A ton of college basketball fans didn't know much about Florida State until three days ago. Then Xavier Rathan-Mayes scored 30 points in less than five minutes and suddenly XRM was trending on social media and every site had a story about him.
Now, with a lot more people watching, we'll get to see how he responds.
Does he play within himself, or does he try to do too much?
The coaches need him to do a lot. Louisville has the 6th best defense in the nation. ACC teams have made less than 30% of their 3s against Louisville, and their pressure defense is 36th (90th percentile) nationally at forcing turnovers. They're a good team. They beat North Carolina. They beat Ohio State. They beat Indiana by 20.
Even without Chris Jones, they're extremely talented. They have nine consensus 4* recruits. They have three guys who were ranked in the top 30. They have multiple NBA players on their roster. Montrezl Harrell is a 6-8 nightmare. Sophomore Terry Rozier can make people look silly. Behind them they have talented role players at every position.
For Florida State to win, they'll have to break Louisville's pressure. When teams struggle with that, things steamroll in a wink. The key to breaking that pressure will be XRM. He'll need to make the right reads. He'll need to understand when he should move the ball and when he should break it by himself. That's a lot to ask for a freshman. But if he can break it, FSU has a few tools at their disposal. Montay Brandon is at his best in helter skelter games. Devon Bookert and Robbie Berwick have both made over 40% of their 3s in conference play. And FSUs post players should be able to keep the attention of Louisville's interior defense. They key is beating the press.
Luckily, Louisville has a big kink in their armor. It's their offense. Rick Pitino loves athletes, because they can run his defense. But, because of that, the offense doesn't always click. The Cardinals have the 103rd ranked offense in the nation. Since advanced metrics because available 12 years ago, only one team has ever made a Final 4 with an offense ranked worse than 50th. That team was Louisville in 2012, and their offense was ranked 102nd.
Louisville has gone four straight games without scoring a point per possession. For any chance to win, FSU will have to make it five straight.
Handle the pressure. Play good defense. Rebound. Do these things and the Seminoles may be able to pull the upset.
The game tips at noon on ESPN2. Louisville is a 5-point favorite.