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Game Preview: UNC at Florida State

Luke Loucks of the  Florida State Seminoles passes around Terrell Stoglin of the  Maryland Terrapins.
Luke Loucks of the Florida State Seminoles passes around Terrell Stoglin of the Maryland Terrapins.

When UNC last met Florida State, it had been only two days since the most experienced player on the team had abruptly resigned from the team, leaving the point guard position in the hands of a freshman who was averaging under twenty minutes a game. FSU, on the other hand was 6-2 in the conference, had a win over Duke, and was making a strong bid for at least second place. Carolina easily won by twenty  and has only lost one game since; Florida State would lose their best player, Chris Singleton, until at least the postseason a few games later.

Singleton spent large stretches of the last UNC game in foul trouble, so Carolina is used to seeing the Seminoles without him. His absence greatly reduces the effectiveness of the Seminole defense, ranked fifth in the country in efficiency. The Tar Heels were the first team to shoot over 50% against the Seminoles – Maryland would duplicate the feat after Singleton's injury – and they did it behind Kendall Marshall's expert dissection of FSU's defense. He drove the lane, made incredible passes, and generally set up easy buckets, finishing with a freshman-record 16 assists. The Seminoles have had really only one bad game in Singleton's absence, the Maryland loss. But the other two games have been at home against Wake Forest and Miami, so it's hard to reach a conclusion.


That home court is worth mentioning. The Seminoles haven't lost at home in the ACC this season, but both Florida and Ohio State won in Tallahassee. This is Senior Day for FSU, a team that has never gone 8-0 at home in the ACC. On the rare occasions they break 70 points, it's always at home. This team's offense isn't good, but on their home floor they at least become passable.

In Singleton's absence, probably the most consistent performer has been Deividas Dulkys, who you may remember taking a lot of shots coming off the bench in Chapel Hill. He's been elevated to the starting job, giving FSU a slightly smaller lineup, but don't expect much to change in the general offense. The Seminoles still shy away from many perimeter shots – Dulkys is the only one who takes them with any frequency – and they still turn the ball over more than anyone in the ACC. They should be easy prey for the Heels defense, which is just getting better and better over the last few weeks. This will be key in the paint, where FSU gets most of their points but rarely has to face a duo like Zeller and Henson.

UNC is going to need some perimeter shooting to keep FSU from just collapsing inside with their collection of big men. In their last meeting it was Dexter Strickland who rose to the challenge, and this time either he or Leslie McDonald will fit the bill. It will help to get FSU's bigs in foul trouble again – the quicker they cycle to the lesser-used end of the bench the better. Carolina should be able to win this game, but it will be a lot close than the frist round in Chapel Hill. And keep in mind, the Heels are fighting for the pride of the entire state; the Seminoles have never beaten all of the Big Four teams in the same season, and UNC is all that stands in the way of that happening.

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