Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
Remember Wake Forest beating us by 25? Me neither. Blocked that s___ out.
The Jason Rich, Isaiah Swann, Ralph Mims version of FSU basketball had some defensive struggles in their time. We have to go back to their senior season to find another streak like the one FSU is currently on. That was the last team to give up over a point per possession to five straight teams. Fast forward to this year and the current team has repeated that streak. Wake Forest began it back on February 9th, and to break the streak it's Wake Forest who the Noles have to stop.
Of course Wake Forest is coming off a game where they scored more per possession against the best ACC defense than all but one team this season. In that win over Miami they scored 80 points in just 69 possessions, and had an eFG% of 62%.
Earlier today I highlighted some of the communication breakdowns FSU is having on defense. That won't fly against Wake Forest, which is not the Wake Forest you remember from the past couple seasons. After showing nothing in their first ten games the Deacons found themselves ranked No. 208 by Ken Pomeroy. Since then they've played well enough to move up to No. 118, capping that rise off with the ACC's only win over the Hurricanes. This is Coach Bzdelik's third season, and their trajectory has been in the right direction. They were No. 251 in year one, No. 210 in year two, and are now at 118.
Still, they're pretty much a 2-man show on offense. 6-3 CJ Harris (15.1 ppg) and 6-7 Travis McKie (14.2 ppg) are their only double-digit scorers. They combined for 29 points in the first matchup. They are one of the best teams in the nation (No. 21) at getting to the line, and it's imperative that Michael Snaer and Okaro White avoid 1st half foul trouble. Last year Ham could pull Okaro White after one foul, but he does not have that luxury this year thanks to the injury to Terrance Shannon.
Defensively, they do a lot of little things well, but they aren't very good at denying shots. If FSU avoids careless turnovers, they should be able to get a rhythm going. But that's a big if.
Considering the beatdown which (supposedly) occurred the last time these two met, FSU needs to get off to a decent start. Leonard Hamilton changed the starting lineup after the previous game, and since then FSU has been doing better at scoring early. A big run early in the first half would be a tremendous boost to a team which lacks confidence.
A win will keep FSU alone in 7th place in the ACC, and a loss will put them in a tie for 7th with Wake Forest.
The game tips at 9pm from the Tuck, and will be broadcast on ESPNU. FSU is a 5.5 point favorite in Vegas, while Pomeroy has the Noles -3.