When the schedule was released over the summer there were two holes in November reserved for the NIT Season Tip-Off opponents. The NIT is one of those pre-season tourneys where the bracket is rigged. Should FSU lose one of the next two games, it doesn't matter. They still head to the Barclays in Brooklyn to face Temple on the 24th. Regardless, the first of those holes in the schedule has been filled by Winthrop, who are the prohibitive favorites to win the Big South conference.
The Big South is a one-bid league, and Winthrop has advanced to the conference finals in three straight seasons only to fall short of their goals. This is the team expected to break through.
They are led by two preseason 1st Team All Conference players. Keon Johnson is generously listed at 5-7, and he averaged 18.7 PPG last season. He's dangerous from beyond the arc, and frequently gets to the line because he's too quick for most teams to guard. Winthrop likes to play hectic, fast paced games, and this is how a small player like Johnson can get left open for 3s.
Their other star is 6-8 wing Xavier Cooks. The Australian can score at all three levels and will be a handful. His weakness is his temper, and the 'Noles will want to go right at him in an effort to pick up fouls.
As expected from a small team, Winthrop isn't a particularly strong rebounding team. FSU will need to dominate the boards on both ends.
Winthrop wants to disrupt with their quickness, and then score quickly. If FSU can control the ball and score, then they'll have time to set up the defense. If that's the case, this could easily be the Seminoles third straight 20+ point victory. If not, Winthrop could pull the upset if their offense is allowed to play in the open court all night.
The game tips Friday at 7 PM from the Tuck, and will be broadcast on the ACC Digital Network via Watch ESPN. Pomeroy has FSU as 13-point favorites.
*may not be accurate