March Madness: Breaking Down The East Region

With the NCAA Tournament just over 24 hours away, we continue our breakdown of the entire field. After looking at the South and West regions in the last two days, it’s time to examine the East region, where top-ranked Syracuse was not given an easy road to New Orleans.

The East region.

Best First Round Matchup: #5 Vanderbilt vs. #12 Harvard

Come on…how could we not pick this game? This should present a classic 5-12 matchup between a Vanderbilt team fresh off a victory over Kentucky in the SEC Tournament and Tommy Amaker’s squad from Harvard. Vanderbilt’s had the epitome of an up and down season this year. After being ranked in the preseason top-10 and falling completely off the radar, they turned it on again late in the season and are now being considered one of the contenders in the East regional. Their run to an SEC Tournament championship boosted their seeding up to a #5, despite having not been ranked higher than 25th in the AP poll since November. While some believe that Vanderbilt may be overseeded, just as many believe Harvard was victimized by the selection committee. Despite being nationally ranked for five weeks throughout the season, the Crimson could only muster a 12-seed while many believed they were deserving of a 10 or 11. All in all, this should be a great basketball game. Vanderbilt has proved throughout the season that they are capable of beating any team in the country, but they are also capable of losing to any team in the country. Harvard has played consistently throughout the season and are an extremely well coached team, but other than matchups against Florida State and Connecticut early in the season they haven’t faced an opponent this good in a long time. Expect for this game to be close into the game’s final five minutes, but ultimately Vanderbilt’s athleticism will prove too much for Harvard.

Player To Watch: John Jenkins, #5 Vanderbilt

Jenkins, a 6-foot-4 guard from Hendersonville, Tennessee, is the key to the Commodores’ offense. They have a great opportunity to advanced deep into the East region, but if they are going to do so Jenkins will need to be on his game. He averaged 19.9 points per game for Vanderbilt on the season, shooting a 44.8% clip from 3-point range. Not only has he proven that he’s able to knock down crucial shots from deep, he will be especially important for the Commodores late in games, shooting 84.3% from the free throw line on the year. With a tough first round matchup against a defensively-minded Harvard team and a potential second round tilt with Wisconsin, Jenkins is a huge piece to how this region will play out.

Player To Not Watch: Fab Melo, #1 Syracuse

It was announced yesterday that Syracuse’s pursuit of a trip to New Orleans would be one that did not include its starting center, Fab Melo. The Orange released on their website Tuesday afternoon that Melo would be ineligible to play due to what they considered an “eligibility issue”. Although they were nondescript in the reason for his absence, this is a huge blow to Syracuse and a major shake-up in the East region. Syracuse is a different team without Melo, especially on the defensive end of the floor, where Melo averaged 2.9 blocks per game. Although 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game is not that much offensive production to lose, you have to think that the Orange might have been shaken mentally by losing one of their team’s key members just two days before the tournament begins.

Dark Horse: #4 Wisconsin

Although Vanderbilt has been getting most of the attention in this region after knocking off top-ranked Kentucky, we see Wisconsin as a team poised for a run. They play a great brand of postseason basketball- they are big, physical, experienced, and play lockdown defense for 40 minutes. Their road through the East regional just got a lot easier when Syracuse announced they would be playing without Fab Melo. They’ll have a tough second round test against Vanderbilt, but if they can get through there they should be able to overpower a depleted Syracuse team and make a run to the Elite 8.

Our Picks: Ohio State to the Final Four

Remember that Ohio State team that absolutely trounced Duke back in November? They haven’t gone anywhere. With Syracuse appearing weakened, the East region just completely opened up for Ohio State. They could have a tough Sweet 16 matchup with Florida State, but should they survive it looks like they’ll be going to New Orleans. Jared Sullinger is one of the top talents in the country, but what makes the Buckeyes particularly dangerous is their physicality and their guard play. Aaron Craft is a floor general that can pick apart an opponent from the inside out, while I think Duke fans remember the fits that William Buford gave us from beyond the arc. They are a very experienced team and that should serve them well in a deep tournament run. There just isn’t a team in this region well-equipped enough to stop them, and if Sullinger somehow is able to elevate his game further for tournament time, the top teams in other regions will start to take notice as well.

Below are our complete picks. Let us know what you think in the comment box!

Our picks for the East region. Looks like Ohio State will be dancing down to Bourbon Street.

Around the ACC: Week 2

ACC action is now in full swing, and we just capped off the first full week of exciting games. We’ll be examining Duke’s victory over Clemson later today, but for now let’s look into the best games in the past week of ACC action.

January 10- Florida State @ Virginia Tech
Florida State 63, Virginia Tech 59
The Hokies dropped their second straight conference game with a 63-59 loss at home against Florida State. Bernard James led the way for the Seminoles with 18 points and 15 rebounds while Ian Miller added 15 points of his own off the bench. Erick Green carried the load for Virginia Tech, scoring a game-high 21 points but shooting just 5-of-14 from the floor. The Hokies were able to rally from a nine-point halftime deficit, but were ultimately doomed by their poor shooting. Virginia Tech shot just 30.5% from the field on the game. With the score at 61-59 with 17.8 seconds to play, the Hokies had a chance to tie the game, but Green was unable to convert. Two Florida State free throws sealed the victory, rebounding from a crushing 79-59 loss on the road to Clemson to open their ACC schedule.

January 11- Wake Forest @ Maryland
Maryland 70, Wake Forest 64
The Terrapins jumped out to an early lead, going into the half up 40-24, but Wake Forest was able to make a game of it in the second half. Guard Terrell Stoglin, who is the ACC’s leading scorer, came off the bench for just the second time this year and led Maryland with 20 points. However, these points came at a cost, as he shot just 6-of-18 from the field on the night. Travis McKie led the way for the Demon Deacons, tying a career-high 25 points. Wake Forest was able to pull within six at 60-54 with 5:35 remaining in the game, but could not get the deficit to any less than four in the game’s final moments as the Terps escaped with a win.

Mason Plumlee added this electrifying jam to this season's highlight reel against Virginia (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

January 12- Virginia @ Duke
Duke 61, Virginia 58
Despite a slow start and a late Virginia surge, Duke utilized a balanced scoring effort to knock of the 16th-ranked Cavaliers by a score of 61-58. Mason Plumlee was the Blue Devils’ top scorer with just 12 points, as Duke had four players in double figures on the game. After falling behind early, Duke was able to rally back and take a four-point lead into the half. Virginia controlled the pace throughout the game, employing its typical slow and steady half-court sets. The Blue Devils came out firing in the second half, expanding their lead to 53-42 with just under 10 minutes to play. Virginia hung around, as Mike Scott led all scorers with 23 points and added nine rebounds. Scott was significantly less effective in the second half than he was in the game’s opening minutes, scoring just seven points after halftime. Duke shot 52.2% from the floor on the game against the toughest defense in the ACC. Meanwhile they held Virginia to just 39.3% shooting from the field. Although Duke led throughout the second half, the Cavaliers were able to pull within three in the game’s waning moments and actually had multiple chances to tie the game, but could not convert on their long-range shots. The loss snapped Virginia’s previous 12-game winning streak.

January 12- Clemson @ Boston College
Boston College 59, Clemson 57
Many thought that Boston College wouldn’t win a game in ACC play this season. They proved the critics wrong in just their second ACC contest, winning a hard-fought home game 59-57 over Clemson. The Eagles were able to pull off the upset despite turning the ball over 15 times and getting out-rebounded by the Tigers 32-21 for the game. Dennis Clifford scored a game-high 15 points for Boston College. Guard Lonnie Jackson added 14 points of his own for the Eagles while Andre Young led Clemson with 12. The game was tight throughout, with both sides jockeying for position through the second half. Clifford broke the 56-56 tie when he nailed a jumper with 42 seconds remaining. Milton Jennings had a chance to tie the game from the free throw line for Clemson with just 8.7 seconds remaining, but he missed one of his two free throws and the Tigers did not earn another chance.

January 14- North Carolina @ Florida State
Florida State 90, North Carolina 57
We wrote a little bit on this game here immediately following its conclusion, but it was so nice we just had to write it twice. Florida State absolutely manhandled North Carolina in Tallahassee en route to a 90-57 win. The Seminoles had the upper hand from the opening tip as the Tar Heels shot just 37.3% for the game. Deividas Dulkys, who was averaging just 6.2 points per game for Florida State, ripped off a career-high 32 on 12-of-14 from the field, including 8-for-10 from beyond the arc. With the Seminoles holding a 30-point lead for most of the second half, this game was no contest to say the least.

