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Notre Dame Basketball: Florida State Preview

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The Irish travel to Tallahassee to take on No.10 Florida State.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

The No.15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (16-2, 5-0 ACC) will have its toughest ACC test to date when they travel to Tallahassee to take on the No.10 Florida State Seminoles (16-2, 4-1 ACC) on Wednesday night. The Irish are the hottest team in the conference right now as they’ve ripped off five straight wins to start league play. Florida State is one of the most talented teams in the country. The Seminoles are in the middle of a six game stretch against ranked opponents.

Because of the matchup this very well might be Notre Dame’s toughest game all season. Even though the Irish remain alone atop the ACC, there still are some skeptics out there. A win against the ‘Noles would surely make those skeptics start believing.

Game Notes

  • Florida State leads the all-time series 3-1.
  • Florida State won last year’s meeting 77-56 in South Bend.
  • The Seminoles have won the only two meetings in Tallahassee. Florida State has won 15 straight at home.
  • Notre Dame has snapped lengthy home court winning streaks in the last two games. A 21 game win streak at Miami and a 15 game win streak at Virginia Tech.
  • According to KenPom.com Florida State is ranked 17th and Notre Dame is 22nd.
  • Notre Dame is outscoring ACC opponents 45-11 in the combined final 11:27.
  • Notre Dame’s 5-0 ACC start marks the best start to conference play in school history.
  • Senior wing V.J. Beachem is 57 points away from 1,000 for his career.
  • Senior guard Steve Vasturia has been clutch in crunch time. He’s made huge shots in the final minutes in each of Notre Dame’s five ACC games.
  • Vegasinsider.com has Florida State -5.

When: Wednesday, January 18th, 2017, 7:00 p.m. ET

Where: Tucker Center, Tallahassee, FL

How to Watch: ACC Network or WatchESPN

No. 10 Florida State Seminoles (16-2, 4-1 ACC)

The Seminoles are coming into the matchup off their first loss in almost two months. This FSU team is perhaps the most talented and most complete head coach Leonard Hamilton has had. Their weaknesses are few. The ‘Noles are solid on both ends on the floor. According to KenPom.com, FSU is ranked 22nd and 24th in adjusted offensive and adjusted defensive efficiency.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State has been tested this season. They have wins over Minnesota, Florida, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Duke. They are capable of beating anyone.

Led by star guard Dwayne Bacon the ‘Noles are a serious contender to make it to the Final Four and one of the favorites to win the ACC. Aside from Bacon, Florida State has difference makers all over the court. Bacon’s backcourt mate Terance Mann has come on strong during ACC play. Point guard Xavier Rathen-Mayes is having a solid season as he’s third on the team in scoring. Freshman forward Jonathan Isaac is a sure fire NBA prospect and is having a great season. Also a player to watch off the bench is PJ Savoy. He can fill it up from the outside. Savoy is shooting 44% from three-point land.

This a long and athletic Florida State team. They have seven guys over 6’7”, and just one player under 6’4”. If Notre Dame has one weakness it is playing against length. They did a good job of playing against Louisville’s length, but Florida State is a different animal. The ‘Noles are also a very deep team as well. Hamilton plays almost everyone on his roster. Florida State has 11 players averaging at least 10 minutes.

Three Weaknesses

Free Throw Defense: Opponents are averaging 22 free throw attempts per game against Florida State. Notre Dame is the nation’s best free throw shooting team. They should be able to get to the line with ease against the ‘Noles.

Free Throw Shooting: The ‘Noles are shooting just 69% from the charity stripe, which ranks 187th in the country. Although, they do a good job of getting to the line as they average 25 foul shots per game.

Turnovers: They cough the ball up 12.7 times per game. This ranks 108th in the country. FSU won’t be able to afford to turn the ball over against the Irish, because it’s unlikely Notre Dame will return the favor.

