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Florida State basketball: UCF preview

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The Noles host the Knights on Saturday, 2 PM. FSU hasn't lost to UCF since ever.

Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

With four losses in the early going, FSU (3-4) is at that point where they cannot afford to lose games to non-tourney teams. And UCF (5-1) fits that bill. They've racked up wins, but lost to the only top 150 team they played (Davidson), and they'll likely finish in the bottom half of the AAC. They've been playing without freshman BJ Taylor, who injured his ankle in the 4th game of the year. The 6-2 point guard looks physically like a senior and may be their best player. His status for tomorrow's game is uncertain. Before his injury he was averaging 15.7 points, 4.7 assists, and 5.0 rebounds.

Another mature freshman (who FSU also recruited) is 6-6 wing Adonys Henriquez. He's averaging 11.7 per game and has made 44% of his 3s.  He won't wow anyone with his athleticism but he has a good understanding of the game and knows how to score.

The most interesting matchup, however, will be on the inside. Sophomore center Justin McBride (6-10, 325 pounds) barely played in the team's first four games as the matchups were not in his favor. But against bigger teams in the last two he's played and has been nearly unstoppable. He has made 18-22 shots, scoring 45 points in 43 minutes. He's massive, has great hands, and can score with nice touch around the basket. Conditioning is obviously an issue, and UCF prefers to go to a zone when he's in the game (though they will play man), but it will be intriguing to watch him go against FSU's three bigs.

This should be a game to get FSU's offense back in sync. Aaron Thomas, after missing nine days, looked rusty against Nebraska. Now, with the entire team getting a couple days off to relax, he'll be able to start fresh in walk-throughs and hopefully be back to his occasionally dominant self. A healthy AT will force defenses to expand the amount of floor they defend, which should open attacking lanes for Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Montay Brandon. If that occurs, FSU's bigs should be able to keep UCF's interior players occupied, which leads to the easy buckets the Seminoles haven't been able to get with AT and Devon Bookert in street clothes. UCF isn't a very good defensive unit. Their only real superlative is that they defend without fouling, and are No. 1 in the nation at keeping teams off the line. So this should settle into a back and forth game without many whistles.

The game tips at 2PM from the Tuck and will be broadcast on ESPN3. Kenpom.com has the Noles as a 10-point favorite.