For the first time in Leonard Hamilton's tenure, FSU (10-5) is 2-0 and tied atop the ACC. They've won two straight on the road in which they were underdogs, and now return to the Tuck favored vs UNC (10-5, 0-2).
But how will the team handle it? The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores. The new guys haven't experienced this yet. They'll be playing in a sold out Tucker Center and their adrenalin will be full blast. Then there are the distractions leading up to the game. Everyone is talking about it. It's on the mothership at ESPN. It's North Carolina.
The new guys are going to have to manage their emotions. Hopefully they understand that this is just one of eighteen league games, and that they all count the same.
UNC enters having dropped two straight to open ACC play. Like FSU, they're replacing a ton of last year's minutes. Kendall Marshall, Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes are all in the NBA now. But this is the Tar Heels. They just reload. UNC has nine guys on their roster who were consensus top-60 recruits (FSU has four). Four were consensus top-25 recruits (FSU has one). Unfortunately for Roy Williams the team has not been a sum of its parts. Their offense is a pedestrian (by UNC standards) 51st nationally, and their defense (58th) is the worst its been since Roy Williams took over.
On offense the don't have anyone like Tyler Zeller who lived at the free throw line. UNC is 328th in free throw rate. They also went from a team which was the 10th best in the nation at taking care of the ball to one that is now 100th.
Defensively, they just don't have the same interior presence. Zeller and Henson aren't easy to replace.
Roy has tried to mitigate their weaknesses by pushing the tempo. This is the most uptempo North Carolina team he's ever coached. This is also the most uptempo FSU team Leonard Hamilton has coached, so the pace should be fun to watch and the game should be high scoring.
The Heels are led by sophomore James Michael McAdoo (14.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg). Though he's struggled of late, and has been held to less than 50% shooting in six straight games. 6-7 junior guard Reggie Bullock has had a breakout year now that he's getting more minutes. He's averaging 13.6 ppg, and has the highest offensive rating on the team. He takes over half his shots from beyond the arc and makes 48% of his 3s. He's the most likely of the Tar Heels to pull a Dulkys and win the game by himself.
The third double figure scorer is sophomore P.J. Hairston, who is finding his way in his second season. He still takes way too many 3s and doesn't make many (33%), and he still takes far too many of the shots when he's on the floor (29%), but his metrics are up across the board. He's a better rebounder. He draws more fouls. He scores more in transition. He's not the star many were expecting him to be, but he's definitely playing better.
Senior Leslie McDonald missed the Miami game with a tweaked knee. He didn't make the trip to Tallahassee.
The game tips at 2 pm from the Tuck, and will be broadcast on ESPN. Vegas and Pomeroy both have the Noles pegged as 3-point favorites.