Following a clutch home win in their first conference game of the season, UNC is now in Tallahassee getting set for their first ACC road game of the year against the Florida State Seminoles. The Heels have finished the past seven seasons with a winning record on the road against ACC opponents, and this matchup will be the first step in keeping the streak alive. It is worth noting that the only other two teams that came out of last season with a winning record on the road are Notre Dame and Virginia, which gives an idea of how spectacular the current streak is for UNC.
Another streak worth noting is that Florida State is currently on a 27-game winning streak at home, which is good enough for the third-longest home winning streak in the country. They also managed to go undefeated at home last year in ACC play, making this quite the tall task for UNC if they have hopes of escaping the Donald Tucker Civic Center with a 2-0 record.
The Seminoles are coming off of a frustrating game against the Duke Blue Devils this past weekend. FSU went into the game with one of the best defenses in the country, only to raise a lot of questions about how good it actually is after Duke dropped 100 points on them in Cameron. Each Duke starter scored in double-digits, with Marvin Bagley III leading the charge with 32 points and 21 rebounds. Ideally Florida State should’ve won this game — they scored 93 points against Duke’s struggling defense, and if they played even half as well as they had all year on defense they should’ve gotten the W. Alas, The Blue Devils live to fight another day and Florida State now risks going 0-2 to start ACC play.
Florida State currently is averaging 85.7 points per game, with a good chunk of their scoring coming from senior forward Phil Cofer. Cofer is averaging 14.5 points per game, and is coming off of the heels of a 28-point performance against Duke. He will be dealing with comparable competition across the court from him in Luke Maye, and it will be interesting to see which player can keep the other in check.
Another player that UNC will want to keep their eye on is junior guard Terance Mann. Mann is averaging 14.6 points, 6 rebounds and 3.2 assists so far this season. Mann didn’t manage to get much going against Duke, only attempting six shots in 31 minutes of play. He did a lot of other good things on the court however, finishing the game with 9 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists.
Finally, Braian Angola is another player for the Seminoles that is having a strong season. Angola finished the game this past weekend against Duke with 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists and shot 41% from the field. He is currently averaging 12.5 points per game, completing the three-headed monster of the Seminoles’ dangerous offense.
The biggest issue that UNC will have to deal with isn’t necessarily Florida State’s offense, but their defense. The Seminoles have been playing stellar this year defensively with opponents scoring an average of 67.5 points per game. The potential good news for UNC is that their defense isn’t quite as good as Michigan State’s was, but given the offensive performances that UNC has had lately it may be enough to cause some havoc for the Heels. FSU has some tall, athletic players on their roster, and so if the Heels aren’t careful things can get ugly very quickly.
What is encouraging is that following the game against Duke, we’ve learned that you have to take Florida State’s defensive ratings with a grain of salt: the only other ranked team Florida State has played so far this year was Florida, a team that has run very hot and cold so far this season (please see their loss to Loyola-Chicago). Granted, the Seminoles did their job and did it well, but UNC has talent much closer to Duke’s than to Florida’s. Fans should hope that talent shows up tonight.
The first lesson of ACC play can be checked off for each of UNC’s freshmen: nothing comes easy in this conference. It is a grind, you cannot take a single play off, and because of the name on the front of your jersey conference opponents will give you their best every single game. The Heels managed to learn this lesson with a win against Wake Forest this past weekend behind a huge double-double performance from Luke Maye.
Following the game, Roy Williams stated in his press conference that he felt like Joel Berry II and Luke Maye didn’t play as well as their stats showed. It is scary to think that Luke Maye could’ve performed better with the numbers that he put up, but Roy was 100% correct. Maye and Berry both accounted for six of the team’s twelve turnovers in the contest. As a team UNC also had issues being efficient on offense, shooting 39.7 percent from the field and making 31.8 percent of their three-point attempts.
What did manage to work this past weekend for UNC was going small in their lineup — Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson, Kenny Williams, Theo Pinson and Joel Berry are five of Roy Williams’ most trusted players, and when they are all on the floor together it’s easy to see why. At the end of the game it was this lineup that helped the Heels go on an 8-0 run to come away with the victory. So will this lineup work against Florida State? The short answer: we may or may not find out.
The lineup that everyone is dubbing the “death lineup” was done simply because Roy WIlliams trusted those players more in the situations in which we saw them on the court together. The reality of the situation is that Florida State is a big, athletic team and UNC needs to try to get some production out of their big men before experimenting with that lineup again. This is ideally a game where Sterling Manley stepping up to the forefront and giving good minutes off the bench would be just what the Heels need to win, but it is all a matter of whether or not it will actually happen.
One of two things will happen in this game: UNC will prove to have too much firepower just as Duke did against Florida State’s defense, or the Seminoles will prove that they are for real and the Heels will struggle mightily getting the ball into the basket. Florida State is however vulnerable on the boards, which is how UNC could wear them down. UNC going 2-0 during this two-game road trip would be great, but 1-1 is realistic. Chances are Virginia is the team that will give the Heels their first conference loss of the season.
North Carolina 82, Florida State 77