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Louisville-Florida State preview: Cards look for Big Monday bounce back

It’s a big one Monday night at the Yum Center.

Louisville v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Louisville Cardinals (9-2, 4-1) vs. Florida State Seminoles (7-2, 3-1)

Game Time: 7:01 p.m.

Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.

Television: ESPN

Announcers: Sean McDonough (play-by-play) and Jimmy Dykes (analyst)

Favorite: Louisville by 3.5

Officials: Doug Shows, Keith Kimble, Kipp Kissinger

Series: Louisville leads, 34-14

Last Meeting: Florida State won 82-67 on Feb. 24, 2020 in Tallahassee

Series History:

Probable Starting Lineups:


Florida State’s Season to Date:

Relevant Videos:

About Florida State:

After ending December with surprising losses to Central Florida and Clemson, Florida State appears to be rounding into form just in time for its Monday night showdown at Louisville. The Seminoles’ only two games of 2021 so far both came last week when they destroyed NC State (105-73) on Wednesday and then handled North Carolina (82-75) at home three days later.

In the win over the Wolfpack, FSU shot a scoring 70.7 percent from the field. That marked the best shooting performance ever by a Seminole team in an ACC game, and the best shooting performance by any ACC team in a league game since 2000. Florida State was also 11-for-11 from the free-throw line in that game, and followed that performance up by hitting 26-of-27 from the charity stripe against North Carolina.

During his recent run of success in the ACC, Leonard Hamilton has built rosters that have perfectly blended rock solid veteran guards with explosive and elite freshman talent. His 2020-21 squad is no different.

The Seminoles are led by senior guard M.J. Walker, who enters Monday night averaging a career-best 16.3 ppg. Walker torched Louisville in last year’s first meeting, coming off the bench to hit 5-of-7 threes and score a season-high 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field overall. He turned in a solid 12-point effort in the second win a month later.

Walker is a lethal outside shooter who’s liable to knock down four or five in a row once he sees the first one go down. He’s even more deadly at the free-throw line, where he currently leads the ACC by hitting his freebies at a 92.0 percent clip. Solidly defending Walker without fouling will be one of the toughest challenges for the Cardinal backcourt on Monday. Even when they were defending him well last season, Louisville still struggled with having the 6’5 Walker shoot over its smaller guards. That could be an issue once again on Monday, as the 6’1 Carlik Jones will likely be the guy most in charge of slowing FSU’s leading scorer down.

Walker was supposedly dealing with ankle “tweak” heading into the UNC game, but he hit 4-of-5 threes, scored 21 points and played 32 minutes in that game, so I’d say he’s good to go for tonight.

The other veteran guard who helps make FSU is go is redshirt junior Anthony Polite (9.6 ppg). He comes into the Louisville game shooting a career-high 50.0 percent from the field and a career-high 53.3 percent from the three-point line. He has made at least one three-pointer in each of Florida State’s nine games this season, and has made 50 treys over the last two seasons. Polite didn’t do as much damage as most of his teammates in the wins over NC State and UNC, a fact Hamilton chalked up to the guard still recovering from Covid-19.

This year’s version of FSU’s perennial elite freshman talent exists in the form of the freakish Scottie Barnes (11.1 ppg/4.1 apg). A 6’9 guard who will almost certainly be a lottery pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Barnes is dealing with a turned ankle that kept him out of the starting lineup against NC State and off the court entirely against UNC. He’s still raw, but his potential is impossible to miss when he’s on the floor.

If Barnes does play tonight, it seems more likely than not that he won’t be 100 percent. That hasn’t been an issue for FSU so far, primarily because of the massive jump in production from senior guard Rayquan Evans since his insertion into the starting lineup. Evans averaged 17 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game last week, including a career-high 24 points against NC State. Unlike Walker and Polite, Evans does almost all of his damage inside the arc. The Cards can’t afford to let him get out in transition or around them off the bounce.

RaiQuan Gray, a 6’8 junior forward, has also been great with Barnes sidelined. He’s coming off a performance against UNC where he scored a career-high 19 points and also matched a career-high in assists with five.

The other name Louisville fans need to know (as painful as it may be given his ties with the program) is sophomore center Balsa Koprivica. After making a minimal impact as a freshman, Koprivica has been extremely steady so far this year. He enters Monday night shooting 60.4 percent from the field and averaging 9.4 ppg. With a career field goal shooting percentage of 65.9 percent, he is looking to challenge Florida State’s all-time field goal shooting mark of 66.8 percent by Murray Brown (1977-80).

