FSU has lost eight games this season, and after each loss I've received messages on Twitter letting me know that the Noles have been relegated to the NIT, or that we're in the midst of yet another disappointing season, or, my favorite, which is people wondering why we can't have a more well-rounded sports department like Ohio State or Florida. Since I'm not a reactionary I don't put much emphasis on the outcome of any single game, and so I either ignore or make fun of the people who send those messages, depending on my mood. The season is 30+ games long, and one win or one loss only accounts for a small percentage of what ultimately determines the success or lack thereof for the season.
But now Ian Miller - FSU's most important player - is injured and listed as questionable for today's game, and it really feels like the season's outcome is going to be determined during this stretch of games. These feel more important.
It started with a 4-point loss to Clemson when FSU's back court wore down in the 2nd half after Miller got hurt early in the game. Then FSU bounced back and beat Virginia Tech without hardly breaking a sweat. With those two games FSU has fallen to a 10-seed in Joe Lunardi's latest bracket, while they're an 11-seed at SB Nation and Team Rankings. A road win at Maryland will provide some cushion, while a loss will push them further out on the bubble.
The Terps are a team FSU beat by 20+ at home, and a team against which Pomeroy feels FSU should be favored by a point, even on the road. But Pomeroy doesn't factor in injuries, and Vegas does. Vegas opened this game with Maryland being favored by 2 ½ points, and now it's moved to Maryland -4. The difference between the Pomeroy and Vegas lines - the weight in other words on Miller's ankle - is FSU having a 53% chance of winning versus FSU having a 36% chance of winning.
If everyone were healthy I'd argue that this game were no more important than any other. But it's quite likely that FSU already dropped one game because Miller stepped on someone's foot, and the result of this game will go a long way in determining what we'll all be doing on Selection Sunday.
Going back to the first game, FSU hit a record 16-24 3s. Obviously, that's not a repeatable effort. But what is repeatable is the game-plan that allowed for those 3s. FSU will push the tempo. They'll use an inside out approach to collapse the defense and kick for open 3s, and they'll use quick ball reversals to create gaps in which to attack. Like FSU, Maryland plays two bigs. Unlike FSU, their two bigs - Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare - are of the short, wide variety. This means that FSU can get a lot of minutes out of Ojo and Bojo, which will hopefully result in a solid defensive effort.
Maryland was blown out the first time around, but they still managed to get to the line 34 times (only the 2nd time all year they've taken more than 30 FTs). With FSU short-handed, the Noles cannot let this happen again. They have to defend without fouling. FSU did do a good job on the defensive boards in that game, which is key as Mitchell is the best offensive rebounder in the conference. The other key was Maryland making only 3-18 3s. They're not a great shooting team - 7th from the arc in ACC play, while FSU is 2nd - so pray for some more luck in the 3-point lottery.
Both teams enter the game at 5-5 in ACC play.
The game tips at 3pm on ESPN2.