First ACC Test: UNC vs. Florida State

Today, the Tar Heels play their first ACC game against the Florida State Seminoles in Chapel Hill.

UNC’s Strengths:

  • Depth. The Tar Heels have arguably the deepest team in college basketball. Ten players average at least 10 minutes per game, and an eleventh, Alex Stephenson, makes the most out of the 7.6 minutes he gets. Most of the teams that have played the Tar Heels thus far have run out of gas about 30 minutes into the game. If UNC gets an early lead and FSU can’t force turnovers, the Seminoles might as well sit back and enjoy barbecue sandwiches from the Dean Dome concession stands, because there won;t be much they can do.
  • Inside Presence. Brendan Wright and Tyler Hansbrough. ’nuff said.
  • Dean Dome. Tonight will be the biggest game for the Heels since they beat the Buckeyes in November, and Heels fans know it. They now have this pent up energy, waiting a month to get really fired up for a game. What’s worse is that this is the time where fans can spend the most energy cheering, as they have just come back from vacation, but they don’t have to think about schoolwork yet. If it comes down to the crowd, the Noles have no chance. And if the game winning shot sends the score over 100 and we get Bojangles biscuits, I’m pretty sure the place will explode.

FSU’s Strengths:

  • Versatility. Florida State’s frontcourt of Al Thornton and Uche Echefu are very able to shoot the three, and this could force Wright and Hansbrough to the outside. Spreading them away from the paint could be the offenses’ best asset.
  • Experience. There are five upperclassmen in FSU’s regular rotation compared to only one for the Heels (Rayshawn Terry). And the rise of the mid-majors in college basketball has proven that experience still matters.
  • Turnovers. The Seminoles have been most effective on defense by forcing turnovers. FSU forces nearly 18 turnovers per game. If UNC gets sloppy, the Noles will waste not time in taking advantage.

UNC’s Weaknesses:

  • Point Guard. Ty Lawson has an injured wrist, and Bobby Frasor just came back from a foot injury, so our only 100% healthy PG is Quentin Thomas. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, depth at PG is absolutely crucial, and we are very lucky to have it.
  • Defense. Our defensive numbers may be impressive on paper, but don’t be fooled; we haven’t played a tough opponent in a month, and even against patsies our defense has shown signs of weaknesses. Our attempts at the half-court press have been particularly bad.
  • The 3-Pointer.This applies to both sides of the ball.We have not been able to defend the three all year and our only true deep threat on offense is Wayne Ellington. If Psycho T gets triple teamed and can’t pass the ball outside, the offense could be seriously stalled.

FSU’s Weaknesses:

  • Sloppy Play. In their three losses the Noles have committed 21, 21, and 18 turnovers respectively. The one true strength of our defense is forcing turnovers. This does not bode well for FSU.
  • Bench in Tough Games.On paper, FSU appears to have a deep bench, with 9 players averaging more than 10 minutes per game. But in their three losses the bench has contributed no more than 8 points.
  • The Road. Only twice have the Noles played a road game versus a legitimate opponent, and both time they have been humbled (at Pitt, at Wisconsin). If they are unable to adjust to the hostile crowd, they could be eaten alive.

I think that Florida State will be a tough opponent, but the hostile environment combined with UNC’s depth should prove too much to handle. UNC will win, but not by much.