Considering how the season began, the Noles are absolutely thrilled to be sitting at 2-1. Not only have they played much better since that opening loss, but they've done something the previous two Seminoles squads couldn't do - they beat a top-50 opponent in out-of-conference play. And now, 24 hours later, they have the chance to beat another one.
Tonight's opponent is St. Joe's, who is expected to compete for the Atlantic 10 title. They returned their entire roster from last year's team. They're coached by Phil Martelli, who is the elder statesmen of that conference.
The Hawks are one of the few teams that can match athleticism with FSU. Don't believe me? Check out this video I cut from last night's win over Notre Dame, highlighting their two athletic bigs - 6-9 junior C.J. Aiken (No. 1), and 6-8 junior Ronald Roberts (No. 13).
The video shows how these two score their points - dunks (and the occasional three for Aiken). Both are high level offensive rebounders, and both can finish in traffic. The third member of the front line is 6-8 junior Halil Kenacevic, who is a point forward. He had the best assist rate on the team last year, and is adept at passing off the dribble.
The starting guards versus Notre Dame were 6-2 junior Langston Galloway and 6-3 sophomore Chris Wilson. Galloway won't overwhelm anyone with athleticism, but he's one of the best 3-point shooters in the nation, making 47% last year. Point guard Chris Wilson is a steady hand who had a big game against the Irish (19 points, 5 boards).
If you missed last night's St. Joe's - Notre Dame game then you missed a great game. Both offenses clicked all night (the Hawks finished with 1.23 points per possession) and the Barclay's Center was hopping. Expect tonight's game to feel like a road game. St. Joe's is only two hours down the road in Philly, and they travel well.
Notre Dame seemingly seized control at the final under-4 timeout. They were up 8, but St. Joe's rallied and finished on an 8-0 run. Then they opened things up in overtime. Of note, the five starters all played more than 40 minutes. The bench combined for 11 minutes. By comparison, only Michael Snaer played more than 30 minutes for FSU (32) and ten players played at least ten minutes.
That's great news, right? Well....
Have I mentioned that St. Joe's beat No. 20 Notre Dame without the services of their lone senior who was also their leading returning scorer from last year? And that's he is back from his suspension tonight. Of course he is.
Carl 'Tay' Jones is a 5-11 combo guard who is completely and utterly fearless. He's an effective 3-point shooter, but his game is more like a running back than it is a spot up shooter. He attacks, and attacks, and attacks. He draws fouls. He doesn't really turn it over. He's the motor for this team.
The good news is that he - like St. Joe's as a whole - can be maddeningly inconsistent. If he and his teammates are dialed in tonight, it's probably going to be a long game for FSU. But if FSU can disrupt them with their rapidly improving defense, then this has a good probability of being one of the more entertaining games of the season. It means a lot. There are athletes all over. And it's on national tv.
The game tips following the semi-final (go BYU!) and will likely be around 9:30. It's broadcast on Tru TV. FSU is a 1.5 point underdog in Vegas, and a 3-point dog according to Ken Pomeroy.