There are 351 Division I basketball teams, and 323 of them have taken a loss this season. After this game, add one to that list. The Seminoles (5-0) are off to their best start since the ACC title team in 2012, and Rutgers has them one better at 6-0.
But neither team has played anyone. FSU’s strength of schedule is 325th (only Miami and Georgia Tech have played weaker schedules in the ACC), and Rutgers is dead last, No. 351.
So both fan bases are still waiting to see how good their team is.
The Scarlet Knights have been a terror on defense. They’re 4th nationally in blocked shots. They’re 7th in eFG%. The mix zone and man, and force the 12th most turnovers in the nation. They also grind the game down, forcing long possessions.
On offense, they can’t shoot. They’re 321st in 3-pt%, 295th in 2-pt%, and 341st at the line. But they don’t turn it over, and they’re one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the nation (15th).
Florida State’s overriding weakness to date has been their inability to close out possessions on the defensive glass. If they rebound tonight, they win.
Freshman Geo Baker has been the best player for Rutgers. Our friends at SB Nation’s Rutgers blog had this to say:
Baker was a 3-star recruit, but fell under the radar of most high major programs from playing on the prep circuit in New England. He plays with the poise of a veteran and is already becoming the best shooter on the team. His ability to play either guard spot and take pressure off of Sanders, who can now play some off the ball, has been invaluable. Baker is also probably the best passer on the team and has good floor vision. He still needs to bulk up over time, but he has brought stability to this team from day one. He has struggled to find consistency from behind the arc, but has the potential to catch fire, as he made 7 of 10 from three just two games ago.
The 6-4 Baker leads Rutgers with 12.5 ppg.
Junior Corey Sanders, who many know from his high school days with Dwayne Bacon in Lakeland, is the other player who rarely comes off the floor. He’s not the most efficient player, but he can run the offense and get shots when the clock is winding down.
Junior Deshawn Freeman is a great rebounder at 6-7. FSU is the 7th best team in the nation at grabbing their own misses, and Freeman and 6-9 freshman Mamadou Doucoure will need to keep the ‘Noles from getting 2nd chances.
Aside from winning the rebounding battle, the Seminoles will need to win the tempo battle as well. Rutgers wants a slow game, and FSU wants it as fast as possible.
The game tips at 7 PM and will be broadcast on ESPNU. The ‘Noles opened as a 5-point favorite.