For the final time as Noles, Okaro White, Ian Miller, and Robert Gilchrist will take the floor in Tallahassee. Miller and White, following on the heels of the big senior class from two years ago, have helped change the culture within FSU's once dreadful basketball program. Tonight we'll find out how much the fans have changed with them, as the school President has promised free tickets to the first 5,000 students in garnet. The crowd vs Georgetown was loud and engaged, but only numbered around 3,500. With general admission seating and cheap (or free) tickets, I would certainly hope that the seniors get a big send off.
The opponent is Louisiana Tech (29-7), who might be the best team left in the NIT. They won the Conference USA regular season title, but lost to Tulsa in the conference championship, and so Tulsa got the league's one bid. In the NIT they've beaten Iona at home and went on the road to beat Georgia.
The Noles should be familiar with LA Tech, as most of the players are back from last year's team that ended FSU's season (and Michael Snaer's career). The Bulldogs have one of the best defenses in the country, and they press and harass for the entire game. They're 10th nationally at forcing turnovers, and many of those are of the live ball variety (6th nationally in steals). Once you do advance the ball, they're very good at taking away the 3-point line. Only 27.5% of opponent shot attempts are 3s (28th nationally), and opponents only make 31% (30th). They also have a great shot blocker in 6-9 junior Michale Kyser, who blocked a higher % of shots than any player in the ACC.
Offensively, they're solid, but have a few weaknesses. They attempt a ton of 3s but are only 220th in 3-pt%. They also aren't a particularly big team, so if you can force them into half court sets they can struggle to score on the interior.
But they have four players who average double figures, and on any given night they can get a big night from just about anybody on the roster. This will likely be a game of big runs.When their press is working, they'll score in bunches, and if FSU can string together some stops, this will negate the press and allow the Noles to put up points in chunks.
Regardless of how it plays out, it won't be like the FSU-Georgetown game that looked like the defenses didn't exist. This will be a much less free flowing affair.
The game tips at 7 and will be broadcast on ESPN2. The Noles are a 2.5 point favorite. The winner advances to Madison Square Garden for the NIT semi-finals.