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FSU at North Carolina preview and game thread

Noles have a rough 1-2-3 finish to the ACC regular season

Grant Halverson

The last time these two met, FSU was 2-0 in the ACC and playing nearly at full strength. FSU played the Heels close all game, but a ridiculous number of offensive boards allowed UNC to pull a close game out late 77-72.

Terrance Shannon got hurt in the very next game, and since then, FSU's season has taken a slide.

The Tar Heels, meanwhile, are playing as good as they've played all season. After getting rolled on the road at Miami, they switched to a small lineup and have since gone 4-1 with their only loss coming at Duke. They are now 10-5 in the ACC, and hovering back on the cusp of the AP top-25.

The change they made was inserting 6-5 sophomore PJ Hairston into the starting lineup. He replaced what had been a grab bag of bigs, including 6-9 Desmond Hubert, 6-9 Brice Johnson and 6-10 Joel James. Hairston is averaging 13.2 ppg on the season and 17.0 since the lineup change. He takes 61% of his shots from beyond the arc and makes just under 38%.

At the time of the previous matchup UNC was rated No. 52 by Pomeroy and FSU was No. 61. Now the Heels are No. 30 and FSU is No. 118. These are teams going in opposite directions, and the Seminoles are a big underdog.

The traditional knock against UNC is that they don't play defense. But this is nonsense perpetuated by a failure to account for tempo. Right now the Heels are No. 38 in the nation, which is the 2nd worst they've been in the past decade. The typically elite Heels are mearly "pretty good" on defense this year. They keep teams off the line and do a solid job forcing turnovers and protecting the boards.

Offensively, they are No. 39 nationally. They take care of the ball and crash the boards (duh). Their weakness is a complete failure to get to the line. They are 335th out of 347 Division I teams. They settle for way too many jumpers, and lack that dominant interior force they always seem to have who can live at the line.

FSU needs some execution and good luck to win this game. FSU was able to take care of the ball last time, and to pull a win they need to do that again plus change two things from the last game. They were absolutely destroyed on the offensive glass (59% to 21%) and FSU needs to either win that battle or keep it in single digits. The other change they need to make is better identification of Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston in transition. UNC has the 6th fastest tempo in the nation and they live on transition buckets, even off of other team's makes. The Heels "only" made 52% of their 2s and 40% of their 3s in the first game, but it could have been worse considering how many wide open looks they got.

The game tips at 2pm and will be broadcast on CBS. FSU is a 13-point underdog and Vegas, and Pomeroy has FSU +14.