Welp, after yet another incredibly close and disappointing loss on Wednesday night against the Syracuse Orange, your Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team looks to reverse their bad mojo in games against decent teams with a chance for a massive road upset on Saturday evening.
The Irish will travel to Tallahassee to take on the Florida State Seminoles, who have had one of their best starts in a LONG time, rising to 5th in the current AP Poll with their 16-2 start that includes winning 6 of their first 7 ACC games.
Of course, it’d be a tall task for this Notre Dame squad (11-7 overall, 2-5 in ACC play) to beat the Seminoles even at Purcell Pavilion (a match-up they will get later in the year), so as the Irish go on the road to try to take down Leonard Hamilton’s top-5 team, no one would question Irish fans’ skepticism in any sort of positive result coming out of this.
With that said, let’s quickly dive into the details to understand what kind of opponent FSU really is and whether or not the Irish have any sort of shot in this one.
- ND and FSU will be meeting for the 10th time, with the Seminoles leading the all-time series 5-4 (per Alan Wasielewski, Associate Athletics Communications Director)
- Notre Dame is looking to become the first team in the series to earn a victory on the opponent’s home court. FSU is 4-0 against the Irish in the Tucker Center, while Notre Dame is 3-0 against the Seminoles in Purcell Pavilion (per Alan Wasielewski)
- FSU is currently #16 overall in the KenPom.com rankings, with the #37 offense and #19 defense; the Irish, meanwhile, are #62, rating 51st on offense and 86th on defense
- Notre Dame leads the country in least amount of fouls committed per game (12.2) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.86) (per Alan Wasielewski)
- Senior John Mooney leads the nation in rebounding with a 13.9 rebounds-per-game average, and is the only player in the country with 10+ defensive rebounds per game. He’s recorded double-doubles in 16 of 18 games played this season and in 12 consecutive games, which surpassed Luke Harangody’s 11-straight in 2008-2009 as the Notre Dame record. He’s also the only player in Division I averaging 15+ points and 13+ rebounds per game this season (per Alan Wasielewski)
- In ACC conference games, T.J. Gibbs ranks 2nd in FG% (55.6%), 2nd in FT% (88%), and 2nd in 3P% (52.8%, minimum of 2.5 3FGM/g). Since 1999-2000, only Shane Battier (54.1% FG, 51.2% 3P, 81% FT in ‘99/’00) and Al Thornton (51.8% FG, 53.7% 3P, 82.1% FT in ‘06/’07) have finished an ACC regular season with 50-50-80 percentages (per Alan Wasielewski)
- Prentiss Hubb is averaging 23.3 points per game on the road in ACC play this season, surpassing 20 points in each road game (at UNC, at NC State, at Syracuse, at Georgia Tech) while also averaging 5 assists per game and shooting 50% from three-point range in those contests (per Alan Wasielewski)
Where: Donald L. Tucker Civic Center — Tallahassee, Florida
When: Saturday, January 25th at 8:00 PM ET
How to Watch:
- TV — ACC Network: Mike Monaco (play-by-play) and Dan Bonner (analyst); available online through network carrier authentication
- Radio — Notre Dame Radio Network: Jack Nolan (play-by-play); available locally on WSBT AM/FM and worldwide on und.com
#5 Florida State Seminoles (16-2, 6-1 ACC)
The Florida State Seminoles did NOT begin the 2019-2020 season looking like a top-5 squad. Leonard Hamilton’s guys opened the year by losing to the Pittsburgh Panthers 63-61, which at the time was not a great look, considering the Panthers finished last year 2nd-to-last in the ACC with a 3-15 conference record.
The Seminoles wouldn’t let the early letdown smash their confidence, though, as FSU proceeded to rebound to the tune of winning 16 of their next 17 games. That stretch of victories included wins against then-6th-ranked Florida (in Gainesville), then-17th Tennessee, Purdue, Clemson, current #6 Louisville (in Louisville), and Virginia.
Their only loss since that Pitt opener was a convincing road loss to the Indiana Hoosiers, a team we all know the Irish should have put away after a massive comeback in the Crossroads Classic.
However, it’s always a bad idea to play the transitive property game in sports, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves in thinking Notre Dame will be pulling the upset in Tallahassee Saturday night. The Seminoles are an athletic, veteran, deep team that plays very good defense and, despite not being a high-scoring team, can definitely generate offense when needed.
