All of the talk for Florida State (12-6, 2-4) basketball this season has been about two freshmen: Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon. With Beasley averaging 17.4 points per game and 5.8 rebounds and Bacon averaging 16.4 points per game and 5.7 rebounds respectively, they have been exceptional. Beasley, recently named ACC Rookie of the Week, is on pace to average the most points for a freshman in program history.
Despite having two of the best freshmen in the ACC (and country for that matter), the Seminoles are still struggling in conference play. They’ve had the toughest schedule in the ACC and one of the toughest schedules in the country. Five of their past six games have come against Top 20 teams.
The ACC is ridiculously good this year.
Their loss against North Carolina, followed by wins against NC State and Virginia (ranked 11th in the country at the time), and then losing at Louisville on Wednesday have demonstrated the roller coaster ride that is ACC play.
The insanity continues today as the Seminoles take on Pittsburgh (15-3, 4-2) at home in hopes of regaining momentum. How can Florida State win this game against another Top 20 team today?
Three Keys to the Game:
1. Role Players Stepping Up
For Florida State to win their matchup today against Pittsburgh, they will need the upperclassmen to step up. They will need role players like Devon Bookert, Jacquez Smith and Terrance Mann to make a statement today in this ACC showdown.
In their win against Virginia last Sunday, Jarquez Smith scored 8 points and reeled in 5 rebounds. Without his help in the game, I don’t think the Seminoles would have come out with the win.
FSU needs more than just the two freshmen to come out today if they don’t want to fall to their fifth loss in ACC play.
2. Crashing the Boards
Pittsburgh ranks second in conference play and is also one of the best rebounding teams in the country. This could be a challenge for the Seminoles as they’ve lost the rebounding battle in 4 of their first 6 games in conference play.
This could be expected because Florida State is usually playing four guards at once, and they don’t have a strong “big man” presence. Especially with Phil Cofer being out for the whole season, this puts an even larger workload on the rest of the team.
3. Starting off Hot
Coach Hamilton and Pittsburgh Coach Jamie Dixon have two of the most efficient offenses in the ACC. If Florida State want to come out on top, they will need to start hotter than the Panthers. They can’t fall behind early like they did against Louisville because their defense simply has not been strong enough to let them back in the game.
Florida State’s defense will also need to watch out for Pittsburgh’s Michael Young (17.1 ppg), who is consistently showing that he is one of the best players in the ACC.
Hamilton has yet to say whether or not Rathan-Mayes (disciplinary), who is averaging 12 points per game and 5.3 assists, will start in the game today. According to the Associated Press (AP), Rathan-Mayes and Hamilton simply are not on the same page right now. If he decides to play XRM, this will be a key addition to the lineup (cross your fingers, fans).
In the future when the NCAA committee is looking at Florida State’s resume, today’s game will be a very important one. They will have played three straight Top 20, and if they can come out with two wins out of the three games, that will do wonders to how the committee will view us down the line.
If the Seminoles can win the rebounding battle and the roll players step up, than I think they have a good chance of winning today. But if they come out of the gate slow and don’t crash the board, than it might be another long day. Either way, I hope to see a rowdy crowd cheering on the Seminoles today.
Prediction: Florida State 67, Pittsburgh 63
photo credit: Getty Images