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UNC vs. Florida State Preview

No. 11 North Carolina welcomes its first top-10 opponent of the season to the Smith Center on Saturday as Leonard Hamilton’s ninth-ranked Seminoles bring their 12-game winning streak to town. The game tips at 2 p.m. on ESPN.

North Carolina (15-3, 3-1 ACC) vs. Florida State (16-1, 4-0 ACC)
Chapel Hill, N.C. – Dean E. Smith Center
Saturday, 2 p.m.
ESPN (Dave O'Brien, Dick Vitale)


“We don’t change very much as to what our philosophies are. Now, with Carolina, sometimes you have to tweak the defensive transition because they typically for the last 20, 30, 40 years have been one of those high-octane teams. They love to push it even after a made basket. If you don’t hustle back on defense, they’ll be making a lay-up on the other end.” – Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton

“They’re very talented, they’re deep, they’re very well coached. We’re going to be on the road with some of the most passionate, knowledgeable basketball fans in the country. That’s what makes life in the ACC exciting. I feel like our players will be in tune and prepared mentally.” – Hamilton on playing UNC on the road

"We got beat by a very good basketball team. Very talented, athletic, they have depth and leadership. Seems like they love playing with each other. Very impressed with this team. They lived in our paint... The constant pressure and depth wears you down and that is what happened to us." - Duke interim coach Jeff Capel on FSU following his team’s 88-72 loss in Tallahassee on Tuesday


Different Ways to Win:  North Carolina has been able to rattle off three straight conference wins after the loss at Georgia Tech to start ACC play. An impressive component of the winning spurt is that Roy Williams’s team is conquering its opponents in different fashions. Against Clemson, it was a mixture of 3-point shooting and defensive grit that helped UNC take down the Tigers on the road. In the 51-point win over N.C. State last week, there didn’t seem to be a single imperfection in the Tar Heels’ game. On Wednesday night at Wake Forest, the Tar Heels survived a comeback effort from the Demon Deacons late in the second half, but succeeded due to the post play of Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks. The one thing that has remained constant in all three wins, though, is the play of point guard Joel Berry. The junior is averaging 22.7 points per game in the last three wins while shooting 60.5 percent from the floor.

Florida State Spotlight:  The Seminoles, who entered the 2016-17 season unranked and were predicted to finish eighth in the ACC, have played themselves to the top of the conference standings two weeks in. Leonard Hamilton’s team is one of only two undefeated ACC teams left after four conference games, and are currently riding a 12-game win streak. Their last ACC win is the most impressive, as FSU beat No. 7 Duke, 88-72, on Tuesday. The Seminoles are one of the most proficient scoring teams in the country, shooting 50.8 percent from the floor (6th in the country) and averaging 86.7 points per game (13th in nation). Sophomore guard Dwayne Bacon is FSU’s leading scorer with 17.8 points per game. 

Second Half Noles:  All four of Florida State’s ACC wins have been the product of the Seminoles ability to outplay their opponents in the second half. Against Wake Forest and Virginia, FSU found themselves down at the half, and against Virginia Tech and Duke the Seminoles only maintained slim single-digit leads. But once Hamilton gets his team in the locker room for the halfway break, something clicks for the Noles, as they’ve outscored their four opponents by an average of 10.5 points in the second half. A large chunk of that success can be attributed to FSU’s depth, as 11 players average over 11 minutes of playing time per game. A deep bench helps the Seminoles stay fresh and able to keep attacking their opponent at full speed for the full 40 minutes. 

Matchup to Watch:  Whenever Xavier Rathan-Mayes shows up to play North Carolina, something clicks for the junior guard. Rathan-Mayes has lit up the Tar Heels his first two times playing them – he torched UNC for 35 points his freshman year and then dropped 30 points last season in the game in Tallahassee. The peculiar thing is that the junior guard isn’t even Florida State’s go-to scorer, and is only averaging 12.6 points per game throughout his three collegiate seasons. According to him, something about North Carolina makes him always bring it. "Bright lights. Whenever you see North Carolina it is kind of a switch that goes off," Rathan-Mayes said after last year’s game. Kenny Williams will likely start the game on the junior, but expect several Tar Heels to switch onto the streaky shooter to ensure they can prevent another breakout performance. 

Last Meeting: UNC defeated Florida State, 106-90, in Tallahassee on Jan. 24, 2016. Brice Johnson turned in his career performance with 39 points and 23 rebounds - the program’s first 30-point, 20-rebound game in five decades – and Marcus Paige added 30 points. Rathan-Mayes scored 30 points for the Seminoles and Bacon added 18.

Series Record: The Tar Heels lead the series, 48-12.

Projected UNC Starters:
2 Joel Berry (6-0, 195, Jr.) – 15.6 ppg, 4.6 apg
3 Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260, Sr.) - 12.9 ppg, 9.7 rpg
4 Isaiah Hicks (6-9, 242, Sr.) - 12.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg
44 Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Jr.) – 17.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg
24 Kenny Williams (6-4, 180, So.) - 7.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg

Top Reserves:
5 Tony Bradley (6-11, 240, Fr.) – 8.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg  (Will not play: concussion)
1 Theo Pinson (6-6, 211, Jr.) – 1.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg
0 Nate Britt (6-1, 175, Sr.) – 5.6 ppg, 2.7 apg

Projected Florida State Starters:
4 Dwayne Bacon (6-7, 221, So.) – 17.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg
1 Jonathan Isaac (6-10, 210, Fr.) – 12.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg
22 Xavier Rathan-Mayes (6-4, 208, Jr.) - 11.1 ppg, 4.6 apg
14 Terance Mann (6-6, 204, So.) – 9.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg
50 Michael Ojo (7-1, 304, Gr.) – 5.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg

Top Reserves:
3 Trent Forrest (6-5, 215, Fr.) – 6.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg
23 Jarquez Smith (6-9, 236, Sr.) – 4.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg
5 P.J. Savoy (6-4, 200, So.) – 7.7 ppg, 0.6 rpg 2 C.J. Walker (6-1, 195, Fr.) – 6.5 ppg, 1.3 apg

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