It's not a good time to be short handed in the front court. Michael Ojo has missed the entire season, and now sophomore Phil Cofer is joining him. The Noles (10-3, 0-1) have just Boris Bojanovsky, Jarquez Smith, Montay Brandon, and little used freshman Chris Koumadje to deal with No. 7 North Carolina's imposing front court.
The good news is that UNC (13-2, 2-0) will be without Kennedy Meeks, who has missed six straight games with a bone bruise.
Of course this still leaves the Tar Heels with 6-11 senior Joel James, 6-10 senior Brice Johnson, 6-9 junior Isaiah Hicks, and 6-8 sophomore Justin Jackson.
It's no surprise that North Carolina has done most of their damage on the interior this year, where 61% of their points have come on 2s (3rd most nationally).
Their ability to overpower opponents is why the media chose them as overwhelming favorites to win the ACC this year. They have talent (10 top 100 players including five guys who were more highly rated than Malik Beasley out of high school), and unlike most schools with that kind of talent, they have experience. Three of their starters are seniors and they don't have a single freshman getting meaningful minutes.
As expected, all of that talent translates into a top 10 offense. They don't turn the ball over (11th nationally), they kill teams on the offensive glass (19th), and they both shoot a high percentage (21st on 2s) and make their FTs (27th).
Their weakness has been on the defensive end. They are 66th nationally in defensive efficiency, and both their ACC opponents (Clemson and Georgia Tech) have scored more than a point per possession. Their primary problem has been giving up way too many open looks from deep. Opponents have attempted 38% of their shots from beyond the arc, and they've made an unsustainable 39%. In other areas (rebounding, 2-pt% defense) UNC has been relatively solid.
Like FSU, UNC wants to get up and down the court. FSU is the most uptempo team in the conference, with UNC just on their heels. FSU primarily runs with a small lineup, while UNC likes to get their bigs quick baskets in transition.
The Noles transition defense has not been good this year, and that has to change. This will be a high scoring game with lots of runs, and FSU can't get buried early by North Carolina's breaks and secondary breaks.
Offensively, the keys for FSU will be extending possessions with offensive boards, and knocking down 3s. If Florida State can make 40% of their 3s and grab a third of their misses, then they'll have a great shot at the upset. It will also help if Dwayne Bacon is aggressive early trying to get to the rim.
The game tips at 7 PM and will be broadcast on ESPN. UNC is a 3-point favorite in Vegas, while Pomeroy only likes them by one.