FSU has played in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge in each of its previous 14 years (only four other teams have done that). Half of those games have come vs Minnesota or Northwestern. The matchups are set by a combination of ESPN wishes and Tobacco Road politics, which typically leave FSU matched against a non-marquee name in a terrible time slot (ditto for Minnesota and Northwestern). This year is no different. FSU (5-2) once again goes against Minnesota (6-2), a team which crushed them last year in Tallahassee, and they draw a 9:30 tip off.
This year Gophers' team is completely different than last year's team, even though it consists of much of the same personnel. Tubby Smith was fired after six seasons where he failed to ever have a winning conference record, and never advanced past the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament. His replacement was 31-year-old Richard Pitino.
Pitino was an assistant for both his father and Billy Donovan, so it's no surprise that he runs a similar system. Minnesota likes to press all game, and they take a ton of 3s.
The key losses from last year's team are
thug big man Trevor Mbakwe (graduated), the uber athletic Rodney Williams (graduated), and the heady, steady guard Joe Coleman (transferred to St. Mary's).
The Gophers spread out their scoring, and have four guys in double-digits. 6-2 junior Andre Hollins (15.9 ppg) and 6-4 senior Austin Hollins (12.9) lead the way, with 5-9 junior Deandre Mathieu (10.4), and 6-2 senior Malik Smith (10.0) rounding out the double digit scorers. Minnesota has a small starting lineup, and neither 6-8 Otto Osenieks nor 6-11 Eliott Eliason carry much of the scoring load.
They take 41% of their shots from beyond the arc, but only make a pedestrian 35.1%. High volume 3-pt shooting teams are always an issue though, as a hot shooting night means you're done.
Defensively, they run a full court matchup press, meaning FSU is facing it's fourth defense in seven games that relies on a full court press. They'll drop back into either zone or man.
FSU stops will negate the press, but Minnesota will then immediately try and slow FSU down. The key to beating FSU isn't exactly a secret. Richard Pitino summed it up: "We must rebound the ball and keep them out of transition."
When Minnesota is able to press, FSU has to be able to attack before they can fall into a half court defense. FSU is 341st in the nation in 3-pt attempts, and if they want to boost that tonight could be a good night to do it. Devon Bookert has only attempted one 3-pointer in the past two games, and I'd like to see him be more aggressive looking to score. I also expect FSU to try and build on the big game in Gainesville by Boris Bojanovsky and Michael Ojo (both had career highs and neither missed a shot) by pounding the post.
The game tips at 9:30 from Williams Arena and will be broadcast on ESPNU. Pomeroy has the Gophers as four point favorites, while Vegas has Minnesota -3 1/2.