Louisville fans should also keep an eye on junior Malik Osborne, a former transfer from Rice. He scored 10 points in 15 minutes off the bench in Florida State’s victory over North Carolina on Saturday, and enters Monday averaging more playing time (19.7 mpg) coming off of the bench then he did as a starter in 31 games (19.3 mpg) during the 2019-20 season.

As for the rest of the FSU bench, the Seminoles have a group of walk-ons that refer to themselves as “The Vipers.” They talked shit to Ryan McMahon last season and are not cool.

While Florida State is once again one of the tallest teams in the country (No. 2 in average height in Division-I), they’re winning more with offense so far this season than in years past. They currently sit at No. 13 in Ken Pom’s adjusted offensive efficiency rankings, and No. 44 in defensive efficiency. The ‘Noles have ranked in the top 15 in ade in each of the last two seasons. This year, their backcourt has struggled with keeping opposing guards out of the lane and ultimately getting all the way to the rim. That should portend good things for both Carlik Jones and David Johnson, assuming Johnson is healthy enough to take advantage.

What FSU does well: Shoot the three, shoot the two, shoot free-throws, get offensive rebounds, be tall, be athletic, block shots, defend the midrange.

What FSU does not do well: Keep opposing ballhandlers in front of them, keeping opponents off the free-throw line, allowing offensive rebounds.


—Louisville has started with at least a 9-2 record through 11 games for the 10th time in the last 11 years. The Cardinals have opened with a 4-1 ACC record for the fourth time in its seven years in the conference.

—Louisville is 119-13 in Monday home games since 1944.

—Florida State is riding a three-game winning streak over Louisville for the first time in the lengthy series between the two programs. Before this current run, the Seminoles had only once won back-to-back games over the Cardinals, and that happened all the way back in 1978. U of L’s longest winning streak over FSU is nine games, which lasted from 1978-1982.

—Louisville has a 58-16 record in its conference home games over the last nine years (.784).

—In its wins over NC State and North Carolina last week, Florida State averaged 93.5 points scored and shot 60.2 percent percent from the field (65 of 108).

—The Seminoles were a perfect 11 of 11 from the free throw line against the Wolfpack and a near-perfect 26 of 27 from the line in their win over the Tar Heels. At one point, the Seminoles made 32 consecutive free throws during the two games.

—Florida State’s 70.7 percent shooting from the field against NC State last week was the best in program history in an ACC game, and the best by any ACC team in a league contest since 2000.

—Carlik Jones is the only player in the ACC to rank among the top 20 in scoring (18.0 ppg, 4th in the ACC), rebounding (6.2 rpg/17th) and assists (4.9 apg/3rd). Jones has 93 career double-figure scoring efforts, including the last 33 consecutive games (all 10 this year). His season-high 25 points at Miami with seven assists and three steals marked the 29th game of his collegiate career with 20 or more points (three in the last five games). He has collected nine steals in the last three games (three each game).

—Louisville is 6-5 all-time in games against Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton. The Cards are 4-5 against Hamilton at FSU, and went 2-0 against him during his time at Oklahoma State.

—Louisville head coach Chris Mack is 1-4 all-time in games against Florida State, and 0-3 as U of L’s head coach. Mack faced the Seminoles in the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons during his time at Xavier. In 2017, his 11th-seeded Musketeers stunned 3-seed Florida State in the second round, 91-66. A year later the 9th-seeded Seminoles returned the favor with a 75-70 second round upset of No. 1 seed Xavier in what would ultimately be Mack’s final game with the program.

—Florida State leads the ACC in both three-point shooting percentage (38.2 percent) and two-point shooting percentage (52.0 percent).

—Louisville has held six opponents below 40 percent shooting from the field this year, but allowed Miami to shoot 49.2 percent in its last game. The Cardinals are second in the ACC in field goal percentage defense (.398) and 50th nationally in scoring defense (64.4 ppg).

—Florida State leads the ACC in blocked shots per game (5.0).

—FSU’s M.J. Walker leads the ACC in free throw shooting percentage with a career-high 92.0 percent mark. Walker is the only qualifying player in the conference (minimum 2.5 FTM/Game) who is shooting better than 90 percent from the stripe.

—This will just be Florida State’s second true road game of the season. The Seminoles lost at Clemson, 77-67, on Dec. 29 in their only true road game of the campaign so far.

—Since 2004, Louisville is 126-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.

—Louisville is 25-1 over the last two seasons when scoring at least 71 points, including 7-1 this season. The lone loss came Saturday at Miami.

—Louisville has won 162 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.

—Louisville has won 155 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. Gonzaga, Duke and Kansas are the others.

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 71, Florida State 70