It's senior night in Charlottesville. John Paul Jones Arena will be rocking, and seniors Mike Scott and Sammy Zeglinski will be playing their final home games. And thanks to Virginia's dumb out of conference scheduling, the #24 ranked Hoos probably need to close out the regular season with two wins, and perhaps win another in the ACC Tournament in order to steer clear of the 8/9 seed line in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. So there's zero chance that Tony Bennett's Cavaliers aren't going to come out fired up and ready to compete.
The Seminoles, meanwhile, have not consistently maintained that fire. Since knocking off Virginia at home in a grueling, hard fought, ugly game, the Seminoles have struggled to beat Virginia Tech, rolled NC State, competed hard with Duke, and laid down for Miami. If the Noles aren't focused tonight, they have no chance.
The last time these two teams played the Seminoles made greater than 40% of their 3s for the sixth straight game. Since then the Noles are shooting 28% from deep, and haven't exceeded 35% in any of their past six games. Except for the Miami game, FSU has generally been getting good looks. They just haven't been converting. They need that to change. Virginia plays elite defense, and they grind the game to a stand still. If you don't think the college shot clock needs to be shortened, then watch tonight's game and we can talk afterwards. It's ugly to watch, but it works. Which is exactly why college basketball has been slowing down over the past decade. Virginia takes this to an extreme, an plays slower than 338 of 345 Division I teams.
This team flows through Mike Scott. He had 16 points and 11 boards last time around, though FSU forced him into a career high 7 turnovers. Scott is going to get his points. The difference will be how everyone else does. If UVA gets hot from deep then this very likely will be the 3rd straight loss for FSU, something that hasn't happened since 2008. Luckily, through smart scheduling, FSU is already in the NCAA Tournament. Right now they're playing for seeding.
On the other side of the ball, the Cavaliers unique pack-line defense makes it tremendously difficult to penetrate off the dribble. They don't give up offensive boards, and they don't give up many 2s.
The key storyline for the Seminoles will be the play of senior Luke Loucks. When he struggles, FSU struggles. Jeff Peterson has been playing his best basketball of late, but to be at their best the Noles need Luke Loucks on the floor. The closer FSU has gotten to March, the shorter Loucks' leash has been. Against Miami he got pulled :25 seconds into the game. Clearly, Coach Hamilton is sending him a message.
The game tips at 7pm and will be broadcast on ESPN2/ESPN3. Vegas and Ken Pomeroy both agree that Virginia is a 4 point favorite for this game, which forecasts as roughly a 69% chance of winning.