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Heel Tough Blog: Florida State Preview

Chris Steward - AP

The first month of the college basketball season has come and gone, and believe it or not, it’s time for UNC to begin ACC play, as they host Florida State this afternoon in the Dean Dome. The Tar Heels are coming off an impressive win over #10 Tennessee earlier in the week, arguably the second biggest in the regular season under Hubert Davis. Now Carolina is tasked with building off that win, against a Florida State squad that has already taken down nationally ranked Colorado earlier in the season.

Florida State isn’t the same program it was in previous years, when they were competing for ACC regular season titles, and routinely making the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, as the transfer portal, and NIL have made it tough for them to compete nationally. Byt Leonard Hamilton has tapped back into his old methods, recruiting players who are going to stay in school longer, so that he can develop into being quality basketball players. His two leading scorers are Darin Green Jr (14.5 PPG), and Jamir Watkins (13.0 PPG), and those are the only two players averaging double figures. While this team has struggled to score the basketball at times, they have excelled on the defensive end of the floor, as they are only allowing teams to make 5.0 three-pointers per game, and teams are shooting just 26% from behind the arc against them.

Cormac Ryan returned after missing the Arkansas game with an ankle injury, although he came off the bench against Tennessee. It’s unclear if he will return to the starting lineup, but Hubert Davis will have a decision to make if he does. Does he utilize a three-guard lineup, and roll with Davis, Cadeau, Ryan, Ingram, and Bacot? Or does he put Cadeau back on the bench, and play with a more traditional lineup, featuring Davis, Ryan, Withers, Ingram, and Bacot? We’ll have to wait until the game tips off to find out the answer, but that decision is a big one for this coaching staff to make, early in the season.

The dip into ACC play, is a breath of fresh air for Carolina, as it takes them out of a stretch of four straight ranked non-conference opponents, as after this game, Carolina will play nationally ranked UConn, Kentucky, and then Oklahoma consecutively. But make no mistake, Carolina needs to be ready to play to avoid starting conference play off on the wrong foot.

  1. Shot Selection: The Seminoles aren’t the defensive powerhouse that Tennessee is, but they are among the better defensive teams in the ACC. Given how well FSU defends the perimeter, Carolina needs to make sure they are taking shots that are in rhythm of the offense. Hubert Davis has emphasized all season long that his team needs to pass up “good shots” for “great shots”, and that’s what they did the other night, as they shot 43% from behind the arc against the #1 defensive team in the country. They’ll need to replicate that same mindset in this again, against a better perimeter team.

  2. Contain the Dribble Drive: In their last three games, Carolina has allowed a player to score more than 30 points, despite going 2-1 in that stretch. The biggest reason why? Carolina hasn’t been able to stay in front of the ball, making it easy for opponents to attack the basket, and live in the painted area. This is why Hubert Davis has a decision to make about Cadeau starting, because as efficient as Carolina is offensively with Cadeau on the floor, they are at a disadvantage on the defensive end. While Florida State doesn’t have the talented wings like Arkansas or Tennessee, they will study what worked well for them against UNC, and apply in this game. The Tar Heels need to get back to competing on that end of the floor the way they did to start the season against inferior opponents if they want to truly emerge as contenders both in the ACC and nationally.

  3. Win Rebounding Margin: The Tar Heels have yet to establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with on the glass, even though they are averaging almost 40 rebounds per game. The biggest reason why is a smaller lineup, that doesn’t allow them to overwhelm opponents with their size. In this game though, the rebounding battle will help determine who controls the pace of the game. Carolina wants to get out and run, while Florida State wants to play more of a half-court kind of game. Armando Bacot has established himself as the best rebounder in the ACC, and Carolina has gotten nice contributions from Harrison Ingram, but they need one more starter to step up in that area of the game, for them to mold into the best version of themselves in this particular area of the game.

UNC in ACC Openers:

  • This is the 71st season of ACC basketball, and Carolina has a great track record in ACC openers all-time, as they are 56-14 in ACC openers. In Chapel Hill, Carolina is 62-8 all-time in ACC openers.

Opponent History:

  • The Tar Heels are 53-16 all-time against the Noles, and they are 23-4 in Chapel Hill, and 20-4 inside the Smith Center.


  • North Carolina - 10th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 120.6 (6th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 97.3 (37th)

  • Florida State - 74th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 109.0 (91st) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 99.3 (66th)

TV Info: Today’s game will tip at 2 PM on the ACC Network.

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