The (11) Texas Longhorns (20-4, 14-0 Big 12) will meet the (5) Florida State Seminoles (23-2, 11-1 ACC) in the TLCCC on Monday at 7pm. The game will be televised on ESPN 2.
The Longhorns boast the second longest winning streak in the nation at 18. You get a gold star if you can name the team with the longest streak. FSU comes in with the ninth longest streak having won 10 in a row.
Texas was the preseason #8 team in the nation but the Longhorns took a bit of time to find their sea legs. Texas lost four of their first seven games culminating in a 72-54 drubbing in Connecticut. Their next game was a 72-67 home win over Tennessee and the Horns haven't lost since.
You would think that a team capable of winning 18 straight in a power conference would be talented and you would be correct. Texas boasts seven top 100 players and six in the top 50. FSU has nine players in the top 100 and six in the top 50. FSU's total doesn't include Leticia Romero. FSU may have the edge in sheer numbers but the Longhorns have six players who were in the top 30 (FSU has five) and Texas has four top 10 players while FSU's highest ranked player is Shakayla Thomas (#11 in 2014). Suffice to say that there will be a lot of talent on the court Monday night.
Texas is led by (#11) 5'4 junior guard Brooke McCarty. McCarty leads the team in points (13.9) and assists (3.6). McCarty also leads the team in minutes played. She is a poised, crafty guard who is by far the best three point threat for the Horns at 43.7%. She also takes the most threes of anyone on the team with 126. Ariel Atkins is next with 54 three point attempts. Speaking of Atkins (#23), she is a 5'11 junior guard averaging 13.3 points and 4 rebounds a game. She also leads the team in steals at nearly two a game.
Down low the Horns have the size to test FSU in the paint. It starts with uber-recruit (#24) 6'3 freshman forward Joyner Holmes. Holmes was the #2 recruit in the nation last year and she is busy showing why she was so highly touted. Holmes averages 12.5 points and 8 rebounds a game. She has the ability to play with her back to the basket and wreak havoc down low. Holmes has really been playing well of late with double-doubles in her last two games including an 18 point 10 rebound effort in the upset of (2) Baylor in Waco. No matter how you slice it Holmes is going to be a major problem for FSU. Her partner down low is 6'5 senior center (#40) Kelsey Lang. Lang is averaging 9.8 points and leads the team with 8.3 rebounds a game. Dealing with Lang and Holmes on the boards will be a huge challenge for the smaller Seminoles.
Rounding out the probable starting five is 5'9 senior guard (#20) Brianna Taylor. Taylor is a steady player for the Horns who provides good defense as well as averaging 4.7 points and almost two assists per game. Texas is coached by Karen Aston who is in her fifth year in Austin.
Both teams are efficient but FSU is a bit better in offensive points per possession where the Noles are 5th nationally (1.096) to the Horns who are 36th (1.011). Defensively FSU is 4th in DPPP (.754) while Texas is 16th (.790).
Texas will have a size advantage in this game. All season FSU has started 6'1 Ivey Slaughter at center and played a three guard small ball lineup to begin the game. It will be interesting to see how Coach Sue Semrau chooses to combat the size that Texas brings to the table. Will 6'3 Chatrice White get her first start as a Seminole or will Semrau stick to her normal lineup and challenge Texas to try to deal with the advantage that the Noles seem to have on the perimeter.
FSU is normally a very good rebounding team that rarely loses the battle on the boards. However, Texas is one of the biggest teams in the nation and will certainly challenge the Noles in this category. However, if FSU can outrebound the Longhorns it will go a long way toward giving the Seminoles their 11th straight win.
The other aspect of the game to watch is the three point line. McCarty is the only real three point threat for Texas as it is not a big part of their offense. FSU doesn't rely heavily on the three normally but they need a good day from Imani Wright (43.8% 3PT) in this department. It would also help if Romero could get free a few times. She is lethal from behind the arc (55.6% 3PT) and would lead the nation by over three percentage points if she had enough attempts.
Finally, Texas is a deep team. They have 11 players that average over 10 minutes a game and McCarty is the only Longhorn to average more than 30 minutes a game (32.4). That depth will be tested as the Horns will be playing this game on short rest. Texas blew out Kansas 75-42 yesterday while FSU's last game was a 102-60 throttling of Wake Forest on Thursday. Therefore, Texas has two fewer days to rest and on top of that the Horns have to travel to Tallahassee. The schedule gives a big advantage to the Noles.
Regardless, this will be a very high level basketball game. It would not be surprising to see either (or both) of these teams in the Final Four. It will also be a bit of a clash of styles as Texas will pit their inside game against FSU's more perimeter oriented offense.
Sagarin has FSU as an 8.5 point favorite in this one. This game will be a Play 4 Kay game and proceeds from the game will be donated to the Sharon Ewing Walker Breast Health Center at TMH.