After a hard-earned victory vs. Wake Forest Tuesday, the Irish look to build some momentum for the homestretch of the ACC season as Notre Dame hosts No. 14 Florida State Saturday.
Saturday will mark the sixth all-time meeting between the programs with Notre Dame’s lone win coming in the only contest to take place in South Bend in December of 2014. Florida State defeated the Irish earlier this season in Tallahassee by a score of 83-80.
I felt the Seminoles were the best team in the country earlier this season and after some stumbles against Georgia Tech and Syracuse, FSU has regained their form and currently sit in a tie for first place in the ACC.
What sticks out about Florida State is their shear size. The ‘Noles are the second tallest team in the country and present plenty of matchup problems for the Irish.
In their first meeting, FSU benefitted from a friendly home whistle in the first half and made clutch shots in the final three minutes as the Irish put together a final push.
Strong defense and lanky athletes have been a trademark of the Florida State program since Leonard Hamilton has been at the helm, but this year FSU adds a potent offense to its arsenal.
In the first meeting, the Irish did a good job at slowing down Dwayne Bacon, FSU’s biggest offensive threat, but 6’ 10″ freshman Jonathan Isaac has emerged as one of the most dynamic scorers in the country.
The Seminoles have scorers throughout their roster and have caught fire of late. FSU has gone for 109 and 95 in their last two games and show no signs of slowing down. Even when the ‘Noles miss shots, they are one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country.
Florida State has a tremendous depth advantage over the Irish. The Seminoles can go 11 deep on the bench and have no drop-off in terms of athleticism.
In the first matchup, the physical play and length really bothered Matt Farrell and forced him into some uncharacteristic turnovers.
Taking care off the ball will be key Saturday. FSU’s offense hits another level when they are able to get easy buckets in transition.
The Irish were able to overcome some of the turnovers in the first game because they shot an incredible 15-21 from three. ND can’t count on that type of performance from the beyond the arc to cover up their mistakes this time around.
Despite Florida State’s size, Mike Brey shows no sign of changing his small lineup. As mentioned before, this strategy is an intricate part of Brey’s offensive philosophy.
For better or worse, Brey has never altered his gameplan or philosophy when his opposition has a significant size advantage. For as much trouble as the Irish may have on the glass, Brey believes his opposition will have an equally tough time matching up with his four-around-one offense.
Team rebounding, which has been lacking of late, can negate some of the size advantage and Brey bets that the headaches the Irish can cause a team on the defensive end will force his opponent to change their philosophy and go small.
Now, we saw Purdue do that and have great success, but the point is Brey and the Irish dictate how the game is played and force the opponent to adapt to ND’s style.
Hopefully, the second half vs. Wake Forest was a sign that the Irish have broken out of their offensive rut. They will need a similar type of effort if they are to take down the Seminoles.
Florida State has an advantage in size, speed, and depth. With that being said, the Irish are a tournament team and if they fancy themselves as a squad that can make a deep run in March, then they have to take care of business at home.
FSU has proven they can beat anyone in the country on their home floor, but their road performances do not match their home prowess.
The Seminoles are similar to UVA in that they are very difficult to come-from-behind against, so getting off to a hot start and feeding off the energy of the crowd will be key.