#3 UNC at FSU: Prediction & Preview

January 13th, 2012

NO. 3 NORTH CAROLINA (15-2, 2-0 ACC) AT FLORIDA STATE (10-6, 1-1 ACC)

 

Time/TV: 2 p.m./ESPN

 

RPI Ratings: North Carolina 12 (No. 2 ACC); Florida State 60 (No. 6 ACC).

 

Line: UNC - 6.5

 

North Carolina Players to Watch: F John Henson, 6-11 Jr. (14.7 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 54.8% FG); F Tyler Zeller, 7-0 Sr. (14.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 53.6% FG); F Harrison Barnes, 6-8 So. (16.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 45.8% 3s). Barnes hit a 3-pointer with three seconds left to beat the Seminoles 72-70 last year.

 

Florida State Players to Watch: F Bernard James, 6-10 Sr. (10.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.4 bpg); G Michael Snaer, 6-5 Jr. (12.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 35.6% 3s); G Ian Miller, 6-3 So. (14 ppg, 2 rpg, 1.8 spg). James had 18 points and 14 rebounds in Florida State’s 63-59 win over Virginia Tech on Tuesday.

 

Storylines: North Carolina has won nine straight since losing early contests to UNLV and Kentucky and are tied atop the ACC standings with Duke at 2-0. The Seminoles suffered an ugly 79-59 road loss at Clemson to open league play, but they rebounded with a nice 63-59 win over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg on Tuesday.

 

What You Should Know: North Carolina has the No. 1 scoring offense in the country at 86.9 points per game. Tar Heel point guard Kendall Marshall has become one of the nation’s best distributors and he has a lot of weapons around him. On the other side, the Seminoles have arguably the country’s best defense. They are giving up just 61.7 points per game and allowing opponents to shoot only 36 percent from the field and 26.8 percent from the 3-point line. This game may be determined on the boards, where both teams rank in the top 15 in rebounds per game. In James and Xavier Gibson, FSU has the size and bulk to matchup up with the Tar Heel front line, but Henson, Zeller and Barnes have a significant skill advantage over the Seminoles. Florida State will attempt to keep this a half-court contest, and North Carolina will try to use Marshall and its athleticism to its advantage by pushing the pace at every opportunity. These are two of the best shot blocking teams in the nation, as well. North Carolina averages six per game, and the Seminoles average seven, including 15 in their victory over Virginia Tech.

 

The Bottom Line: The Tar Heels haven’t been on the road in more than a month, since their loss at Kentucky. This will be a dangerous road test for them. The last four North Carolina-Florida State games in Tallahassee have been thrillers. If the Seminoles can find ways to put the ball in the basket, this year will be no different.

 

The Pick: North Carolina 70, Florida State 67.