For the past several years Florida State has played down to the bubble in the early season. And this year is no different. After an early going that would have put FSU solidly in the Tourney (8-10 seed) the Noles blew it by losing at home to Princeton. Now they have to beat a much improved Auburn (10-3) team just to remain on the bubble.
The Tigers are led by 2nd year head coach Tony Barbee and the combination of a few wins and a beautiful new arena has some actual excitement building around this program. Auburn hasn't beaten anyone of note (best win is USF), but two of their 3 losses are to strong teams (Seton Hall and Long Beach State), which contrasts greatly with last season when they lost 7 of their first 9 Division 1 games. Auburn was one of the three or four worst major conference teams in the nation last year (and they still beat FSU), but this is no longer the case.
Last year Auburn's offense was abysmal, and this year it's been upgraded to just bad. In the five games they've played against top-200 teams, they've only scored more than a point per possession once. They don't have any glaring weaknesses, but they're not particularly good at anything either. Their defense was average last season, and this year looks to be somewhere around 100th. They put a tremendous amount of pressure on interior shots. They're 7th nationally in blocked shots, and 37th in defensive 2-pt%.
Florida State will counter with a 3-guard lineup for the 2nd consecutive game. The combo of Bernard James and Xavier Gibson playing together was horrible in the first half against Princeton, but once the staff split them up following the break FSU played their best offensive half of the season, and most importantly the Noles only turned the ball over 5 times in the final 35 minutes of the game.
The game tips at 6pm from the Donald L Tucker Center, and will be broadcast on ESPN3. The Noles are a 12 point favorite in Vegas, and Pomeroy has them -13.