After an extended break of nine days, the Syracuse Orange basketball team will be back in action tomorrow against the Florida State Seminoles. The two ACC bubble teams tip off at the Carrier Dome at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
The 'Noles currently sit at 16-7 overall, and are tied with Syracuse at 6-5 in the ACC. FSU's won four straight games and has flung themselves right back into the ACC and NCAA Tournament races, respectively.
So what are some things we should be watching out for tomorrow, and how might Syracuse attack some of Florida State's strengths (and weaknesses?). Some keys to the game:
Florida State's balanced... everything
The Seminoles obviously have preeminent scorers Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon leading the way on offense, but only focusing on the two standout guards ignores what makes FSU so effective. Beyond Beasley and Bacon, two other 'Noles average at least nine points per game, and the team regularly rolls 10-deep in the rotation, allowing them to always keep fresh legs on the floor. No player logs more than 30 minutes per game, while nine log more than 10. Seven players also average more than three rebounds per game.
In a nutshell: focusing in on one, or even two, players is not going to help when the team has this many viable options and a strategy that keeps varying personnel on the floor.
Syracuse's zone could prove to be an advantage in some ways, because it doesn't try to over-emphasize one opposing player. It could also get burned if one or multiple FSU shooters finds soft spots, sending the at-times shaky SU defense into a tailspin.
Turnovers could be a problem
Florida State's young, and as a result, have turned the ball over quite a bit (14 per game). Once again, the zone could provide an advantage there, forcing passes into busy lanes and making typical offensive recoveries into more turnovers too. If the Seminoles face a deficit, it stands to reason their pressing (and again, youth) could play right into what Syracuse wants in terms of the zone. The Orange 2-3 zone isn't amazing this year, but it is opportunistic, taking cues from one of the team's most opportunistic defenders, Trevor Cooney.
Those seven-footers aren't as important as you'd think
Amazingly, Florida State has three seven-footers, yet only one of them (Boris Bojanovsky) really impacts the game-to-game outcome. And even then, Bojanovsky isn't the force you'd assume at 7-foot-3 and 240 pounds. His 18 minutes per game are efficient enough, but still only result in six points and 4.2 boards per game. Syracuse has been killed in the paint all season, but that seems unlikely in this game -- at least from the center spot. If DaJuan Coleman stays out of foul trouble, and Tyler Roberson continues his recent string of elite rebounding efforts, SU could once again find itself controlling the boards.
The one wildcard is rebounding from the guard position. While FSU fails to grab many rebounds from its bigs, the guards are very active on the boards, despite being fairly efficient shooters (so they're not necessarily feeding on their own misses there). That could lead to the middle of the zone getting slashed a bit, which could also spell foul trouble. But the zone could also force them out of the middle and make FSU beat Syracuse with jump shots. There's a potential peril to that, as Orange fans can attest this year.
The above is far from every angle for this big matchup between Syracuse and Florida State, but at least it gets the conversation going around what we might see on the court. These teams both have flaws, and are both playing hot of late. We'll see if FSU's problems can outweigh the Orange's.