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Heel Tough Blog: Florida State Preview


Atlantic Coast Conference

The Tar Heels hit the road again tomorrow, as they take on a red-hot Florida State team that has vaulted itself into second place in the ACC, as we get close to the end of January. Carolina is coming off a win over Wake Forest, to improve to 16-3 (8-0), to maintain their two-game lead in the ACC. After various different results around college basketball during the week, Carolina is the only undefeated team in conference play from a power conference and is the only power conference team to have not lost a true road game. Both of those marks will be put to the test tomorrow afternoon when Carolina visits what will be a tough Tucker Center. 


When Florida State lost in Chapel Hill back in December, they fell to 4-3 and appeared to be headed towards a lost season, as Leonard Hamitlon’s career is coming to an end. Instead, they’ve gone 8-4 since and are 6-2 in the league, which has them sitting in second place, one of the biggest surprises in the conference this season. They earned a road win at Syracuse earlier in the week, to get FSU to 12-7 on the season, still outside the NCAA Tournament bubble, but an upset win over the third-ranked team in the country could change that. The Noles have three players that average double figures scoring, led by Jamir Watkins, and his 13.9 points per game. Defensively, they excel at forcing turnovers, as they lead the ACC in steals per game at over 9 per game. 


These two teams met back in December, a 78-70 win for Carolina, but the Tar Heels were down 14 early in the second half, before a 22-0 run, allowed UNC to take the lead, and control of the game. Even though UNC would lose their next two games to UConn and Kentucky, that comeback felt like a turning point for this team and was a launching point to the level of play we’re seeing now. Florida State is the first team that Carolina has played twice this season, and sweeping a team is no easy task, but it’s something that championship caliber teams are capable of doing. Defend 


This is the latest game that the game means more to the opponent than it does to Carolina, as Florida State is in need of a win if they want any hopes of making the NCAA Tournament. This can be exhausting for a team that has never been in this position before, and as the old saying goes, pressure is a privilege, this team has met every challenge so far. Here’s how they rise to the occasion once again tomorrow, to stay undefeated in ACC play, and on the road: 


  1. Fast Start: What’s been lost in all of the winning Carolina has experienced away from Chapel Hill, is the slow starts offensively. Now when you defend the way this team is defending, it’s easier to overcome a slow start offensively, but you can’t always count on that. The Tucker Center is going to be alive from the opening tip, and will be another hostile environment for this group. Carolina needs to be ready to offensively, and avoid another slow start away from home. 

  2. Defend Interior: In a day and age where teams play outside-in, Florida State plays inside-out, as they lead the conference in two-point field goals made and attempted. Now that doesn’t mean that they are living off of midrange jump shots, which means Carolina needs to protect the rim, as well as they have during this nine-game winning streak. The guards need to take away driving lanes and force their guards to shoot from the perimeter, which isn’t a strength for Florida State. Lastly, they need to protect the paint as well as they have in any game because Florida State will look to pressure the rim all game long. 

  3. Limit Turnovers: Carolina has done a really good job limiting their turnovers during the win streak, and that needs to continue on the road tomorrow afternoon. It’s hard to ask UNC to not turn it over, given Florida State’s ability to steal the ball, but they don’t need to let the turnovers mount over time and give them easy baskets in transition. Hubert Davis likes to play lineups with as many ball handlers as possible, expect to see the three-guard lineup at various times in this game. 

Series History: 

  • Carolina is 54-16 all-time against Florida State and has won three straight games in the series and 12 of the last 16. In the Tucker Center, Carolina is a respectable 18-8. 

KenPom:

  • North Carolina - 6th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 119.2 (16th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 92.8 (4th) 

  • Florida State - 76th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 109.6 (122nd) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 98.5 (36th) 

NET:

  • North Carolina - 6th. 

  • Florida State - 83rd. 


TV Info: Tomorrow’s game will start at 2 PM on ESPN. 


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