to Make the 2014 NCAA Tournament

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Florida State Seminoles Look to Power Their Way Into 2014 NCAA Tournament

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Upon first glance, the Florida State Seminoles appear to be the type of team that strikes fear into the hearts opponents as soon as they get off the bus. They even look like a team capable of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

If they aren't the biggest team in the country, they're easily one of the biggest. The 'Noles boast three seven-footers and their 14-man roster consists of nine players that stand at least 6-foot-6.

That length and size were prominently on display in the early portion of their non-conference schedule, outscoring they're first four opponents by an average of 23 points per game. The most noteworthy win was against VCU, ranked No. 10 in the preseason. The Seminoles supplied a virtual dunkfest and ran the Rams out the gym, destroying them in the Puerto Rico Tipoff, 85-67.

In the next round they sprinted out to an early double-digit lead against tourney favorite Michigan. However, the Wolverines rattled them with the 1-3-1 zone defense in the second half, but needed overtime to dispatch FSU, 82-80.

A 67-66 road loss two games later to current No. 1 Florida was another indication that the Seminoles could play with anyone in the country. This goes to show that games aren't won on paper. The seasonal grind and the process to move forward aren't as simple as height and weight dimensions, either.

The 'Noles found themselves in the midst of a mid-season funk, going 3-7 heading into last Sunday's game at Pitt. The Panthers are more than likely in the tournament as we speak. On the other hand, FSU needed a signature win to regain confidence and make the selection process a little harder in a couple of weeks. After grinding out a 71-66 win, they breathe a little easier but know they have virtually no shot of getting an at-large selection without winning their final three games and playing well in the ACC Tournament.

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5. Beat Inferior Opponents

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Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

The 'Noles' next two opponents are Georgia Tech and Boston College. That's both good and bad for FSU. It's good because they should easily win both games, as both of them are near the bottom of the conference standings. It's bad because neither one of these games will improve their strength of schedule. No matter what the case is, a loss in either game would all but eliminate them from making the tournament.

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4. Use the Home-Court Advantage

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Through the years FSU has recorded memorable wins over top ranked opponents, especially at home. In both 2006 and 2011, they defeated No. 1 Duke in Tallahassee.

After their home game with Georgia Tech and road contest with Boston College, the 'Noles have a Mar. 9 home date with No. 4 Syracuse. That will be their biggest game of the season without question.

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3. Swarming Defense

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Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

FSU is traditionally known for being tough to score on. Their rangy wing players make it difficult for guards to penetrate to the basket and as a team rank third in the ACC in field goal percentage defense. If you make past the first wave of players, prepare to deal with an active frontcourt that were mainly responsible for the 'Noles being second in the ACC in blocks.

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2. Elevate and Intimidate

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With all the height and length they possess, they might as well look the part while they're at it. In addition to their swarming defense, FSU is one of the most athletic teams in the country. When they get out in transition and display their high-wire act, it can seriously demoralize the opposing team.

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1. Follow the Gameplan

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

This isn't the first rodeo for head coach Leonard Hamilton. He might not have the gaudy record of Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina's Roy Williams, but he has 26 years of collegiate head coaching experience to fall back on. He also holds the distinction of being the only coach to win both the Big East and ACC Coach of the Year awards.

His backcourt of senior Ian Miller and sophomore Aaron Thomas are very talented but must control tempo and limit turnovers. Senior forward Okaro White needs to be assertive early in ball games to relax the 'Noles guards.

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