When FSU takes the floor vs No. 20 UMass today, Nole fans will see a lot of similarities between the teams. The Minutemen, just like FSU, have the length and athleticism to give teams fits. They excel in transition. They crash the glass. They're a really fun team to watch.
UMass is 10-0 with four wins over teams in Pomeroy's top 50. They the No. 1 RPI team in the nation, and while this doesn't tell us much about how skilled a team they are, it tells a ton about how important this win could be to FSU's March hopes.
All five UMass starters average double figure scoring. They have two guys at 6-8 and 6-9 (Sampson Carter and Raphiael Putney) who have combined to make 44% of their 3s. They have a consensus top 100 recruit in Derrick Gordon, who is just getting his feet wet after transferring from Western Kentucky and sitting out last season. And they have 6-10 Cady Lalanne - their version of the Ian Miller story - a talented upperclassmen who was limited early in his career by injuries. Now he's a double double machine.
But their most important player, and the best guard FSU will face this season, is the diminutive Chaz Williams. Listed at 5-9, Williams is the engine that makes this team run. He was 1st Team All A10 last year, and averages 16.3 points and 7.8 assists per game. He makes 45% of his 3s and draws almost 6 fouls per 40 minutes. He's almost impossible to guard one on one, and the personnel around him make it even more difficult. With bigs who can hit 3s, it make defending him off screens extremely difficult. They either end up with him on a much bigger player, or you have your guards chasing him over the top all day. How FSU handles those screens will be a key thing to watch. The more FSU can keep Aaron Thomas on him, the better.
Defensively, UMass is solid, but not spectacular. They don't force a lot of turnovers (254th nationally), and - like FSU - they're only an average defensive rebounding team (188th). But they don't put teams on the line, and with their length and athleticism they're able to get back and take away quick 3s.
FSU's gameplan is no secret. They're going to force the tempo, even after made shots. They're going to pound it inside in half court sets, and they're going to crash the glass. If they can extend possessions, take care of the ball, and knock down a few 3s, then FSU will be awfully tough to beat. But if they get too sloppy, or crashing the glass comes up empty, they could be looking at a lot of UMass fast breaks.
The game tips at 2pm and will be broadcast regionally on Fox/Sun Sports. Pomeroy has UMass as 2-point favorites, but in an odd Pomeroy/Vegas schism, the Noles are 2.5 point favorites in Vegas.