The (8) Florida State Seminoles (25-4, 13-2 ACC) will face the (5) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (26-3, 14-1 ACC) in South Bend, IN tomorrow. The winner of the game will be the ACC regular season champion and will earn the #1 seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament.
Notre Dame joined the ACC in the 2013-14 season. Since then they have gone 61-2 in ACC play and have won the ACC Tournament title in every year that they have participated. That's domination Homes.
This year the Irish have another sterling record and are in position for another ACC title. However, this year has been a bit bumpier than previous seasons. This is the first year since they joined the ACC that the Irish have as many as three regular season losses. They have also looked shaky of late. They needed a second half comeback to beat Syracuse 85-80 two games ago. In the game prior to that they hung on to beat Clemson (14-13, 3-11 ACC) 84-80 losing the fourth quarter 28-19. Both of those games were on the road however. They just pasted Boston College 82-45 in their last home game.
As you can probably guess, ND is blessed with some serious talent. The Irish have 10 top 100 recruits and 9 top 50. FSU has 9 and 6 respectively. ND is one of the few teams in the ACC with more talent on paper than the Noles. The Irish can be explosive offensively. They rank 7th nationally in OPPP (1.086) while FSU is 9th (1.081). However, defensively they are only 56th in DPPP (.835) while FSU is 8th (.766). Those advanced stats mirror the more traditional stats. ND is very potent offensively leading the ACC in FG% and 3PT% but they are pedestrian defensively at 7th in FG defense and 13th in 3pt defense. The battle on the boards will be crucial as ND is second in rebounding margin in the ACC while FSU is first.
The Irish have several players who can step up but 6'3 junior forward Brianna Turner has been their best player all year. Turner is averaging 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds. She is good enough to carry the team on her back as she did when she scored 31 points against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome in a game that the Orange led most of the way. The coaches picked her as ACC Player of the Year last year and she will be a definite problem in the post for the Noles.
The next player on the scouting report is 5'8 senior point guard Lindsay Allen. Allen leads the ACC in assists (7.24) and she makes the offense go. She's a bit of a throwback as she only has six three pointers on the season but her value lies in how she orchestrates the team. She is also the second leading rebounder on the team (5.3). 5'8 sophomore Arike Ogunbowale is an athletic shooting guard who averages 14.7 points. Ogunbowale is a skilled shooter (.433 3PT) who can beat the defense off the dribble. 5'11 sophomore Marina Mabrey shoots the most threes on the team (.382 3PT) while hitting 83% of her free throws.
Over the course of this year these have clearly been the two best teams in the ACC. The Irish are 31-0 at home since joining the ACC. The Noles are going to have to play a great game to get the win but they are definitely capable. They need to control the boards and run precision offense to take advantage of ND's somewhat suspect defense. If that happens FSU will walk away with their first road win against a top 5 team since beating (5) Stanford 68-61 in 2007. Oh yeah, they would also have an ACC regular season crown.
The game tips at 1pm tomorrow and will be shown on ESPN 2. Sagarin has ND as 3 point favorites. He would have it as a pick 'em game on a neutral court.