Previewing Florida State

After ten straight non-conference wins, it's time for the Tar Heels to begin ACC play. First up is Florida State. UNC's conference opener will tip-off at the Smith Center on Sunday at 7 p.m. and will be nationally televised by Fox Sports Net.

North Carolina (13-1, 0-0) vs. Florida State (12-3, 0-1)
Chapel Hill, N.C. - Dean E. Smith Center
7 p.m., TV - FSN


Season to Date: Florida State in the Leonard Hamilton era has been consistent in one area -- inconsistency. Highly regarded recruiting classes have increased expectations, yet the Seminoles haven't reached the NCAA Tournament since Hamilton was hired. There have been big upset wins, but they are often followed by frustrating losses. This season, Hamilton's fifth in Tallahassee, the Seminoles haven't suffered a bad defeat yet -- with their three losses coming against ranked teams (Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Clemson). The one big win on their 2006-07 resume was a Dec. 3 stunner over the defending national champions, No. 4-ranked Florida.

Back For More: After earning second-team All-ACC honors, Al Thornton decided to return to FSU for his senior season. This season, the super-athletic forward is the only player in the ACC who ranks in the league's top 10 in scoring (10th, 16.3 ppg), blocked shots (7th, 1.47 bpg), field goal percentage (5th, .544) and free throw shooting percentage (7th, .813). He starts at the power forward spot, but has the perimeter skills to take defenders off the dribble, while using his length and athleticism to be effective inside.

Backcourt Athleticism: Without a reliable true point guard, FSU starts three athletic shooting guards. Isaiah Swann is the de-facto point guard, and leads the team in assists. Toney Douglas, an Auburn transfer, is at the off guard spot, and has attempted more shots than anyone else on the team and leads FSU with his 42.5-percent three-point shooting. Jason Rich is out on the wing, where he's a good defender and a slasher on offense. The trio excel as scorers, combining to average 32.7 points per game and can create matchup problems with their quickness and athleticism, yet the absence of a real floor general is one of the main reasons the team is last in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio.

Post Questions: With two 6-1 guards in the backcourt, the 6-3 Rich at small forward, a combo forward in Thornton at power forward and a still-developing sophomore in Uche Echefu in the middle -- plus only one true post player off the bench (who is a freshman) -- Florida State has struggled on the boards. After surrendering 15 offensive rebounds against Clemson this week, the Seminoles now rank last in the ACC in rebounding margin.

Steals: While the lack of sizes has its drawbacks, FSU is able to rack up steals. The team averages nearly 10 steals a game -- third in the ACC -- with six players averaging at least a steal per game, led by Swann (1.9) and Thornton (1.6).

Series History: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series against Florida state, 34-8, including an 11-3 mark at the Smith Center. UNC won the one meeting last season, 81-80, in Tallahassee, thanks to 62-percent shooting beyond the arc (including six threes from Wes Miller). Al Thornton and Isaiah Swann tied for a game-high 19 points.

Projected Starters:
 3 Isaiah Swann (6-1, 203, Jr.) – 8.1 ppg, 3.1 apg
23 Toney Douglas (6-1, 196, So.) - 14.0 ppg, 2.5 apg
25 Jason Rich (6-3, 200, Jr.) – 10.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg
12 Al Thornton (6-8, 220, Sr.) – 16.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg
41 Uche Echefu (6-9, 220, So.) – 7.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg

Key Reserves:
11 Jerel Allen (6-4, 192, Sr.) – 6.2 ppg
10 Ralph Mims (6-2, 210, Jr.) – 5.6 ppg, 2.4 apg
15 Casaan Breeden (6-8, 200, So.) – 4.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg
42 Ryan Reid (6-8, 232, Fr.) – 3.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg

FSU Info
Roster & Bios

Photo Gallery

Thornton ....... Douglas

Rich ....... Echefu

Swann ....... Mims

(Photos courtesy AP)

Inside Carolina Top Stories