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Louisville-Florida State preview: Saturday night showdown in Tallahassee

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The Cards will need to break a four-game losing streak to the ‘Noles in order to get to 5-0 in ACC play.

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

Louisville Cardinals (10-4, 4-0) at Florida State Seminoles (7-5, 1-2)

Game Time: 8:05 p.m.

Location: Donald L. Tucker Center: Tallahassee, Fla.

Television: ESPNU

Announcers: Dave O’Brien (play-by-play) and Cory Alexander (analyst)

Favorite: Florida State by 4.5

Officials: Ron Groover, Bill Covington, Jr., Brian O’Connell

Series: Louisville leads, 34-15

Last Meeting: Florida State won, 78-65, on Jan. 18, 2021 in Louisville

Series History:

Possible Starting Lineups:

Statistics:

Florida State’s Season to Date:

Relevant Videos:

About Florida State:

Picked to finish second in the ACC in the league’s preseason poll, Florida State has been arguably the largest disappointment in a conference that has been loaded with them so far. The Seminoles have a solid mix of returning talent, young talent and transfer talent, but for whatever reason, things have not clicked for Leonard Hamilton’s club just yet.

FSU is 7-5, and while they don’t have an atrocious loss on their resume, they don’t have any real noteworthy wins either. The Seminoles go into Saturday night coming off perhaps their most humbling defeat of the season, a 22-point road beatdown at the hands of Wake Forest.

There are still plenty of reasons for Louisville fans to be leery of Saturday night’s game in Tallahassee that don’t involve the fact that FSU has dominated this series in recent years.

For starters, FSU once again possesses one of the most feared defenses in the ACC. The high-pressure Seminole defense enters the weekend ranked first in the ACC in steals with 125 and a 10.4 steals per game average. They are third in the league in blocks, averaging five per game. No. 2 Duke is the only other ACC team that ranks in the top three in both these categories. Florida State has notched over 50 steals more than its opponents (125-71) and nearly twice as many blocked shots as its opponents (60-33) in its first 12 games of the season.

Knowing that he would be losing four of his top five scorers from last year’s team, Leonard went out and got significant scoring help in the form of Houston transfer Caleb Mills. Mills averaged 13.2 ppg for the Cougars as a freshman in 2019-20, and was the AAC Preseason Player of the Year before last season. Unfortunately, multiple ankle injuries cut his season short, and he was forced to watch the Cougars’ run to the Final Four from the sidelines.

Mills enters Saturday night as Florida State’s leading scorer at 12.1 ppg. He shoots the three well enough that you have to respect it, but he does the bulk of his damage off the bounce and at the rim. He’ll get the Jarrod West treatment.

Louisville fans should be familiar with Malik Osborne, a former Rice transfer who played starter’s minutes off the bench last season. A 6’9 senior, Osborne is one of the more versatile players in the conference. He can guard every position 1-5, but has spent most of his time in recent weeks defending the opposing team’s best post player. He rebounds the hell out of the ball (7.3 rpg), and is shooting a career-best 45.0 percent from three.

A former Louisville recruit, 6’7 freshman guard Matthew Cleveland hasn’t had much trouble fitting into Hamilton’s system. The reigning ACC Freshman of the Week, Cleveland has scored 13 points in back-to-back games and notched his first career double-double in FSU’s New Year’s Day win over NC State. Cleveland is a freak athlete, but Louisville defenders must make him a jump shooter in this game because it’s easily the weakest part of his arsenal.

Anthony Polite is in his fifth season as a Seminole and is once again a perimeter threat that Louisville defenders have to be cognizant of at all times. He’s made at least one three in 10 of FSU’s 12 games so far this season. Polite’s larger impact comes on the defensive end, where has at least one steal in every game of this season, and eight in FSU’s last three games.

Kentucky transfer Cam’Ron Fletcher has been hit or miss for the ‘Noles so far this season, but more hit than miss recently. RayQuan Evans is the only returning starter from last year’s team and is once again putting up modest offensive numbers, but is another threat to steal the ball on every possession and is also a great shot blocker for his size. Freshman John Butler is one of three 7-footers on the FSU roster (again) and the one who gets the most run.

Bottom line here is that while Florida State has been very hit or miss on offense so far this season, they are still very much a defense to be feared. They’re forcing turnovers on 24.9 percent of their defensive possessions, the 14th-best rate in the country. They are No. 5 in the country in steal rate and No. 17 in block rate. For a Louisville team that has struggled with both turnovers and decision making around the rim, this will be a massive challenge.

Notable:

—Florida State is riding a four-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.

—FSU has won its last three games over Louisville all by at least 13 points.

—Louisville is looking to start conference play 5-0 for the first time since the 2008-09 season. That year, the Cardinals won their first eight league games on their way to a dual Big East championship.

—This is just the third time since 2009 that the Cards have won their first four league games. They also did it last season and on their way to the national championship in 2012-13.

—Louisville will play 10 games during the month of January, marking the first time it has played as many in that month since the 1997-98 season, when the Cardinals played 11 games in January.

—Florida State is 81-5 at home since the 2015-16 season. The Seminoles went undefeated at home in ACC play in each of the last two seasons, but are 0-1 so far in 2021-22.

—Florida State is 6-4 against Louisville since the Cardinals joined the conference in 2014-15.

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

—Louisville head coach Chris Mack is 1-5 all-time in games against Florida State, and 0-4 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 has won seven consecutive ACC home games in the month of January.

—Louisville is unbeaten this season when out-rebounding its opponent (8-0).

—The Cardinals are also 9-0 this season when shooting a better field goal percentage than their opponents, and 8-0 when attempting more free-throws than their opponents.

—Louisville is 216-12 over the last 20 seasons and 13-0 over the last three when scoring 80 points or more.

—Louisville is 166-7 over the past 20 seasons when shooting 50 percent or better and 13-0 over the last three.

—Louisville is 34-3 over the last three seasons when scoring at least 71 points.

—Louisville is 14-0 over the past 10 seasons when limiting opponents to no more than one three-point field goal.

—Since 2004, Louisville is 130-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.

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

—Louisville has won 156 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.

—Louisville is one of only five schools to be ranked in the AP Top 25 poll at least once during each of the last 18 seasons (others: Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, & North Carolina).

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Florida State 71, Louisville 67