Where: Donald L. Tucker Center, Tallahassee, FL
When: Wednesday, March 2nd, 7:00 PM
Records: UNC 22-6, 12-2 ACC; FSU 20-8, 10-4 ACC
Duke's Nolan Smith referred to their game with Clemson(airing after the UNC game) was a semifinal game. UNC's game with FSU is the same deal though even if UNC were to lose they could still salvage the #1 seed and a share of the ACC regular season crown by beating Duke on Saturday night. None of that should matter however if you are UNC. The Heels need to be singularly focused on beating FSU and finishing 6-2 on the road in the ACC which would be an outstanding accomplishment in and of itself.
FSU is still without leading scorer, rebounder and ACC defensive player of the year candidate Chris Singleton. Since Singleton went out with a foot injury versus Virginia, the Seminoles have had multiple players step up to score in double digits. The two most consistent names in the four game stretch leading into this contest are G Deividas Dulkys and F Okaro White. Both players have had solid scoring nights since Singleton went down. That is the danger of facing a team who has had 3-4 games to adjust to a personnel loss. FSU has had players step up their games giving the Noles more offensive options than perhaps they did not realize that had. FSU also has one of the few frontlines in the country that can match the height and length of UNC's. This will be a tough matchup on the boards for the Heels, especially if they struggle shooting the ball again.
On offense, it will be interesting to see FSU's adjustment to Kendall Marshall who torched the Noles for 16 assists in Chapel Hill. I would imagine FSU has taken notice of how Duke guarded Marshall and force him to beat them with a shot rather than a pass. Otherwise if they let Marshall get into the lane and go hog wild passing to open Tar Heels it could be a repeat of Super Bowl Sunday. UNC will be making an adjustment to the loss of Reggie Bullock which means more minutes for Leslie McDonald and Harrison Barnes. Given Bullock's drop off in production, UNC will be able to compensate there. The question is how they handle logging extra minutes and the shift in the rotations. Despite losing Singleton, FSU is still the fourth best rated defense in the country, two spots behind UNC. In fact UNC's final two games of the regular season will be against the #3 and #4 defenses in the country. Not the best solution for a team struggling on offense. The other big difference with the game in Chapel Hill was the play of Dexter Strickland. UNC will need solid perimeter play since the interior offense could have issues facing FSU's size.
This game will be all about focus, discipline and making smart plays. That is the key to beating a good defense. If UNC can hit some shots, so much the better.
UNC 74 FSU 68