Louisville (14-3, 3-1) returns to action on Wednesday night when Florida State (12-5, 2-3) comes to town, and while that may not get the needle moving in basketball like it would football, the Seminoles are not a team to overlook. Here are some notes about each team to prepare you for the next ACC game for the Cards…
Spread: Louisville opens as 10.5 point favorite
Site: KFC Yum! Center/Crum Court, Louisville, Ky. (22,000) (93-13 in 6th yr.)
Television: ESPNU Mike Couzens, play-by-play; Len Elmore, analyst.
Radio: WHAS (840 AM) Paul Rogers, play-by-play; Bob Valvano, analyst (Sirius channel 84, XM 84)
Series History: UofL leads 31-9 (17-2 in Louisville, 11-6 in Tallahassee, 3-1 neutral)
Last Meeting: UofL 81, Florida State 59 (Feb. 28, 2015 in Tallahassee, Fla.)
UofL National Ranking: 16th USA Today, 17th Associated Press
Officials: Tim Nestor, Bill Covington, Jr., Terry Wymer
Next UofL Game: Jan. 23 at Georgia Tech, Atlanta, Ga., 4 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Last 5 games
-Louisville is 3-2 in their last 5 games, with both losses on the road by a combined 6 points to Kentucky and Clemson. They are coming off of a dominating defense performance against Pittsburgh.
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-Florida State is 2-3 in their last 5 games, but have won two in a row. Two of those losses are on the road to Clemson and #12 Miami, and the third is to #6 North Carolina. They are coming off of a win over #13 Virginia.
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Must-win for the Cards?
Louisville is in a crucial part of their schedule right now where they can’t afford to drop games that they shouldn’t. They will be favored in the next two games after Florida State, but both are on the road against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, and we know how big road wins are in the ACC. After those two, the next two games are at home against Virginia and North Carolina, and at that point, the schedule picks up immensely.
So while Florida State is tested and should give Louisville a good game on Wednesday, this is one of those games that the Cards need to take care of business and win at home. Then you take a two game winning streak on the road and hopefully go pick up two wins before returning home to face Virginia, and now you are on a four game winning streak.
Obviously, you would like to win every single game, but home games are the ones that you feel like you let slip away when you lose. Realistically, we know either Virginia or UNC can come here and knock off Louisville. So with that being said, you can’t let Florida State also come in and sneak out with a victory. Take care of business and protect the home floor. Then go on the road and try to get a couple of big road wins.
3 players to watch for FSU
–Malik Beasley is a 6’5 freshman guard that leads the Seminoles in points (17.1) and rebounds (5.9) per game. He has scored in double digits in every game this season, with the high being 25 against Hofstra. He has two double-doubles this season, and could easily have 5 more as he has two games with 9 rebounds and three games with 8 rebounds.
In his last 5 games, all in ACC play, he is averaging 18 points, 7 rebounds, and is shooting 47% from three (8-17). For last week’s games against NC State and Virginia, Beasley was named ACC Rookie of the Week.
–Dwayne Bacon is a 6’7 freshman that leads the ‘Noles in shots taken this season with 225. To compare, Damion Lee has taken the most shots for Louisville with 193. So yes, Bacon has taken 32 more shots than Lee this season. That must be fun for a freshman.
With all of that opportunity, Bacon is averaging 16.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He has one double-double this season, but is another one that could easily have more. He has two games with 9 rebounds and one game with 8.
When Bacon shoots under 40% this season, FSU is 1-5. When he shoots over 40%, they are 11-0.
*Bacon and Beasley have 5 ACC Rookie of the Week selections between the two of them this season. Bacon has had the honor 3 times, and Beasley now twice.*
–Xavier Rathan-Mayes is 6’4 and another youngster, just a sophomore. He comes in averaging 12.1 points, 5.3 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game. Those are solid numbers, but he has gotten there by being inconsistent.
After scoring 6 points on 2-8 shooting against Clemson, he scored 30 points against North Carolina. The next game, he dropped down to just 10 points. Earlier in the season, he followed up a 23 point performance against VCU with a 7 point outing against SE Louisiana.
He leads the team in minutes played as well as turnovers. It will be interesting to see which Rathan-Mayes shows up to the KFC Yum! Center tonight.
Can Nanu keep up the good play?
In other words, can he stay out of foul trouble and on the floor? When he does, this team is on another level. Onuaku has a double-double in four straight games, with averages of 16.5 points and 12.2 rebounds per game.
With Mangok Mathiang sidelined until sometime in February, Onuaku’s value to this team has gone through the roof. It has been great to get Ray Spalding and Jaylen Johnson experience at the four spot, but as far as Nanu, he doesn’t have a competent backup to this point. Anas shows flashes of being decent, but still lacks physical strength and possibly a tough attitude for ACC standards. Matz also isn’t ready for the big games. So for Nanu’s position, he HAS to be on the floor as much as possible.
He will face a different challenge tonight when he goes up against Boris Bojanovsky, who stands at 7’3.
So many points!
Both of these teams like to score, and who doesn’t? Louisville comes in averaging 80.5 points per game. Florida State averages 80.2 points per game. The big difference? Louisville gives up 57.8 points per game, and Florida State gives up 72.9 points per game. If Louisville can play the kind of defense they did against Pittsburgh, that could be what separates these two teams tonight.
I think Florida State is going to get their points early on. I don’t think Louisville completely shuts down both Beasley and Bacon. They may limit one or both, but those guys will still get their points. However, the FSU freshmen will wear down in the second half. They will exert so much energy trying to score on this Louisville defense, that they won’t have much in the tank on the defensive end themselves to stop the Cards.
Too much firepower for Louisville, combined with a defense that slows down the ‘Noles.
Cards win 75-64.