This was about as grand of a that-came-out-of-nowhere blowout as you could expect in college basketball. Indeed, Florida State was at home, but home games cannot account for curb-stompings like this, not when FSU’s best prior win to this was against Virginia Tech earlier this week — and Tech isn’t a tournament team. You want the next-best in line on FSU’s resume? I’ll let you pick. UMass, Loyola Marymount, Auburn.
|Deividas Dulkys had the game of his life in what could amount to one of the most surprising results of this season. (AP)|
Yeah, that’s what Leonard Hamilton’s group had proven so far this season. Then the ’Noles came out and power-washed North Carolina to death, 90-57. As of this post's publishing, there are still co-eds cluttered about the floor at the Donald L. Tucker Center after the monsoon of a court-storm. Few had Florida State winning. Not even Tim Tebow had FSU by 33 points.
Florida State, which is offensively challenged in a lot of ways, averages 70 points per game, or at least it did before today. It went against so many of the terrible, slow, frustrating offensive principles it's played badly for up until now. So many facets to this beatdown weren’t foreseeable. In fact, I think it will go down as one of the five most surprising results of the season — because I don’t think UNC loses another game by double digits the rest of the way and I'm still not sure, come mid-March, FSU is an NCAA tournament team.
Among the game's best/surprising storylines, consider the biggest performance, which came from FSU senior guard Deividas Dulkys, who (averaging six points per game) was playing some of the worst basketball of his career heading into this one. He was 5-for-29 from deep in his last nine games. He scored 32 points in that run. He had 32 today! He was 8-of-10 from 3-point range and paced Florida State to an offensive performance that, sorry, won’t be duplicated this season by the Seminoles.
A great job overall by Hamilton’s club, who in one game immediately altered its reputation, earning yet another huge win on its home floor. In the past five years, FSU’s had five wins against highly ranked teams in Tallahassee. They certainly know how to get up for the biggest games.
But they’d never been so good against a team so “great” before. God, I still can’t believe the quit I saw in North Carolina. I tried to lead with FSU because when you beat the third-ranked team at home, I think so much credit should go to the team that whoops and doesn't let up. FSU has ways to go to solidify itself in the at-large discussion, but you can’t knock on the door any harder to get into that room than the way FSU did today.
But UNC's the bigger story nationally, naturally. Its lack of toughness and abundance of carelessness was the most glaring factor to this game. For all the surprise and trend-bucking that took place, North Carolina’s lack of will was, forget out of character, it was out of species. The Heels didn’t fight back. How many loose-ball battles did FSU win? At least 10 by my unofficial eye count. UNC merely trailed by eight at the half, then decided to slow their chase once Florida State had a few more shots fall and took a few more rebounds and turned them into points.
There will be some controversy due to Roy Williams getting all of his coaches and players who were on the bench into the locker room with about 15 seconds remaining, but that's not what we should be discussing. First of all, the idea was Hamilton's, so the incoming rush of warm, teenage bodies didn't pin down UNC's team for 10 minutes. Secondly, Williams is a smart, smart man. He really is. He's one of the best at distracting the discussion from a team loss to something more trivial. When UNC got pounced by UNLV in November, the conversation was as much about Williams' anger over UNC fans selling their seats behind the bench as it was about the Heels taking an early surprising loss.
Let's not make it about that. Let's make it about a team seen as a title-contender getting outscored by 33 points. Championship-winning teams do not get beat by 33 points. Right now, UNC isn't a championship team. It wants to be one, it can be one, but it looked unlike anything I'd seen before from a Williams-coached team this afternoon.