January 14- Virginia Tech @ Boston College
Boston College 61, Virginia Tech 59
Did I mention that Boston College wasn’t supposed to win an ACC game this year? Well they didn’t win just one last week, they won two. The Eagles pulled off the second-biggest upset of the week in the conference, going on the road to Blacksburg, one of the toughest places to play in the ACC, and knocking off the Hokies by a score of 61-59. Virginia Tech dropped to 0-3 on the year in the ACC with the loss, and it looks as though their NCAA tournament chances are already beginning to fade. Dennis Clifford scored a game-high 15 points for the Eagles while Virginia Tech was without its leading scorer, Erick Green. Forward Victor Davila picked up some of the slack, leading the Hokies with 14 points. The game close throughout, but Boston College was able to open up a 57-47 lead with just 3:40 to play. Virginia Tech was never really able to cut back into the lead, drawing to within two on Jarell Eddie’s 3-pointer at the buzzer. With the Eagles second-straight conference victory they improved to 7-10 on the season.

[table id=30 /]

UNC-Florida State: By The Numbers

I’m not going to lie- Florida State’s drubbing of North Carolina this afternoon was one of the more joyful experiences I’ve had in recent memory. The Tar Heels looked completely lost on the floor as Florida State poured in buckets from all over the floor and North Carolina had no answer. Some fantastic statistics stood out, so let’s take a look at this game by the numbers:

99- Points scored by Seminoles guard Deividas Dulkys in Florida State’s first 15 games this season. Dulkys was averaging 6.2 points per game entering their matchup against North Carolina.

32- Points Dulkys scored against North Carolina. Dulkys had not scored more than six points in a given game since November 26 and was in danger of losing his starting spot.

2- Shot from the field Dulkys missed all game. He shot 12-of-14 from the field including 8-for-10 from beyond the arc.

22- Turnovers on the afternoon for North Carolina, the most turnovers they’ve had in a game all season.

+8- The rebounding margin on the afternoon for Florida State. North Carolina came into the game as the top rebounding team in the nation.

19- Percent shooting for North Carolina from beyond the arc. The Tar Heels made just four 3-pointers on 21 attempts.

8- Assists for the Tar Heels on the afternoon.

9.9- Assists by North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall per game this season.

3- Rebounds by John Henson on the afternoon. Henson is averaging 10.1 rebounds per game this year, which is tops in the ACC. The last time Henson recorded three rebounds in a game was during his sophomore year against Rutgers on December 28, 2010.

44.4- Shooting percentage from 3-point range for the Seminoles. Florida State is ranked dead last in the ACC in long range shooting this season, shooting just a 30.2% clip from beyond the arc before this game. They had not shot 44% from deep since they lost to UConn on November 26, 2011.

90- Points for Florida State on the game, their highest scoring output this season. The Seminoles had not scored 90 points in a game since their 97-63 victory over Stetson on December 15, 2010.

30-8- Run by the Seminoles to start the second half. Florida State only went into the locker room at halftime up eight, but exploded to go up 30 with 11:28 remaining in the game. For Tar Heel nation and apparently Tyler Zeller, it was all over but the crying from there.

42- Days since North Carolina’s last road game. After traveling to Lexington and falling to the Kentucky Wildcats 73-72, the Tar Heels enjoyed nine straight contests at home. Their lack of tests on the road certainly showed this afternoon.

14.2- Number of seconds remaining in the game when Roy Williams pulled his team off the floor. Williams left the floor as well, escaping the ensuing mob.

5- UNC walk-ons, a group that refers to themselves as “Blue Steel”, remaining on the court after the rest of their team left. After playing out the remaining seconds of the game, they had no choice but to face the ensuing stampede.

Hope you had as much fun watching this game as I did. Stay Crazie, my friends.

