Spread: Florida State -3.5
5:30pm Central – Donald L. Tucker Center, Tallahassee, FL
N.C. State Wolfpack (6-3, 2-2)
N.C. State is in danger of having the wheels come off for their season if they don’t turn things around soon. The Wolfpack enter a tough stretch of their schedule over the next two weeks (@ FSU, v. Georgia Tech, @ UVA, @ UNC) having lost two straight games. The first of those losses was justifiable—a 4-point loss in overtime at Clemson, which is currently ranked #12 in the AP Poll. The second—a 5-point home loss to 5-6 Miami, which has just one ACC win (State) and lost by 22 points to Boston College last night—is a brutal loss for the ‘Pack. N.C. State’s offense evaporated against the Hurricanes in the second half, as they managed just 27 points in the second 20 minutes before falling 64-59. The ‘Pack turned the ball over 16 times, and they shot just 40.5% from inside the arc. They can ill afford to repeat such a performance against Florida State tonight, especially since the Seminoles are even longer than Miami and have a better defense than the Hurricanes.
The fastest way to get a struggling offense going is to generate easy buckets in transition, and that starts with turning the opposing offense over on defense. This is something the ‘Pack do very well, as they rank 9th in the country in forced turnover rate with 25.8% of opponents’ possessions ending in a turnover. N.C. State struggled a bit with this against Miami, though, as they forced only 13 turnovers, down from their season average that was just shy of 19 entering that game.
Offensively, State is led by senior guard Devon Daniels (15.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.3 APG, 2.0 STL), senior forward and sixth man DJ Funderburk (13.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 64.3% FG%, 92.0% FT%), and junior forward Jericole Hellems (11.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG). Senior point guard Braxton Beverly has been a bit of a disappointment on offense this season, as he’s averaging only 6.4 PPG and hasn’t taken the volume of shots we’re accustomed to seeing. Beverly’s scoring average has dropped every year of his career, down from 9.5 PPG as a freshman to 6.4 PPG in his senior season. State needs to find a way to get him going from outside to help open things up in the interior.
Florida State Seminoles (5-2, 1-1)
I want to be clear: contracting COVID is never a good thing. But, from a purely basketball perspective, FSU’s recent program pause due to COVID issues probably came at a pretty good time for the team. The ‘Noles were fresh off a 10-point loss at Clemson, and they’d lost at home to UCF by double digits two games before. This wasn’t looking like a top 25 team, and Head Coach Leonard Hamilton’s team had been unceremoniously dropped from the rankings accordingly. Now, after a two-week shutdown, the Seminoles are back in action and reportedly at full strength. Hamilton indicated to the media earlier this week that the team has been able to hold a couple of days of practice recently and doesn’t expect to have anyone missing from tonight’s contest.
The ‘Noles have a top-35 defense, according to KenPom’s adjusted efficiency rankings, but they struggle mightily in two facets on the defensive end: guarding without fouling and limiting offensive rebounds. The latter is a bit surprising, given FSU’s height and the fact that they’re a top-40 team on the offensive boards. The former has been part of the reason why 7’1″ sophomore center Balsa Koprivica (9.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG) has been averaging fewer than 20 MPG. N.C. State is a poor free throw shooting team at 66.5%, so FSU’s propensity to foul may not be as punitive tonight as it would be against most other teams.
On offense, the Seminoles like to push the tempo and crash the boards hard. While they’re not excellent in any one shooting category, they’re very balanced in terms of 2PT, 3PT, and FT shooting percentages and they also manage to get to the line a decent amount (82nd in FTA/FGA). 6’5″ senior guard M.J. Walker typically brings the ball up the floor and leads the team in scoring (15.3 PPG), while freshman wing Scottie Barnes adds 11.1 PPG and 4.3 APG and junior wing Anthony Polite contributes 10.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, and leads the team in 3PT FG% at 51.9% (14-27). Walker is an excellent free throw shooter (37-40, 92.5%), and when the ‘Noles have a lead late, he’s the guy they’re looking to get on the line to ice the game.
It’s always tough to tell how a team will respond when returning from a COVID hiatus. Rust and conditioning are typically concerns, as well as whether the full roster will be available. The fact that FSU has been able to practice for the past few days and doesn’t expect to have anyone out tonight, however, is reassuring for their chances. I’m of the mind that the recent break might have done more good than bad for the ‘Noles in terms of preparing for tonight’s game. N.C. State, on the other hand, struggled mightily on offense against Miami at home in their last game. That may have been an aberration, and I think State is better than how they played in that game, but I wouldn’t expect them to make a significant turnaround in tonight’s game on the road against FSU’s length and stingy defense. Take Florida State -3.5 (-110).
Mac is 11-11 on the season. All picks are one unit. A $100 bettor has a loss of $100.