Syracuse, N.Y. — Syracuse needs a high-profile win to add to its NCAA tournament resume.
The Orange will get that chance on Saturday when it faces eighth-ranked Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla.
Syracuse is coming off a home loss to North Carolina State, while FSU dropped a close to Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday.
Florida State is 20-4 overall and 10-3 in the ACC. The Seminoles haven’t lost at home all year.
Syracuse has notched road win at Virginia, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, but Florida State poses a much more difficult challenge.
Syracuse will anxiously wait to see if Elijah Hughes, the Orange’s leading scorer, is able to play. Hughes suffered a groin injury prior to Tuesday’s game against NC State.
The Syracuse-Florida State game will start at noon and will be televised on the ESPN2.
Here are 10 key things to know:
Syracuse and Florida State have played each other just 11 times, with the Orange holding a 7-4 lead in the series.
The Seminoles have won three of the last four meetings. The Orange has won four of the seven meetings since Syracuse joined the ACC in the 2013-14 season.
The most historically significant meeting between Syracuse and Florida State took place on Dec. 3, 1991.
The teams met in the ACC-Big East Challenge at the Omni in Atlanta, Ga.
The game was the first start of Lawrence Moten’s career. The freshman had come off the bench in SU’s first two games that season, but he got the starting nod when Adrian Autry had an injured ankle. Autry played 20 minutes, but he didn’t start the night.
Moten responded with 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists to help Syracuse to an 89-71 win over a Florida State team that included Doug Edwards, Sam Cassell, Bob Sura and Charlie Ward.
Elijah Hughes, Syracuse’s leading scorer, played just three minutes in the Orange’s game against North Carolina State on Tuesday due to a strained groin that he injured in the pre-game warm-ups.
Hughes is listed as day-to-day, but even if he can play, how effective will he be?
Hughes is second in the ACC in scoring at 18.6 points per game. Syracuse struggled offensively without its leading man. Although the Orange scored 74 points, it made just 39 percent of its field-goal attempts and went 3-for-18 on 3-pointers.
Groin injuries are generally slow to heal and can be quite painful as Ted Danson reminded us in rap form on an episode of Cheers:
Few teams have more depth than Florida State. The Seminoles come at you in waves.
Florida State ranks 30th in the country in bench minutes at 38 percent of the total game going to reserves. The Seminoles are fifth among major conference teams.
Ten FSU players are averaging at least 10 minutes per game, while no FSU player is logging more than 32 minutes per game.
Compare that to Syracuse, which is 352nd (next to last) in the country in bench minutes. Elijah Hughes, Buddy Boeheim, Marek Dolezaj and Joe Girard are all averaging more than 32 minutes per game.
Can Syracuse, especially if it’s without Hughes, withstand the relentless pressure that FSU’s depth allows it to apply?
There’s foul-prone, and then there’s Bourama Sidibe.
Syracuse’s junior center just can’t seem to stay out of foul trouble, and the problem has gotten worse recently.
Sidibe fouled out of Syracuse’s loss to NC State on Tuesday. It was the fourth straight game in which Sidibe had fouled out. In the three games prior to his four-game disqualification streak, Sidibe had finished with four fouls. For the season, Sidibe has fouled out of seven games.
Here’s where the problem gets worse: In the last four games, Sidibe has averaged just 20.2 minutes. He fouled out of each one.
That means Sidibe is playing very few minutes in which he’s not already in foul trouble. He has to be careful on defense and when going for a rebound. His level of play is greatly diminished.
Syracuse is going to need Sidibe to avoid early fouls, stay out of foul trouble and stay on the court if it’s to have any chance against the big, physical Seminoles.
Want to win a bar bet? Ask someone to name the top five winningest coaches in ACC history.
Most folks will quickly name Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith and Roy Williams. If they’re a real basketball fan, they’ll get Gary Williams.
But how many would guess that Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton is in that group?
Hamilton has won 165 games against ACC competitions. He recently passed former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins to move into fifth place on the ACC’s coaching wins list.
Hamilton’s career record is 554-430. That includes coaching stints at Oklahoma State and Miami.
Florida State is a very good offensive team, but when the Seminoles don’t score, they’re vulnerable.
The Seminoles rank fourth in the ACC in scoring at 75.1 points per game. They rank 41st in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency.
But when FSU’s offense has bogged down, it has struggled to win.
The Seminoles are averaging just 61.5 points in their four losses. The most they’ve scored in a loss is 65, which came in a 70-65 loss at Duke earlier this week. They scored 61 in a loss to Pittsburgh, 64 in a loss to Indiana and 56 in a loss to Virginia.
Syracuse must control the tempo, keep the Seminoles from getting out in transition and force FSU to take contested shots from outside the 3-point line.
Florida State’s depth and coach Leonard Hamilton’s philosophy of going with a deep rotation sometimes limits the numbers put up by its players. You’ll rarely see a Florida State player among the ACC’s leaders in points or rebounds.
So to understand a player’s value, you have to measure it against the rest of the team or take into account points per minute played.
Take Devin Vassell. Vassell, a 6-7 sophomore, is having a great season, even if no one’s talking about him.
Vassell leads Florida State in points (13.4), rebounds (5.3) and blocks (1.1).
Only two other players in the ACC are leading their team in all three categories: Duke’s Vernon Carey and Clemson’s Aamir Simms.
Syracuse’s concern with Vassell? He’s making 42 percent of his 3-point shots.
Syracuse guard Joe Girard III (11) and North Carolina State guard Devon Daniels (24) during a game on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y. Dennis Nett | firstname.lastname@example.orgDennis Nett | email@example.com
Syracuse freshman Joe Girard is going to be under immense pressure against Florida State.
The Seminoles lead the ACC in steals at 9.29 per game. They play a physical, harassing, swarming defense designed to create turnovers and lead to easy baskets.
For the most part this season, Girard has done a remarkable job of taking care of the ball and limiting his turnovers. He has 85 assists and just 44 turnovers.
In SU’s loss to NC State, Girard played more than 38 minutes and turned the ball over once while being hounded by Wolfpack guards Markell Johnson and C.J. Bryce.
Girard’s job of handling the ball increases if Elijah Hughes is unable to play.
They say you can’t see the forest for the trees, but Florida State guard Trent Forrest stands out anywhere.
Forrest, a 6-4 grad student, is averaging 11.6 points, 4.5 rebounds 4.2 assists and 2.0 steals per game.
He is coming off an incredible game in FSU’s loss to Duke this week. In that game, Forrest had 18 points, 9 rebounds and a career-best 8 steals.
Forrest is making a mark in the FSU record book. He needs just 24 more steals to surpass Charlie Ward as the school’s all-time leader in steals. He’s also seventh in assists, and he recently went over 1,000 points for his career.
He sets the tone for Florida State’s defense. It will be interesting to see who he defends.
The Donald L. Tucker Center isn’t usually considered among the toughest places to play in college basketball, but Florida State has been hard to beat on its homecourt over the past five years.
The Seminoles are 61-3 (.953 winning percentage) at home since the end of the 2015-16 season. They are 32-3 in ACC play at home during that time span.
Florida State is 12-0 at home this season and is the only ACC team that remains undefeated at home.
Going back to last season, Florida State has won 19 straight games at home.
Who: Syracuse at Florida State
When: Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020
Where: Donald Tucker Center, Tallahassee, Fl.
Time: noon ET
Streaming Options: The game will stream on Hulu with Live TV. You can watch online through WatchESPN or by using the ESPN app on Amazon Fire, Apple, Android, Chromecast, PS4, Roku, Xbox One, and more devices.
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