The Seminoles did exactly what they needed to do on Friday, disrupting everything Missouri wanted to do offensively and cruising to an easy 67-54 win. But now things get tougher. And FSU is likely going to have to do it without their leading scorer and rebounder, Terance Mann, who is listed as doubtful for the game.
This is obviously an uphill battle for the ‘Noles. Xavier (29-5) was the regular season Big East champion. And they have all the makings of a team that can win the national title: they have an elite offense, they’re experienced, and they have a genuine star in 6-6 senior Trevon Bluiett.
The Muskateers are a good shooting team (37% from deep), but they don’t rely on the deep ball. Like FSU, they play downhill, spread you out, and look to get to the line. They’re 16th nationally in 2-pt% offense, which is the one area where the FSU defense is stout (22nd).
To win this battle, FSU’s transition defense is going to have to be clicking. On stops, Xavier loves to run quick hitters. If the Florida State offense is struggling, then the Muskateers should be able to string together some huge runs.
Trevon Bluiett leads Xavier, scoring 19.6 per game. He makes 42% of his 3s, and also leads the team in rebounding. He’s made four or more 3s in a third of their games.
JP Macura, a 6-5 senior, scores 12.7 per game. He’s just a 35% shooter from deep for his career, but made 5-6 in their first round win over Texas Southern.
Kerem Kanter, the younger brother of Enes Kanter, rounds out the double figure scoring at 10.8 per game. The Green Bay transfer is big and burly at 6-10, 240, but has the skill to step outside and knock down shots. When Christ Koumadje or Ike Obiagu are in the game, they’ll likely use him as a screener on the perimeter, which will open pick and pop opportunities for him.
Point guard Quentin Goodin isn’t much of a shooting threat (30% from deep), but after getting forced into action last season, he has plenty of experience running this offense.
Defensively, Xavier isn’t scary. They’re 60th nationally in defensive efficiency, but they do a couple things really well. They rebound, and they defend without fouling. Head coach Chris Mack has typically mixed in a 1-3-1 zone with his gap man defense, but this year prefers to play more man to man. Their defense can be similar to Virginia’s, in which they sell out to take away inside threats.
This game likely comes down to how disruptive Florida State’s defense can be. If the ‘Noles can get plenty of transition opportunities, then they’ll have a chance at the upset. If not, they’ll be looking forward to next year.
The game tips at 8:40 PM and will be broadcast on TNT. The Muskateers are 5 1⁄2 point favorites.