It may not be the "best" game on the schedule as Baylor visits Kansas State in what should be a very good Big 12 battle. But in terms of games that will definitely be remembered on Selection Sunday, there may not be a better game on Tuesday's slate than Florida State (9-6, 0-1) visiting Virginia Tech (11-4, 0-1). Both teams are looking to rebound from disappointing road losses on Saturday, as Florida State was blown out by Clemson and the Hokies fell at Wake Forest.
While both have solid strength of schedule numbers at this stage (FSU: 36; VT: 46), outside of Duke, North Carolina and (maybe) Virginia there aren't many "marquee" victories in the ACC. That means that head-to-head battles among the bubble teams could ultimately decide who goes dancing and who's relegated to the NIT. Florida State's issues on offense have been well-documented, and despite one of the better defenses in the country their inability to execute offensively could be what keeps them out of the tournament.
Leonard Hamilton's team isn't a good three-point shooting outfit, making just 30.7% from beyond the arc, but over all the Seminoles make 44.7% of their shots. The bigger issue for Florida State: turnovers. FSU averages a staggering 18.2 turnovers, handing the ball over on 25.6% of their possessions. Despite having players such as Michael Snaer (13.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and recent returnee Ian Miller (13.7 ppg), Florida State is in no position to be that "charitable" with the basketball.
The good news for FSU going into Tuesday night is that Virginia Tech hasn't been great at forcing turnovers, as their opponents turn the ball over on just 19.3% of their possessions. Virginia Tech forces just 12.6 turnovers per game with 5.3 of those coming by way of a steal, meaning that Seth Greenberg's team creates a "live-ball" turnover less than half the time. But the matchup between Miller and Virginia Tech's leader in steals will go a long way in determining the outcome.
Point guard Erick Green has a lot more on his plate this season due to the graduation of Malcolm Delaney, and he's been up to the task with averages of 15.7 points and 3.4 assists per game. The player who needs to step up for the Hokies is senior guard Dorenzo Hudson (11.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg), who has put together some impressive outings (31 vs. FIU, 18 at Oklahoma State) with some head scratchers. Hudson made just four of thirteen shots at Wake Forest, finishing with eight points, and the Hokies need more from him on a consistent basis to reach their full potential.
Inside the Seminoles are the bigger team, led by Bernard James (9.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and Xavier Gibson (8.3 ppg, 5.6 ppg), and their ability to hit the offensive boards is one reason why FSU still averages nearly a point per possession despite their turnover problem. FSU rebounds 38.6% of their misses, but Virginia Tech isn't far behind with an offensive rebounding percentage of 37.0%. Freshman Dorian Finney-Smith (7.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and sophomore Jarell Eddie (9.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg) are the Hokies' best rebounders, with Finney-Smith grabbing more than three offensive boards per game.
Tech's been the superior team offensively, but rebounding is where
Florida State can bridge the gap. That won't matter much if the
Seminoles can't take care of the basketball, however. There are still
plenty of games to be played this season but Florida State's trek to
Blacksburg is the kind of game that gets cited when reviewing resumes in
March, and with both teams failing to win games you'd expect a
tournament team on win on Saturday it's become for more important.
Illinois also has a chance to make a statement, although they're in better shape than either FSU or Virginia Tech, as they host #5 Ohio State in Champaign. The "Orange Krush" should be primed and ready for this matchup, as the Buckeyes won 73-68 at Assembly Hall last season. This will be another good test for sophomore center Meyers Leonard, as he'll take on Jared Sullinger in a matchup of two of the Big Ten's best interior players. If Illinois is to win they'll likely need another solid performance from freshman Joseph Bertrand, who has stepped up his production in recent weeks.
Baylor's trip to Manhattan was already going to be a dangerous one for the undefeated Bears, but Kansas State's
win over Missouri on Saturday served as a reminder. The Bears have one
of the nation's deepest frontcourts with Perry Jones III leading the
way, but K-State can counter with Jamar Samuels, Thomas Gipson and
Jordan Henriquez. The question for Baylor: can their guards deal with
the solid defense of Will Spradling and Martavious Irving? If so, Baylor
should be able to execute well enough to leave with a win. And in the
MVC, Northern Iowa visits #21 Creighton in desperate need
of a win if they're to be a contender for the regular season crown.
Already trailing the lead pack by a game, the Panthers can't afford to
fall two games back at this juncture in the season.
Top 25 Games
9:00 PM Miami (FL) at (3) North Carolina (ESPN3)
8:00 PM (4) Baylor at (18) Kansas State (ESPN3)
9:00 PM (5) Ohio State at Illinois (ESPN)
7:00 PM Iowa at (7) Michigan State
7:00 PM (15) Louisville at Providence
7:00 PM Georgia at (19) Florida (ESPN)
9:00 PM Northern Iowa at (21) Creighton (ESPN3)
10:00 PM Chicago State at (22) San Diego State
7:00 PM (25) Harvard at Monmouth
NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM South Florida at Notre Dame (ESPN3)
7:00 PM La Salle at Pennsylvania
7:00 PM Florida State at Virginia Tech
7:00 PM Charleston Southern at Gardner-Webb
7:00 PM DePaul at Seton Hall (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Ball State at Toledo (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Liberty at Virginia Military
7:05 PM Evansville at Indiana State
8:00 PM Champion Baptist College at Southeastern Louisiana
8:05 PM Bradley at Drake
8:05 PM Southern Illinois at Missouri State
8:05 PM Illinois State at Wichita State
9:00 PM Vanderbilt at South Carolina
10:00 PM Seattle at Washington
10:00 PM NJIT at Cal State Bakersfield