From the moment the buzzer finally ended the thirty-three point atrocity in Tallahassee, I've wanted one thing from the ACC Tournament – a rematch. Denied one in Chapel Hill, this would be the only way to avenge that disaster. A second game wouldn't have Deividas Dulkys going off for a ridiculous 32 points. A second game wouldn't have Tyler Zeller and P.J. Hairston taking the same number of shots. A second game wouldn't have 22 UNC turnovers, a huge rebinding margin in FSU's favor, or dismal shooting from Carolina. A second game would be won.
Then, of course, UNC loses John Henson in the first five minutes of the tournament, the team struggles to get by N.C. State, and suddenly the team looks undermanned against a bigger, tougher Seminole team. Now it's true Henson is a game time decision today, but I'm not holding my breath. Given his importance to the team in the NCAA Tournament in the weeks ahead, I don't see Roy Williams taking any undue risks today. But how has Florda State changed since last January?
First of all, don't expect Dulkys to have a second career night. The senior guard has scored 26 points total in the last three weeks. His high since the Carolina game was a twelve-point performance against Duke, two Duke games ago. Couple that with UNC's much improved perimeter defense – only one opponent has topped .300 shooting from three in the last six games – and he shouldn't be of much concern.
Michael Snaer is a different story. The All-ACC Defensive Team member has been playing with a grudge since being left off the 1st team All-ACC. He had 17 points against the Heels despite only making one of five threes. Worse, he's going to make it extremely hard for UNC to score from beyond the arc. Remember, Carolina was 4 of 21 from three in their last meeting. True, both UNC has gotten better at taking threes and hopefully won't have to throw up as many desperation shots this time around, but things don't look too promising on that end.
The big concern is the Seminoles' play in the paint. FSU was the first ACC team to demonstrate that way to beat the Heels was not to surrender offensive rebounds in favor of preventing Carolina fast breaks, but crash the boards hard and get as many second chances as possible. Florida State finished with 14 offensive boards and 41 overall, with the big performer being reserve Okaro White. White, the 6'8" sophomore, would play 23 minutes due to Xavier Gibson's foul trouble, and pull down the boards, one off his career high. He often plays more than the starter Gibson now, like he did against the Blue Devils yesterday. Expect the biggest trouble from him and Bernard James, who has given UNC fits for years now. But they can also rotate in Gibson and center John Creft for stretches. I worry about how James Michael McAdoo in particular will handle the physical play. UNC will also need good, foul-free minutes from Desmond Hubert, who has been a no-show in the tournament to date.
This is a winnable game or the Heels, but I can't say I'm confident. The Seminoles have been trending downward slightly since the win in Tallahassee, but without Henson, it's going to take some heroics to pull this off. Both teams spent a lot of energy just getting to this game; it's easy to see why both fanbases are apprehensive. With a one-seed not yet locked up, Carolina should win this game, but I think a loss and a nervous afternoon may be on the schedule for UNC today, I'm afraid.