After a 12-2 (2-1) start for the 18th ranked Seminoles basketball team, the schedule gets pretty hard for the next month. Five of the next seven games are on the road, and it starts today at No. 7 Louisville.
The Cardinals are one of the favorites to be cutting down nets in April. Their top six players (in terms of minutes) are all juniors and seniors. They’re loaded with eight former blue chip recruits on the roster. And they have a candidate for National Player of the Year.
Through 13 games they (11-2) have the 13th best offense in the nation and the 5th best defense. This isn’t the old helter skelter Rick Pitino defense. They don’t turn you over (319th in TO%), but they almost never allow a clean look (5th in defensive eFG%).
Players to watch
The offense is dominated by 6-7 junior Jordan Nwora. He takes 34% of their shots when he’s on the court (most among ACC players) and can score from all three levels. Louisville does a good job of finding spots on the court where he can provide a mismatch. He averages 20.2 ppg and makes 40% of his 3s. It’s no surprise that his two worst offensive games came in UL’s two losses.
Senior Stephen Enoch (6-10, 255) is the only other double-digit scorer, averaging 11.6 per game. He’s capable of stepping out and hitting the occasional three, but he does most of his work inside. A very athletic big man, the Cards look to utilize him in transition and on the secondary break.
Dwayne Sutton (6-5, 220) is one of the most physically imposing players FSU will see this season. He’s a grown man (literally, the 5th year senior is about to turn 23) who is one of the top rebounders in the nation (8.8 per game). His offense consists of dunks and putbacks, with the occasional 3-pointer.
Ryan McMahon (6-0, 185) is a 23-year-old 5th year senior who hits 44% of his 3s.
Can FSU crack the code?
Chris Mack’s pack line defense is elite. It’s structured more like Arizona’s than Virginia’s in that it is tied together with an offense that likes to score quickly. But FSU has had success with it in the past. Last year in Tallahassee the ‘Noles scored 1.10 per possession in an OT win. The previous year they ended Mack’s career at Xavier by scoring 1.09 per possession against the 1-seed. And even when Xavier blew FSU out the previous year, it was the Seminoles defense that got torched. The offense actually did alright. Will Florida State be able to score on the road versus such a veteran team? That will be the key.
Who will win?
Ken Pomeroy FSU 24%
Vegas line FSU +6.5
How to watch
2PM on ESPN2, from the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville