Quick, what do Florida, UConn, Princeton, Clemson and Boston College have in common? If you guessed "uhhh, they beat Florida State," then you are absolutely correct. Though no points awarded. If you guessed "uhhhh, they all feature sub 6’ point guards, and they all run a variety of screens to create mismatches for the benefit of those miniature point guards, who then dribble drive and either kick it a shooters who rain 3s on FSU, or dump it to Neanderthals like Caitlin Baciu who never score against any other team but completely dominate the Noles" then you’d be right as well, only you get all the points.
The last time these two teams met Florida State had begun experimenting with a 3-guard lineup. In game 1, that experiment led to 10 first-half points against an Ivy League school. In game 2 (an 85-56 win over Auburn), that experiment led to one of the most thorough dismantlings that FSU has laid down in recent years. Then came Clemson and fans didn’t know what to expect. What they got was an FSU team that played with as little passion as I’ve ever seen a Leonard Hamilton coached team play. The FSU student newspaper called for his head. Tomahawk Nation gave them the backhand. And the race was on to see who was right (spoiler alert: it was Tomahawk Nation).
FSU figured out how to attack with a 3-guard lineup and reeled off seven-straight wins, including a 33-point beatdown against North Carolina, and a Michael Snaer dagger to break Duke’s 45-game home winning streak.
But then FSU lost at
Boston College and fell to 7-2 in the ACC. Clemson (3-6), meanwhile, quietly rolled
Wake Forest two nights later.
Florida State struggled in a win over Miami, took a miracle to beat Virginia Tech, beat NC State, lost a hard fought game against Duke and laid down against Miami. Finally, FSU beat Virginia, again, on a miracle. In other words, FSU went from the hottest team in the ACC to the most inconsistent. Clemson, for their part, reeled off 5 wins in 6 games (only loss was at UNC) and now are the hottest team in the conference not named the Tar Heels.
Time for round two. Using the January game as an example of what to expect today is mostly meaningless. It’s Senior Day in Tallahassee, and six seniors will be playing their last game at the
Donald L Tucker Center. If this doesn’t motivate the team to play harder than last time around, then FSU has much larger problems that just limping into the ACC Tournament.
Clemson’s offense is solid, but in their recent streak they’ve only exceeded a point per possession two times. They’re 11th in 3-point shooting and FTs. They grind games. They’ll try and slow FSU down (like most teams, despite Len Elmore's incessant yammering that FSU prefers to slow games down).
On defense it’s all about turnovers. They force more than any other ACC team. But on possessions when teams take care of the ball, they score. Clemson’s D has the worst eFG% of any ACC team. Take care of the ball and FSU wins.
The game tips at noon from the
Donald L Tucker Center, and is broadcast on ESPN2/ESPN3. Vegas has FSU -7, while Pomeroy has FSU -8.