Preview and Game Thread: Florida State Seminoles vs Ohio St. Buckeyes, 9:30pm EST

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After winning the Old Spice Classic in an exciting one point victory over Marquette, the Seminoles travel to Columbus, Ohio to take on an excellent Ohio State team in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Tonight, FSU has the opportunity to complete the trifecta: SEC, Big East, Big Ten. It won't be easy as Ohio State is one of the most balanced teams in the country and is loaded with talent, despite departures to the NBA in the past few years.

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Game Time: 9:30pm EST

Television: ESPN2, ESPN360.com

After a thrilling victory over Marquette, the Seminoles jumped to #21 in the AP polls. Ohio State is ranked 15th in the AP and ESPN/USA today polls. Despite the winning ways, what appeared to be an efficient offense, typically with an Offensive Efficiency (points scored per 100 possession) in the 110-120s, the offense has slowed to an offensive efficiency of 98.5, 202nd in the country. Fortunately, and as expected, the defense continues to lead the way, currently ranking 3rd in the nation with a defensive efficiency of 75.8. Only Minnesota and Texas have better ratings and there are three ACC teams in the top ten for defensive efficiency. In the past three games, Seminoles fans have seen the growth of Michael Snaer, particularly in terms of minutes an his defensive skill. It is clear that he is committed to playing lock down man to man defense. He still has a lot to learn, but the intensity and effort are there.

Turnovers continue to plague the Seminoles, particularly in the first half of games. So far, FSU has turned the ball over on 26.4% of its possessions. Again, the defense has prevented any wicked turnover differentials by forcing its opponents to turn the ball over on 24.6% of possessions. A team can only get away with that for so long. Ohio State's defense generates turnovers at a rate of 22.6, which is quite good. However, they only turn the ball over on 15.5% of their possessions. One of the keys to the game will be Florida States ability to force Ohio State their most turnovers of the year. With the exception of North Carolina, Ohio State has yet to see a defense that compares to that of Florida State.

Ohio State enters the game at 5-1, only losing to North Carolina 77-73. The rest of their opponents include the following: Alcorn St, James Madison, California ( who was very injured at the time), Lipscomb and St Francis. In two of the 6 games, Ohio State has put up 100+ points, but against some of the worst defenses in the nation. Currently, Ohio State ranks 25th in the Ken Pomeroy Ratings. Florida State sits at 17. Ohio State has an offensive efficiency of 112.9, 36th in the nation, and a defensive efficiency of 90, 56th in the nation.

Here is Ohio State's likely starting lineup for tonight:

F #52 Dallas Lauderdale 6'8 255 Junior Solon, Ohio
G #21 Evan Turner 6'7 205 Junior Chicago, IL
G #23 David Lighty 6'5 220 Junior Cleveland, Ohio
G #33 Jon Diebler 6'6 205 Junior Upper Sandusky, Ohio
G #44 William Buford 6'5 190 Sophomore Toledo, Ohio

This is an experienced basketball team that is used to playing close, physical games. They do not have a single freshman on the roster, though they have one of the best recruiting classes in the country coming in to Columbus next year.  The other thing to note is that they're not huge, but they not short either. This is a highly athletic hybrid team that wants create match up problems all over the floor. Fortunately, Florida State is able to do the same. Typically, when teams have gone small, forcing Florida State to do the same, the Seminoles continue to have a significant size advantage.

Evan Turner has been outstanding this year and this should be an interesting match up with Chris Singleton. Turner has been scoring 19.8 points per game in 34 minutes of play, pulling down 12.8 rebounds and shooting 62.5% from the floor with 6 assists. You might argue that Turner hasn't seen any good defenses. He scored 23 against UNC and shot 64% from the floor.  The Buckeyes also have three other starters averaging double digits: Diebler (15), Lighty (12) and Buford (11). Jeremie Simmons and Kyle Madsen are getting signifcant minutes off the bench, but the Buckeyes don't go very deep into their bench. They do have seven foot Zisis Sarikopoulos, who may get more minutes tonight if the Seminoles can be effective early in the paint.

Florida State will continue with the following line up: Dulkys, Kitchen, Singleton, Reid and Alabi. However, don't be surprised if this quickly turns into the Kitchen, Dulkys(Loucks), Snaer, Singleton and Gibson lineup. Jordan Demercy played outstanding minutes during the Marquette game. Don't be surprised if he see minutes due to his defensive abilities and energy that he brings to the floor. Florida State's bench is deep and always presents match up problems. Depending on how this game starts will determine how long Coach Hamilton leaves Solomon Alabi in. Due to teams double and triple teaming the big man, he has had limited effective offensive minutes in the early going. His defensive continues to be stellar. But, with teams playing the press against the Noles, his ability to handle the ball and move in the open court can be a liability. Alabi needs to establish good position on the blocks and score early and force Ohio State out of their comfort zone.

Keys to the Game

1. Be proactive, not reactive.  Florida State's opponents have dictated the Seminoles' lineup. Force Ohio State to react. Don't allow them to get ahead and force adjustments. Make them adjust.

2. Get the ball to Alabi in to the post early and often.  Get early position and provide the big fella the ball before he gets pushed off the block. Set him up for success, meaning he doesn't need to put the ball on the floor to get into a better shooting position. He has been forced out of games due to turnovers. His defense will continue to be strong and he will control the paint. Making him an offensive force will make Ohio State reconsider their strategy.

3. Keep getting Snaer to shoot. Against Marquette, he had many open looks that he missed or rushed. Build his confidence and don't let him get frustrated. He is too big an asset on the defensive end of the court to not have in the game.

4. Turnovers. Enough said.

5. Shut down the big three. Limit Ohio States' scorers. Don't allow all three to go off during this game.

This could be a huge win for Florida State. Winning on the road against a Big 10 opponent only helps in the long run. Complete the trifecta: SEC-Big East-Big 10. Florida State has battled through its last three games and getting another win to reward them for their effort will help as they quickly approach ACC conference play.

Referees: Ed Hightower (Referee)  Ted Hillary and John Higgins (Umpires). Hightower is a Big Ten/Big East referee and has called fair games all year. He has called the most games for Iowa and only 7.5% of his games has OSU been a part of.

Prediction: Florida State 68   Ohio State 63.

This is going to be an outstanding basketball game. Enjoy.

Cheers,

TC

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