Syracuse will go for a big upset when it travels south to play No. 8 Florida State (12:00 p.m. ET / ESPN2) on Saturday. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Brad Bierman and Wes Cheng give their predictions below.
Season Record 3-2
Unlike football (1966), Syracuse and Florida State have a relatively short basketball history dating back to only 1990 with just three games before the start of ACC play in 2013-14.
Since then, the trend is going in the wrong direction. The Orange won the first three in the ACC, but have dropped three of the last four, including the last two in Tallahassee, and last season in the Dome by 18-points.
Timing is everything, and with seven games left in the regular season Saturday afternoon does not look like a good confluence of events for ‘Cuse basketball.
The level of contribution Elijah Hughes can make, if any, remains unknown as he continues to recover from the groin injury suffered Tuesday night. No. 8 Florida State, despite its loss Monday evening at Duke 70-65, is one of the premier defensive teams in the country, as evidenced by holding Duke to 27 fewer points than SU did in its Feb. 1 Dome defeat to the Blue Devils.
It was the ‘Noles offense that had an off night at Duke, but that is more the exception than rule this season with guards Trent Forrest, Devin Vassell, and M.J. Walker a formidable trio with the ball in their hands, and they figure to have their sights set defensively on Joe Girard and Buddy Boeheim especially if Hughes is not a factor.
An unbelievable 10 Florida State players average double-figures in minutes played, and that will be symbolic as FSU will wear down the Orange and administer an 84-69 defeat.
Season Record 13-2
Florida State possesses one of the deepest rotations in the country, with seven different players averaging 20 minutes or more. All of those seven average 6 points or more, with guard Devin Vassell leading in scoring at 13.4 points per game.
Vassell also shoots 42.0 percent from downtown, one of five different FSU players that shoot better than 30 percent from beyond the arc.
That’s all led Florida State to be a solid offensive team, ranked 41st in KenPom’s adjusted offense rankings, averaging 75.1 points per game.
But where FSU really excels is on the defensive end. To be sure, 7-foot-4 rim protector Christ Koumadje isn’t around anymore, but the Seminoles are still long, with no rotation player under 6-foot-4. The Seminoles only give up 65.1 ppg, and is currently 13th in the country in KenPom’s adjusted defensive rankings.
That defense was especially impressive in a 78-65 win over then-No. 7 Louisville in early January, with the Seminoles holding the Cardinals to 38.7 percent shooting from the field.
As for the game, Syracuse has been tight-lipped about the health of Elijah Hughes, who only played three minutes in a disappointing 79-74 loss to NC State at the Carrier Dome. Still, even with a healthy Hughes, it would’ve been a tall task to knock off the Seminoles on the road. I see FSU and Syracuse playing a tight game through halftime, but the depth and size of the Seminoles being too much as they pull away for a 76-64 win.