The Seminoles are led by a trio of double-digit-scoring guards: Devin Vassell, Trent Forrest, and M.J. Walker.
Vassell has been the breakout guy for FSU this season, as he only averaged 4.5 points and less than 11 minutes per game as a freshman in 2018-2019. This year, he’s been the man for this top-5 squad, scoring 13.2 points per contest while also grabbing 5.1 rebounds, snatching 1.7 steals, and swatting 1.2 shots per game. He also shoots 49% from the field and 38% from deep, with his 6’6” frame allowing him to be a menace on both ends of the floor.
Forrest has seemingly been at FSU forever, and as a senior this season he is continuing his typical strong play in all aspects of the game. He’s an excellent, tough defender who swipes nearly 2 steals per game, and averages 11.8 points, 4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists while making 46% of his shots from the field.
He’s struggled to shoot it from long range this year at 31%, but considering that has never been a strength of his and is an improvement of 8 percentage points from last season, it’s safe to say he’s even become a modest jump-shooting threat to go along with his great slashing and passing abilities.
Junior M.J. Walker is the third-leading scorer on the team with 11.6 points per game, just a notch below Forrest in that department. He doesn’t contribute a whole lot else besides scoring, but he does space out the offense pretty well with his 36% shooting from beyond the arc.
The Seminoles’ big men are a collective of strong, physical dudes who are all 6’8” or above and will be a tough task for John Mooney, Juwan Durham, and Nate Laszewski to deal with.
6’8” freshman Patrick Williams is the scorer of the group, as he shoots 47% from the field while averaging 8.1 points per game while also chipping in on the glass and on defense with 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per contest. He’s also an 87% shooter from the foul line, although that’s partially a product of the limited times he’s been to the charity stripe.
Malik Osborne is a 6’9” sophomore who leads the team in rebounding with 5.1 per game, and is pretty efficient with his 6.3 points-per-game scoring average, hitting 48% of his shots and 38% of his three-point attempts.
RaiQuan Gray (6’8”, sophomore) and Balsa Koprivica (7’1”, freshman) round out the wrecking crew down low, combining to average nearly 12 points and 6 rebounds between the two of them. Gray also swipes 1.2 steals per game, and Koprivica has a fantastic shooting percentage of 81%, which makes some sense for someone who can basically flat-footed drop the ball into the hoop.
The final name to know is also a great name on its own — Anthony Polite is a 6’6” sophomore guard who scores a little (6.9 ppg), chips in on the glass (2.8 rpg), and is a dangerous defender with 1.6 steals per game. He also makes 38% of his three-pointers, making him another perimeter threat for the Irish to worry about.
Overall, I think it’s a tough request of the Irish for them to take down the Seminoles in Tallahassee. The Seminoles are a top-20 defensive team with tons of length and much less of a reliance on finesse/outside shooting compared to a team like the Irish. I expect Vassell and Forrest will be driving to the hoop early and often, and ND will struggle to pull down rebounds outside of Mooney’s typical 14+ boards. The Seminoles will build a second half lead and pull away in the end for a pretty comfortable victory.
Seminole to Watch
Trent Forrest, Guard, Senior
This man has been around a while and is a seasoned, talented veteran. He may be slowed a bit by guys like T.J. Gibbs and Rex Pflueger, but overall I expect him to be aggressive in attacking the hoop and finding his teammates for open shots, and will be the biggest difference-maker on the court.
Prentiss Hubb, Guard, Sophomore
As you saw above, Hubb seems to thrive on the road as other shrink away, and so it’s important for ND’s chances that he has a good game attacking the hoop, taking mostly smart threes (and hitting a high percentage of them), and hopefully forcing a few turnovers on defense. If he brings his A-game, the Irish might be in this one down the stretch — and they’ll likely need him as the creator/playmaker/scorer in the final minutes, considering he’s the only one who’s really shown the ability to create and make those huge shots in close games.
Because FSU isn’t exactly an offensive dynamo, I could see the Irish hanging around for a while in this one. But I think their athleticism and depth and defense will eventually overwhelm ND, and the Seminoles will walk away with a double-digit win at home.
Florida State wins this one 81-66.