Around the ACC: The Opening Weekend In Review

ACC conference play is finally underway, and every single game is crucial. Every ACC team was in action over the weekend for their first conference tilt, and the games did not disappoint. Let’s take a look back at the results from the first two days of the regular season contests:

Duke @ Georgia Tech
Duke 81, Georgia Tech 74
The Blue Devils hit the road for their first game of the ACC regular season, facing a well-coached Georgia Tech squad. Duke jumped out to an early 31-14 lead but the Yellow Jackets stormed back to within five at the half. The game was tight for the entirety of the second half as momentum shifted back and forth and Georgia Tech drew to within two points with less than four minutes to play. Glen Rice Jr. was huge down the stretch for the Yellow Jackets, converting shot after shot en route to his game-high 28 points. It was the Blue Devils, however, who were able to pull away in the end. Thanks to a stellar 14-of-14 from the line from Ryan Kelly, Duke was able to escape with a seven-point victory. (Note: Further analysis of this game can be found here and statistical analysis can be found here)

Boston College @ North Carolina
North Carolina 83, Boston College 60
The Tar Heels had little trouble handling the Eagles, who dropped to a miserable 5-10 on the year with the loss. North Carolina had their way with Boston College inside, dominating the Eagles on the offensive end and controlling the glass. The Tar Heels held a 41-27 rebounding advantage over Boston College. Harrison Barnes led the way for North Carolina with 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting in only 27 minutes. Tyler Zeller added 20 points and eight rebounds and Kendall Marshall distributed the ball throughout the game to open teammates for a game-high 11 assists. North Carolina was also impressive on the defensive end, forcing Boston College to turn the ball over 19 times on the evening.

Miami @ Virginia
Virginia 52, Miami 51
The Cavaliers improved to 14-1 on the season with a tight one-point victory over the Hurricanes. As always, Virginia controlled the tempo and slowed the game down, turning it into a defensive struggle. The Cavaliers took a 26-17 lead into halftime, but Miami came storming back and took back the lead with 3:57 to play. Sammy Zeglinski hit a huge 3-pointer to put Virginia up by two and they would never relinquish their lead again. Mike Scott led Virginia with 23 points and eight rebounds while the Hurricanes relied on Kenny Kadji, who put up a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Miami had a chance to win the game in the waning seconds but Virginia’s defense held tight to make the final stop.

Florida State @ Clemson
Clemson 79, Florida State 59
There is no such thing as an easy road game in the ACC, so it’s not hard to believe that Clemson was able to protect its home floor against the Seminoles, but I don’t think anyone believed they could beat Florida State in emphatic fashion. The Tigers jumped out to an early lead, using a 20-0 run to catapult them to a 32-10 advantage. The Seminoles missed 10 straight shots from the field as Clemson built its early lead, and the rest was history. Clemson took a 14-point cushion into the half and coasted the rest of the way. Clemson’s Andre Young led all scorers with 18 points, thanks to 10-of-12 from the line, but the Tigers’ catalyst on the floor was Milton Jennings. Jennings shot 7-for-10 from the floor en route to 15 points and eight rebounds on the night. Florida State’s early-season struggles continue with yet another puzzling loss against a weaker opponent.

Virginia Tech @ Wake Forest
Wake Forest 58, Virginia Tech 55
Wake Forest provided the biggest surprise of ACC play’s opening night, knocking off Virginia Tech on its home floor. With the win, the Demon Deacons matched its ACC win-total from all of last season. This game was a back-and-forth struggle from the beginning. Wake Forest took 32-24 lead into the locker room at halftime, but Virginia Tech came storming back to take its first lead of the game at 53-52 with 1:18 to play. Wake Forest would respond, as C.J. Harris hit two 3-pointers in the game’s final minute to give Wake Forest a huge conference victory. Travis McKie paced the Demon Deacons with 12 points and 15 rebounds, while Virginia Tech was led by Erick Green’s 19 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. This loss could prove crucial to Virginia Tech come tournament time, as they are expected to be a bubble team yet again this season.

Maryland @ North Carolina State
North Carolina State 79, Maryland 74
In yet another tight contest, NC State knocked off Maryland by five points in Raleigh. The Wolfpack were led by C.J. Leslie’s 20 points and 11 rebounds. Leslie received ample support from guard Lorenzo Brown, who added 11 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists. NC State held a narrow three-point lead over Maryland with 8:09 to play, but an 11-0 run by the Wolfpack gave the Terrapins an uphill battle in the game’s final five minutes. Maryland was able to claw back into the contest thanks to the scoring ability of Terrell Stoglin, the leading scorer in the ACC. Stoglin’s 25 points led all scorers on the evening as the Terps were able to pull within four points with 26 seconds to play. It would be too little too late for Maryland, as NC State emerged triumphant.

