Louisville Cardinals (11-2, 2-0) vs. Florida State Seminoles (12-2, 2-1)
Game Time: 2:05 p.m.
Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen (play-by-play) and Dick Vitale (analyst)
Favorite: Louisville by 6.5
Officials: Jeffery Clark, John Gaffney, Tim Clougherty
Series: Louisville leads 34-12
Last Meeting: Florida State won 80-75 in overtime on Feb. 9, 2019 in Tallahassee
Probable Starting Lineups:
Florida State’s Season to Date:
“My greatness came and started in Louisville, Kentucky.”— Louisville Basketball (@LouisvilleMBB) January 3, 2020
Saturday. #7 Louisville vs. #18 Florida State. Our house. pic.twitter.com/lPDDpK0Pdg
About Florida State:
Owners of a 12-2 record, No. 18 Florida State enters Saturday’s game against Louisville as the top-ranked ACC team outside of the Cardinals and No. 2 Duke. The Seminoles sitting at No. 25 in the current NET Rankings means that the contest will be a Quadrant 1 game for Louisville. The Cards are 1-2 in such games so far this season.
The DNA of this Florida State team is the same as Leonard Hamilton’s other recent successful Seminole squads. They’re big, they’re long, they’re athletic, and they thrive off a high pressure man-to-man defense that forces a ton of turnovers. FSU leads the ACC and ranks fourth in the nation in turnover percentage (26.4), 16th in the nation in steals per game (9.7), and 16th in blocked shots (5.6 per game). Only two of Florida State’s 14 opponents thus far have hit the 75-point mark.
While this is one of the younger teams Hamilton has fielded in recent years, the theme of that youth being counterbalanced by a veteran presence in the backcourt is present once again. This season it’s 6’4 senior guard Trent Forrest, who does a little bit of everything for FSU.
Nothing Forrest (11.5 ppg, 3.9 apg, 3.5 rpg) does is overly flashy, but he’s as hard-nosed a guard as there is in the ACC, and he always seems to be at his best when the stakes are the highest. Despite being nagged by injuries throughout his time in college, Forrest enters Saturday with a whopping 185 career steals. He’ll be yet another difficult assignment for Louisville’s undersized backcourt.
Florida State’s leading scorer is actually 6’6 wing Devin Vassell (11.8 ppg), who has taken a massive step forward as a sophomore. Vassell has been a consistent offensive force who can score from just about any spot on the floor, but not an explosive one. He’s scored in double figures in 11 of FSU’s 14 games this season, but his season-high in scoring is just 17. Vassell also has a case to be the Seminoles’ top defender, entering Saturday with a total of 10 blocked shots during the team’s current five-game winning streak. He’ll provide more trouble for Jordan Nwora if the Cardinal All-American candidate doesn’t bring a better effort than he did against Kentucky.
Junior guard M.J. Walker (10.1 ppg) is another one of those rock solid FSU guards who drive you crazy on the defensive end and then always seem to finish games with a quiet 10-15 points. Despite having 98 career three-pointers to his name, Walker isn’t a tremendous shooter from any spot on the court outside the free-throw line, where he hits at an 84.7 percent clip.
Starting forwards RaiQuan Gray and Malik Osborne are both solid players, but freshman reserve Patrick Williams is the other Seminole to really keep an eye on Saturday afternoon. The 6’8 freshman is oozing with NBA potential and has the skill and the athleticism to affect every part of the game when he’s on the court.
Williams will be a star in this conference at some point. Louisville just has to hope that turn doesn’t begin in earnest on Saturday.
As has been Hamilton’s M.O. in recent years, this FSU team will come at you in waves. A total of 10 Seminoles are playing an average of 10.5 minutes played per game or more, and only one (Forrest) is averaging 30 or more minutes of court time per game. Because of this, the Seminoles are able to bring consistent pressure for 40 minutes. They turn opponents over on 26.4 of their defensive possessions (the fourth-best rate in the country), and are averaging 19.4 points per game off those turnovers. Louisville coughed the ball up 23 times against the FSU pressure in last season’s meeting.
At the risk of triggering some PTSD, the path to victory against this team feels a lot like it did a week ago in Lexington. Louisville has to handle FSU’s constant ball pressure effectively while also being weary of their able shot blockers in the post. The Seminoles don’t shoot the ball especially well from the outside (although their three-point numbers coming into this game are much better than Kentucky’s were before Dec. 28), but they can kill you at the free-throw line if you allow them.
One final note: Florida State, as it seems like they always do, does have a pair of 7-footers. Dominik Olejniczak and Balsa Koprivica (a name that should be familiar to Louisville fans) don’t play as many minutes just yet as recent monsters in the middle like Christ Koumadje or Ike Obiagu did, but they’ll both see the floor.
—Louisville has started with at least an 11-2 record through 13 games for the eighth time in the last 10 seasons.
—Louisville has won eight of the last nine times it’s been playing its first game of a new calendar year.
—This marks the fourth consecutive season Florida State has entered the new year with two or fewer losses.
—Florida State is looking for its second consecutive win over Louisville, something that has only happened one other time (1978) in a series between these two that dates back to 1968. The Seminoles have never won three straight games over U of L.
—Louisville is 33-12 in ACC home games, giving the Cards the fourth-most home victories of any team in the league since U of L joined in 2014-15.
—Louisville ranks sixth in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.358), 17th in scoring margin (+16.2), and 18th in scoring defense (59.9).
—Louisville’s Jordan Nwora needs two points to become the school’s 69th career 1,000-point scorer.
—Florida State is looking for consecutive road wins over Louisville for the first time in series history. The Cards are 17-2 all-time in home games against FSU.
—Florida State has won eight games against ranked opponents over the last two seasons.
—With 157 career ACC victories, Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton needs only four ACC wins to become the fifth all-time winningest coach in league history in ACC games only. Hamilton has led the Seminoles to 157 ACC wins during his career, and needs only four conference wins to move into sole possession of fifth place in ACC history with 161 all-time ACC wins.
—Louisville has made as many as nine three-pointers in a game on eight occasions this season, including three of the last five games.
—U of L’s Dwayne Sutton currently ranks fourth in the ACC in rebounding at 8.8 rpg.
—Florida State leads the ACC and ranks 12th in the nation in turnovers forced per game (18.6), 16th in the nation in steals per game (9.7), 16th in blocked shots (5.6 per game), and 26th in free throw percentage (.763).
—Louisville has won 161 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.
—Florida State, which has made 29 of its last 32 free-throw attempts as a team, enters Saturday’s game as the ACC leader in team free-throw percentage (76.3 percent).
—Louisville has won 152 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.
—Louisville is one of just four schools which have won 20 or more games on the court in each of the last 18 seasons (also Kansas, Duke and Gonzaga).
Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 70, Florida State 62