Snaer’s three lifts Florida State past Duke, into ACC contention

When Michael Snaer silenced a roaring Cameron Indoor Arena with a game-winning three as time expired on Saturday afternoon, it didn't just snap fourth-ranked Duke's 45-game home winning streak.

The Seminoles' 76-73 victory also raised the question whether they should be considered legitimate ACC title contenders.

Crazy as it may sound considering Florida State is three weeks removed from scoring 10 points in a half vs. Princeton and losing by 20 at Clemson, the Seminoles appear to belong in the ACC championship conversation. In the past week alone, they clobbered North Carolina by 33, handled Maryland by 14 and upset Duke on the road, raising their record to 4-1 in ACC play.

What's especially promising for Florida State is its remaining schedule appears as favorable as any of its fellow ACC contenders.

Three of the Seminoles' five remaining conference road games are at Wake Forest, Boston College and Miami. They don't play North Carolina again and their second matchup with Duke is in Tallahassee, though they do have two games left against much improved Virginia.

The big question facing Florida State, of course, is if its offense can be efficient enough to complement its typically formidable defense and keep the Seminoles in contention for the ACC title. There were some alarming dry spells during an underwhelming non-conference performance, but Florida State has improved considerably in ACC play.

Snaer has scored 50 points in Florida State's last three games and is gradually evolving into the go-to scorer Florida State needs him to be. Ian Miller has averaged 13.0 points per game since returning after sitting out the team's first 11 games due to academics. And the supporting cast is doing its part, whether it's interior scoring from Bernard James, steady point guard play from Luke Loucks or perimeter shooting from Deividas Dulkys.

The stats in conference play certainly won't remind anyone of the Hank Gathers-Bo Kimble-era LMU teams, but Florida State's defense is good enough that it only needs to be serviceable on offense to succeed. Against far better competition, its assist-to-turnover ratio has improved from .7 to .84, its three-point percentage is up from 32.5 to 39.5 and its points per possession has increased from 1.02 to 1.08.

When Florida State lost Chris Singleton and Derwin Kitchen off last year's Sweet 16 team and started slowly in non-league play, there were many who believed this Seminoles team might struggle to even return to the NCAA tournament.

Florida State is certainly in good position to prove those doubters wrong after this week. Now they have a chance to take aim at even bigger goals.

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