In the South Alabama game preview we warned readers to be prepared for a close game. Despite the 80-39 score in the same game the previous season, the Jaguars had a lot of things working in their favor. We didn't count on FSU dropping a game which was tied in the final minute, but it shouldn't have been surprising.
Now FSU moves on to its next opponent - Buffalo. And the Bulls, according to Ken Pomeroy, are a significantly better team than South Alabama. But Buffalo doesn't have the same early season advantages as USA. Yes, this was the year for their foreign trip, so they had three weeks of preparation which the Noles didn't have. But - like FSU - Buffalo is replacing several key seniors, so they used their prep time to figure out who can play. South Alabama, which returned virtually their entire roster, used their extra time to refine concepts the team was working on at the end of last year. So the young and inexperienced Noles were taking on a team playing at essentially a post-season level (and one that had very good 3-point luck).
So while Buffalo might indeed be better than South Alabama at year's end, they're less of a threat in game No. 2.
The key for Buffalo (who lost their opening game 57-53 to a very good Princeton team) is junior Javon McCrea. He was the MAC Freshman of the Year, 1st Team All-Conference as a sophomore, and has a long professional career ahead of him. He's a 6-7 power forward who is an absolute beast down low. He's relentless on the boards, draws a ton of fouls, and has an array of post moves in which he can finish with either hand. He rarely shoots outside of 12', but he's equally adept playing in the high post or on the block. He had 22 points, 8 boards and 3 blocks against Princeton.
The rest of the team isn't scary, as long as they don't get hot from three. They're a team which has bigs which can hit the three (6-8 Will Regan, who transferred from Virginia) as well as wings and guards. If this game is close down the stretch it likely means that Buffalo made their threes.
Buffalo likes to push the tempo, which should work in FSU's favor. Plus the Buffalo players just had to play a grinding game against Princeton, so they'll probably be amped and ready to run.
FSU needs to avoid foul trouble (I'm looking at you, Okaro), and the big three of White, Snaer and Miller need to have a bounce back game on offense. Otherwise the game plan will be the same. Rotate early and often before tightening things up in the 2nd half. Terrance Shannon should have another game with a lot of burn, as he's the best defensive matchup against McCrea.
Defensively, this is a team which is going to struggle for a while. A good sign is that the vets called a player's only walk-through prior to Saturday's film session to work through some of the principles. This is the kind of leadership a young team needs. Now they just need a win to start getting their confidence back.
FSU is a 13 point favorite in Vegas, while Pomeroy has FSU -9. The game tips from the Don at 7 PM, and will be broadcast on ESPN3.