FSU vs Virginia preview and game thread

Seven games into the conference season and FSU finds itself in a place it’s never been. The Noles are 6-1 for the first time in their ACC history, they’ve won 6 straight ACC games for the 2nd time ever, and now they have a chance to move to 7-1 and own the tiebreaker over the other three ranked teams. But to do it they have to go through the Virginia Cavaliers who not only have the best defense in the ACC, but have the best player.

Senior big man Mike Scott is the ACC Player of the Year to this point. Scott is averaging 17 points and 8.3 boards a game. He’s had six double-doubles, and has been in double figures scoring in every ACC game. He makes 59% of his 2s and 81% of his FTs. At 6’8 he can take most bigs off the dribble, he has a great mid-range game and an unstoppable fade-away. His offensive rating, offensive rebound % and defensive rebound % are all in the top-6 in the conference, and he draws more fouls than everyone besides Terrell Stoglin. In short, Scott is a beast. He sat out most of last season with an injury, so this will be the first time he matches up with Bernard James and Okaro White. How coach Hamilton chooses to defend him will be one of the more interesting storylines of the game.

FSU has won 5-straight in this series. FSU won at home last year 63-56 in a game where Chris Singleton broke his foot.

With 7’ center Assane Sene lost to injury, Scott now anchors the middle of the Cavaliers defense. Tony Bennett runs the system his father perfected – the pack line defense. Joshua Riddell from the Mikan Drill did a great job using video to break that defense down. Check it out. The pack line is built to defend teams like FloridaState. The Noles are going to have to have a good game knocking down outside shots, and they’re going to have to figure out a way to go through the defense, rather than around it. Luke Loucks, Ian Miller and Michael Snaer are going to have to break down their defender and draw help, and FSUs bigs are going to have to fight for offensive boards. UVA is the 5th best team in the nation at denying offensive rebounds. And now that Tony Bennett has a roster he recruited (mostly), he has the athletes to pressure the ball and deny 3-pt shots. UVA is 7th nationally as teams only convert 27% of their attempts from beyond the arc. The Noles need to maximize their possessions by limiting turnovers and grabbing offensive boards, and they need to get into transition at every opportunity.

When Virginia has the ball, get ready for a slow and frustrating game. The Hoos average a crawling 58 possessions in ACC play (10 fewer than FSU). They force teams to defend for 35 seconds, and if any of their streaky 3-point shooters get hot then this could be a long night for the Noles. A 6-point deficit against the Cavaliers is like a 10-12 point deficit against other teams. Besides Scott, keep an eye on Sammy Zeglinski who’s made three or more 3s in 8 different games, and Joe Harris who makes 40% of his 3-pt shots.

The game tips at 1pm from the Donald L Tucker center, and will be broadcast on the ACC Network (check your local listings) and ESPN3. Vegas has the Noles -5, and Ken Pomeroy has the Noles -3.

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