[table id=29 /]

ACC play takes the day off on Monday and resumes tomorrow night when Miami travels to Chapel Hill to take on North Carolina and Florida State and Virginia Tech both look to rebound from tough losses in Blacksburg.

The Truth About ACC Schedules

Here we sit, just days away from the beginning of the ACC’s regular season schedule. At Crazie-Talk we’ve done quite a bit of pondering about the ACC over the course of the last three weeks, going team by team around the conference and projecting the regular season standings come March. During this process something intriguing has jumped out at me, something I haven’t given much thought to until now- just because everyone is playing their ACC conference schedule doesn’t mean their schedules are all the same.

Allow me to elaborate. Unfortunately, not all ACC schedules are created equal. There once was a time when this was a case. The ACC expanded to nine teams in 1991. With the addition of Florid astate, the ACC was comprised of Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia, and Wake Forest. These teams still played a 16 game regular season, a grueling round-robin that would pit every team against one another on two occasions, once at home and once on the road. These days are long gone. They ended in 2004, when Miami and Virginia Tech joined the conference from the Big East. The following year Boston College made the same jump.

There are currently 12 teams in the ACC, and the ACC conference schedule is still 16 games. Now I’m no math major, but there is no way to have 12 teams play a 16 game schedule where every team plays every other team in the conference the same amount of times. The way it is divided up, out of the 11 possible opponents in the conference (last time I checked a team cannot play itself), an ACC team will play five of them twice in a home and home format and six of them just once during the year (the ability to play a basketball game in two places at once has not been figured out yet, either). This will all change with the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse into the ACC in either 2013 or 2014, depending on the negotiation of their buyouts with the Big East. Following their entrance into the conference, the 14 teams in the ACC will all play 18 regular season games, further diluting the scheduling scenarios within the conference.

Some of these mascots will have a much harder time than others when conference schedules begin. (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Now if each team plays roughly half of its opponents just once and the other half twice, wouldn’t that make some teams’ schedules harder than others? The answer is yes, but it’s something that often gets overlooked when breaking down the conference. Using our ACC preview as a roadmap, we were able to break down every team in the conference’s schedule and figure out who has the toughest test this year, and we thought we’d share the results with you. By taking the rankings we assessed to the 12 ACC schools and giving additional weight to the schools a team plays twice, we were able to figure out the difficulty of each team’s schedule. For good measure, because a team cannot play itself, we weighed it against a team’s toughest possible schedule (lowly Boston College would theoretically be at a disadvantage because it cannot play itself twice like other schools can). Each team is linked to its respective preview, so feel free to take a look at those if you haven’t already (spoiler alert: we’ve already done 11 previews so by process of elimination and common sense, North Carolina, whose preview will be published tomorrow, is our projected #1 team). The teams are listed in reverse order, from least difficult schedule to most difficult schedule.

12. Georgia Tech
Projected ACC finish: 8th
Who they play once: Duke, Florida State, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Who they play twice: Boston College, Clemson, Maryland, North Carolina State, Wake Forest

11. Boston College
Projected ACC finish: 12th
Who they play once: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia
Who they play twice: Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

10. Wake Forest
Projected ACC finish: 10th
Who they play once: Florida State, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Who they play twice: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State

9. North Carolina State
Projected ACC finish: 6th
Who they play once: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Who they play twice: Boston College, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Wake Forest

8. Clemson
Projected ACC finish: 10th
Who they play once: Boston College, Duke, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State
Who they play twice: Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

7. Miami
Projected ACC finish: 9th
Who they play once: Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Who they play twice: Boston College, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State

6. Virginia Tech
Projected ACC finish: 5th
Who they play once: Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest
Who they play twice: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Virginia

5. Florida State
Projected ACC finish: 4th
Who they play once: Boston College, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest
Who they play twice: Clemson, Duke, Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech

4. Duke
Projected ACC finish: 2nd
Who they play once: Boston College, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina State, Virginia
Who they play twice: Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

3. North Carolina
Projected ACC finish: 1st
Who they play once: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Who they play twice: Duke, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina State, Virginia

2. Virginia
Projected ACC finish: 3rd
Who they play once: Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina State, Wake Forest
Who they play twice: Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia Tech

1. Maryland
Projected ACC finish: 7th
Who they play once: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Who they play twice: Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia

Disagree with the order? Don’t think it’s a big deal? Have a better idea for a way to set up conference schedules? Let us know. Stay Crazie, my friends.