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Three Strengths

Scoring: Florida State is one of the highest scoring teams in the country. The ‘Noles score an average of 86.5 points per game, which is good for 8th nationally. This has the chance of being a track meet as Notre Dame averages over 81 points per game.

Defense: The ‘Noles are giving up just 67 points per game, which ranked 62nd overall. Although, in ACC play FSU has surrendered an average of 75.2 points per contest. They’re also holding opponents to just 39% from the floor and 31% from three - 19th and 65th nationally.

Transition Scoring: Florida State is going to want to get out and run. They’re shooting 73% at the rim in transition. Notre Dame has been good on getting back in transition. The Irish are letting teams get just 38% of their shots in transition.

Seminoles to Watch

Dwayne Bacon - 6’7”, Guard, Sophomore

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Many thought Bacon would have left for the NBA after his freshman season, but luckily for Florida State he returned and is leading the charge again this season. He’s without a doubt the leader of this group. He leads the team in scoring at 17.8 points per game, and also chips in with 3.9 rebounds per game, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Bacon. He has the ability to drive to the basket, but also possesses the ability to knock down the outside shot as he’s shooting 37% from three. Look for Steve Vasturia to garner the matchup with Bacon.

Jonathan Isaac - 6’10”, Forward, Freshman

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Many experts have Isaac going as a lottery pick in June’s NBA Draft. He’ll be a matchup nightmare for the Irish. He’s not your typical back to basket type of post player. He handles the ball like a guard, and he can also step out and shoot the three. Isaac also does a great job of taking his man off the dribble. He’s averaging 12.5 points per game and leads the team with 7.5 rebounds per game. Isaac is also averaging a block per contest. Isaac is also shooting 72% at the rim, but the problem is that he doesn’t get enough of those shots. Isaac only gets 42% of his shots at the rim. If Notre Dame can make Isaac more of a jump shooter, they should be able to neutralize him.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes - 6’4”, Guard, Junior

NCAA Basketball: Samford at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Rathan-Mayes scoring average has gone down each year in Tallahassee, but that can be chalked up to the fact his team has gotten better each year. He’s only averaging 10.8 points per game, but he has the important job of running Florida State’s offense. He leads the team with 4.7 assists per game. The matchup between Rathan-Mayes and Notre Dame’s Matt Farrell will be one to watch.

Terance Mann - 6’6”, Guard, Sophomore

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Mann has stepped his game up in conference play. In five ACC games he’s averaging 11 points per game and is shooting 63% from the field. Mann is not gonna beat you with the jump shot, but he can attack off the dribble. He’s a slasher. He’s shooting 74% at shots at the rim. He’s also getting a lot of those shots, as 62% of his shots are at the rim. It’ll be important for Notre Dame to keep him out of the lane.

Pick to Click

Steve Vasturia - 6’6”, Guard, Senior

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Due to the matchup, there really isn’t obvious choice here. I’m going to go with Steve Vasturia. Vasturia has been on a tear since ACC play began. In ACC play he’s averaging 16.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and is shooting 48% from the field. Vasturia was named ACC Player of the Week last week for his performances at Miami and Virginia Tech.

He’s come up big time and time again, and the Irish will need him again on Wednesday night. He had his best game of the season against Louisville, a team that is similar in size to Florida State. I like Vasturia to have a similar game against the ‘Noles.

Prediction

Florida State 78 - Notre Dame 75

First of all, I’ve been wrong on every prediction this road trip, so hopefully I’ll end up being wrong again. That being said, I don’t know how Notre Dame will handle Florida State’s length and depth. They did well against Louisville, but they were also in the confines of Purcell Pavilion for that one. I think this will be a close one, but in the end it’s too hard to go against this Florida State team at home.

I might be a little foolish with this pick because if there is one thing I’ve learned over the past two seasons, once you start doubting Notre Dame that is when they prove everyone wrong.

All stats from TeamRankings.com, HoopMath.com, KenPom.com, ESPN.com, UND.com