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FSU basketball faces road test at No. 11 North Carolina

FSU faces one of their toughest tests of the year

NCAA Basketball: Maui Invitational- Championship Game- Wisconsin vs North Carolina Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State (16-1, 4-0) is on its way to becoming the 3rd ACC team in history to face six straight ranked opponents. The ‘Noles have made it unscathed through the first half of that stretch, and now face a road trip to No. 11 North Carolina (15-3, 3-1), which may be the toughest remaining game on the schedule.

Due to the depth of blue chip recruits in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels are always tough. And they’re experienced as well. Four of five starters are upperclassmen.

They are a lot like Florida State: big, deep, and they like to run. The Tar Heels have the nation’s 10th fastest offense, while the Seminoles come in at 15th. Despite having identical 3-pt%s with FSU, and a significantly lower 2-pt%, the Tar Heels are actually the more efficient offense, and that is due to one thing: offensive rebounds. They’re the best in the nation, grabbing over 42% of their own misses. These extra possessions add up, and make UNC very difficult to stop.

Justin Jackson, a 6-8 junior, has been a force this year, averaging 17.7 per game. He doesn’t turn the ball over. He doesn’t get in foul trouble. After hearing from the NBA that he needed to improve his perimeter game, Jackson has increased his 3-pt% from 29% to 39%.

Fellow junior Joel Berry averages 15.6 per game, and is the engine that makes this team go. And since they were shocked in their ACC opener at Georgia Tech, he’s played inspired basketball, scoring almost 23 points per game and knocking down 12/23 3s (52%).

In the middle are seniors Kennedy Meeks (12.9 ppg, 9.7 rpg) and Isaiah Hicks (12.2 ppg). Sophomore Kenny Williams (7.2 ppg) rounds out the starters.

Missing for the Heels will be freshman Tony Bradley who took a nasty shot to the head in their previous game. He doesn’t play enough minutes to qualify, but if he did he’d easily be the best offensive rebounder in the nation.

Defensively, they’re 11th nationally (and FSU’s 4th opponent who currently has a top 15 defense). They are a very solid rebounding team, and their size can give opponents fits.

The wildcard for UNC this year - learning to play without graduated seniors Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige, who led them to within 5 seconds of a national title - is that they’ve been inconsistent. They rolled Wisconsin, who are likely the best team in the Big Ten, and then turned around and weren’t all that competitive in a loss against a mediocre Indiana squad. They began ACC play with one of the great head scratchers of the college basketball season (a double-digit loss at Georgia Tech) and then beat NC State by 51 the next weekend.

This is just the 2nd true road game of the year for Florida State, and probably the first team that can match their size, depth, and athleticism.

The game tips from the Dean E. Smith Center at 2 PM, and will be broadcast on ESPN. UNC opened as 7.5 point favorites.