2011-2012 ACC Preview: #4 Florida State

The 2011-2012 ACC season is about to begin. Over the next three weeks, Crazie Talk will preview each of the twelve ACC teams in order that we think they’ll finish this season – from the bottom up.

Let’s take a look at our projected 4th-place finishers, the Florida State Seminoles.

This picture of Florida State's team last season should look awfully similar to this year's squad. Why? Because they're all back. (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

2011-2012 Record: 9-5

Key Wins:
November 24- Florida State 73, UMass 53
December 11- Florida State 75, UNC-Greensboro 60

Tough Losses:
November 25- Harvard 46, Florida State 41
November 26- Connecticut 78, Florida State 76 (OT)
December 30- Princeton 75, Florida State 73 (3OT)

Starting Lineup:[table id=25 /]Last Year Against Duke:
January 12, 2011 in Tallahassee- Florida State 66, Duke 61

This Year Against Duke:
January 21, 2012 at Duke
February 23, 2012 in Tallahassee

The Good: This is a big and physical team, and they will punish you on the glass and wreak havoc on opposing offenses. The Seminoles are tops in the ACC in defensive field goal percentage, as opponents are shooting just 35.4% from the floor against them. Florida State also allows only 26.7% shooting from beyond the arc. They also lead the ACC in both blocked shots and steals. Senior Bernard James ranks third in the conference averaging 2.5 blocks per game. On the glass, the Seminoles pull down 40.2 rebounds per game, good for 12th in the nation.

The Bad: Florida State struggles to hit from deep, shooting just 31.6% from beyond the arc this season. In fact, they don’t have a single player shooting more than 35.6% on their roster. This shooting weakness allows opposing defenses to shift its attention to Florida State’s major strength, its big front line. Florida State’s strength of non-conference schedule is also a bit unsettling. Although it has played several ranked teams in close contests, it is yet to defeat a quality opponent.

The Crazie: This is also easily the most experienced team in the ACC, as Florida State has six seniors and five juniors on its roster. In closely-contested conference games, experience can be a deciding factor. Florida State has done a very nice job replacing the production of the two key contributors it lost from last year’s team. Though Chris Singleton decided to leave school a year early to be selected by the Washington Wizards in the 1st round of the NBA draft and Derwin Kitchen graduated, their front line has rotated new starters in seamlessly to pick up their lost production. The Seminoles not only have the experience of enduring the difficulties of an ACC schedule but also the intensity of NCAA Tournament basketball. The 11 players that Florida State returned from last year’s team remember what it took for a successful postseason run, as the Seminoles went to the Sweet 16 before falling to eventual Final Four team VCU.

Player We Love To Hate: Bernard James. James is one of the top rebounders in the ACC, pulling down 8.9 boards per game, and has a post game that continues to improve. James is extremely difficult to match up with and could pose issues for the Blue Devils, who have struggled with interior defense at times throughout the season. He is the type of player that can wear down a defense in the paint and makes opponents work hard on both ends of the floor.

The Bottom Line: This is a team that can compete with anyone in the ACC. They won’t finish in the top couple of spots, but they will give the elite ACC teams tough games, especially when they play in Tallahassee. Despite no real non-conference resume to speak of, this team shouldn’t have much trouble making the NCAA Tournament come March. This is by no means the most talented team Duke will see this year, but the way it rebounds and defends, Florida State can pose a difficult matchup for any team. If they can continue to could shut teams down come tournament time and their offense gets hot the Seminoles could win a game or two.

* * *

Crazie-Talk’s 2011-2012 ACC Preview:

Boston College | Wake Forest | Clemson | Miami | Georgia Tech | Maryland

North Carolina State | Virginia Tech | Florida State | Virginia | Duke | North Carolina