Leonard Hamilton's troops are quickly becoming a bit of a media darling. Picked by the experts to finish 10th in the conference, the Seminoles are instead playing a game where a win will put them in 2nd place behind the winner of today's Syracuse-Pitt game. And while this is great for FSU fans - hey, we're greatly exceeding expectations! - the good feelings are only worth so much. Expectations have been adjusted. What happened last week doesn't matter. Today is a new day, and that means the Noles need to win. FSU needs to exorcise the demons, and that means traveling to Virginia and beating them on their home court.
Virginia is a team that is built to beat this year's version of Florida State. There are two areas in which FSU's offense excels: scoring at the rim, and rebounding their own misses. In both of these categories the Hoos defense is in the 99th percentile. Their pack-line defense both pressures the ball, and makes it nearly impossible to get an open look near the rim. In the first game - played two weeks ago in Tallahassee - the Noles made just 12-38 (32%) 2s, easily a season low. Previous FSU teams have been a bit more perimeter oriented, which you have to be in order to beat Virginia, but this Noles squad is 320th nationally in 3-pt attempts.
Virginia slows the game down, they defend, and they do just enough on offense to get wins.
For FSU to beat Virginia, the Noles have to step out of their comfort zone. In half court sets FSU relies on quick ball reversals to create lanes in which to drive, but this is exactly what Virginia wants you to do. They bait the elbows by sagging their defense so far into the interior, but then when the ball handler initiates the drive the defense forces the drive to the middle and into the teeth of the defense. FSU cannot drive in most half court situations with the goal of getting to the rim (which is the specialty of FSU's offense). Instead, they have to probe the defense with drives, and then kick the ball back out for 3s. UVA's defense gives up 32.1% of their points on 3-pointers, which is more than 327 Division I teams.
The other way FSU will attack is by setting up massive overloads to one side. I've covered both of these strategies here.
Should FSU find a way to win they'll be 4-1 in conference and in position to battle for something they've never achieved before - winning the ACC regular season. But even with a loss - a bad loss - there's no reason to be down on this team. There are 14 ACC games left, and this is one of three where FSU is projected to be the underdog. In other words, barring critical injuries, this team ain't finishing 10th.
The game tips at noon on the ACC Network (whatever local channel the Miami game was on) and ESPN3. Virginia is a 6-point favorite in Vegas, and Pomeroy has UVA -3.