TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- All the tickets are sold and little remains except the wait for Florida State's game against fifth-ranked Duke on Thursday in what has shaped up as one of the most important games in Florida State basketball history.
The 15th-ranked Seminoles (19-7, 10-2 ACC) have already defeated the Blue Devils (23-4, 10-2), North Carolina State, Wake Forest and No. 7 North Carolina this season. Florida State needs a second win over Duke to complete a sweep of its rivals from the state of North Carolina and keep its hopes alive for the school's first ACC regular season championship.
The high stakes have made Duke's visit one of the most highly anticipated games for Florida State in decades.
One might have to go all the way back to Jan. 27, 1970 at tiny Tully Gym where the Seminoles handed Jacksonville University its only regular season loss that year with an 89-83 win that the Dolphins avenged 85-81 three weeks later. It was a JU team led by 7-2 Artis Gilmore that finished second to UCLA while Florida State finished its season 23-3 and then two years later also lost to UCLA in the NCAA title game. Both games that winter are remembered as classics.
Former coach Dean Smith's North Carolina Tar Heels completed a sweep of the Seminoles in the 1992-93 season to lock up the regular season ACC title with an 86-76 victory on Feb. 27, 1993. The Seminoles advanced to the final eight that season before losing to Kentucky.
Duke, on the other hand, lives off of big games days and hostile crowds.
"They generate that kind of hype regardless of where they go," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said Tuesday. "They've been in these type of games over and over and over again."
Hamilton said Duke has improved since Florida State's last-second 76-73 win last month in Durham, N.C. on Michael Snaer's 3-pointer as time expired.
"They have gotten themselves into a rhythm they seem to be comfortable with," Hamilton said. "We're playing at a high level and they are too."
The emergence of sophomore guard Ian Miller as a difference maker along with Hamilton's decision to move 6-8 Okaro White back to power forward has paid big dividends in Florida State's stretch drive. Miller, who missed the first 11 games while academically ineligible, is second in scoring at 10.5 points a game while averaging a bit over 23 minutes playing time. Snaer is the leading scorer at 13.5 points a game.
"This team is really deep," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said during the weekly ACC coaches' conference call on Monday. "They come at you with nine or ten guys so they are fresh."
The Seminoles have won 10 of their last 11 games and are no longer able to ambush anyone, establishing themselves over the past four seasons with the third best record in ACC play. Since the start of the 2008-2009 season, Florida State is 41-19 in ACC regular season play, trailing only Duke and North Carolina.
Not only is first place at stake Thursday night with the regular season winding down, so are a couple of smaller streaks of lesser significance.
The Seminoles are 6-0 at home in the ACC while Duke is 6-0 on the road in conference games. Florida State is after its third straight win in the series.
"It's the next step for an ACC championship," Miller said. "We can't be complacent. We have to turn it up a notch."