At this point, it looks there's one team outside of Duke capable of finishing ahead of Carolina in the ACC standings, and that's Florida State. The Seminoles are 6-2, and have a win over the Blue Devils in their favor. They also have a tendency come out completely flat in games, especially on the road. In their four away games in January, FSU never scored more than 60 points, resulting in three losses, most embarrassingly to Auburn, and one sad 55-53 win over Miami. So which team is going to show up in Chapel Hill?
One thing is for certain, FSU is going to rely heavily on their defense. Florida State is second in the nation in points allowed per possession behind Texas, and rank highly in practically every defensive category. This is mainly because they have all-around great big man Chris Singleton and an incredible shot blocker in Bernard James both inside. And when they need a breather, Leonard Hamilton has a deep bench of forwards to go to keep opposing teams out of the paint. It's no surprise the teams that play them take a lot of threes; getting the ball inside is a chore. That being said, most of the teams that have beaten FSU, haven't done it by burying them from the perimeter. UNC will have to challenge the Seminoles inside. Tyler Zeller and John Henson might be the best big men Singleton has faced since Jared Sullinger, but he's held his own pretty well. And of course, good outside shooting will allow the Heels to spread the defense and buy a little more breathing room in the paint. Just don't expect much slashing to the basket – Dexter Strickland's specialty – against this crowd.
Luckily, as good as Florida State is on defense, they're lousy when they have the ball. They're ridiculously turnover-prone, especially in the backcourt. The only team with a worse assist-to-turnover ratio is Wake Forest. Their best ballhandler is at the point, in senior Derwin Kitchen, is about average for a point guard. Also on the perimeter is Deividas Dulkys, a three-pont specialist who can get hot. But make no mistake about it – this offense runs through Singleton. Most possessions go through him, and he's the team's leading scorer and rebounder. He's comfortable anywhere on the court, having taken 82 threes this season, if only making 29, and is pretty much a lock for first team all-ACC. Shutting him down is the key to derailing the Seminoles, something Clemson and Ohio State did well, holding him to eight points apiece. He's been in a bit of a slump of of late, only scoring five against Wake Forest, but you can't count on that continuing.
The only thing FSU does well on the offensive end is rebound their many, many, missed shots. This was perhaps UNC's weak spot in their last game against Boston College, so assume that it was emphasized in practice. Other than that, it's Larry Drew's departure that is the biggest question mark. Facing a team as offensively stunted as the Seminoles is a lucky break in this regard, as his defense won't be missed as much as it will next week against Duke. We'll see how well Kendall Marshall can handle the rigors of increased playing time – Florida State plays the same uptempo game UNC does, so proper substitution is going to be key – but Carolina should be able to handle this. This is the team in the ACC most similar in style to the Tar Heels, and it should be a good game; UNC will come out of it with a win.