The ACC-Big Ten challenge is here again. It's time for the Atlantic Coast Conference to take the floor over the next couple of nights and compete with the country's most numerically challenged athletic conference– one that hasn't actually had ten teams in well over a decade and grows larger by the season.
Unlike in football, where the ACC is the new Big East in the same way animal print is like so the new black, basketball is still a strong point for the Seminoles' conference. And though it doesn't mean anything in the greater scheme of things, you know Leonard Hamilton and the other ACC coaches would love to win some bragging rights.
Minnesota, coached by Tubby Smith, is a veteran team ranked in the top 25 that will attack the boards and could potentially exploit some of this young Florida State team's weaknesses.
"This is a good basketball team and they're extrememely athletic," said Hamilton. "Anytime you're averaging over 16 offensive rebounds per game that means you're getting work done on the boards. We're really inconsisten there ourselves. That's been part of an emphasis [for this game], but it's been part of the emphasis since day one and still somewhat of a challenge for this team."
Minnesota has had a year to adjust and learn to play in their system, young guys are maturing on their team and they will represent a legitimate NCAA tourney-caliber test tonight for the 'Noles at the Tucker Center.
"From what I hear this probably [Tubby Smith's] best team since he's been there," said Fisher. "When Tubby says this is probably his best team, and he's usually a little conservative with his praise, that's a huge statement."
Florida State is going to need to avoid shooting itself in the foot with a lot of mistakes and their defense will need to be technique-sound against a very athletic Gopher squad. One way coach Hamilton plans to do that is to taper down his rotation. He said after UNF he couldn't substitute so liberally against tough competition and that will be in effect tonight.
"I think what we're going to do is probably coach the game a little differently because we have so many young guys now that I've got to try to be careful not to put them in situations they're unfamiliar with," said Hamilton. "I'd like to get guys as much playing times as possible– because we're preparing for the ACC schedule in January– but games like this you've got to be a little more cautious in how you utilize players and we won't be able to play through as many mistakes because you're playing a high caliber team."
That also means Florida State's veterans will have to lead by example and help mitigate Minnesota crashing the boards. The Gophers are an excellent offensive rebounding team and the Seminoles can ill-afford to lose possessions by giving back the ball on that end of the court.
"The best thing to do is when you've got some big guys who are going strong to the offensive glass, an offensive rebounder doesn't like you blocking them out and hitting their legs," said Okaro White. "When they're constantly getting hit in the legs when you're boxing them out they're going to eventually stop going.
"You know when you're averaging so many offensive rebounds [though] they can get hit and they're still fighting for those rebounds so sometimes you're going to have to faceguard, block them out, make sure your guy doesn't get the ball. It's all about taking pride in rebounding."
Florida State will have to take pride in rebounding if they want to pull out a win tonight and improve to 5-1. This is certainly a winnable ballgame for the 'Noles, but only if they put their best foot forward like they did up in Brooklyn.
The game tips at 7 PM at the Tucker Center and will be televised by the ESPN family of networks...