North Carolina is on the road to play at Florida State tonight. This is the second game in the Tar Heels’ four-games-in-eight-days extravaganza, which continues on Thursday at the Smith Center against Duke, and concludes on Saturday at the Smith Center against Wake Forest.
UNC began this stretch well enough, with a 75-71 victory against Pittsburgh on Saturday. And now comes a game against the Seminoles, who need a quality victory to enhance their NCAA tournament resume. Let’s get to it …
1. You could make an argument this is the Tar Heels’ most difficult game of their busiest stretch of the season. Yes, the Pitt game on Saturday was a challenge and, yes, UNC hosts Duke on Thursday. Still, UNC is going on the road to play a desperate team. The Seminoles nearly beat Michigan, but lost. They nearly beat Florida, but lost. They have wins against VCU and Massachusetts, but Florida State hasn’t done much of anything impressive in conference play. A victory against UNC would be Florida State’s best win in months, and might be its best of the season.
2. UNC will be challenged by Florida State’s size. The Seminoles are the second-tallest team in the nation, according to Ken Pomeroy, and they rank fourth nationally in effective height. FSU’s front line of Montay Brandon (6-foot-7), Okaro White (6-8) and Michael Ojo (7-1) is physically formidable, and 7-3 Boris Banjonovsky comes off the bench. The Tar Heels have found a nice offensive rhythm of late, and James Michael McAdoo has excelled getting to the basket, and with his midrange game. The Seminoles’ size could bother McAdoo, though, and it probably doesn’t bode well for Kennedy Meeks, the freshman forward whose lack of explosiveness is an issue. Florida State leads the ACC in blocked shots, with 145, and it blocked seven shots in its victory against Wake Forest last weekend.
3. UNC is a bad free throw shooting team and Florida State doesn’t take care of the ball – which weakness plays the most significant role on Monday night? The Tar Heels’ inability to make free throws consistently has been an issue all season, and so has the Seminoles proclivity for turnovers. Florida State commits turnovers on 21.4 percent of its possessions, which ranks 322nd nationally. UNC, meanwhile, is shooting 62.3 percent from the free throw line, which ranks 343rd nationally. You never know how badly UNC is going to shoot free throws, and sometimes the Tar Heels manage OK from the line. Florida State’s turnover problems never bode well for the Seminoles, but they could be especially problematic tonight. The Tar Heels are at their best when they’re creating transition opportunities.
UNC holds the advantage in three of the four: avoiding turnovers, creating second chances with offensive rebounding and getting to the free throw line (but not necessarily capitalizing once there). Florida State has been the better shooting team.
One final programming note: I will not be there tonight in the Tucker Center, but will be following the game. Stay tuned for some postgame thoughts.