For the first time in a couple of seasons the Florida State Seminoles will take on the Tar Heels in the Dean Dome. Both schools are coming off of wins, but only one of the programs is in the mix for a bid to the big dance later this month. Fortunately, for all of you avid UNC fans, Florida State was not who I was referring to. Obviously, the Noles aren’t nearly the team they were a year ago when the won the ACC Tournament and were poised for what many believed was going to be a final four run, but they are certainly not a team that will roll over and lose. Those of us who watched the game earlier this season in Tallahassee know all too well, that to be true.
This game will certainly have a different dynamic to it because UNC will have a different lineup taking the floor to begin the game. It can be argued that glorified walk on Jackson Simmons, was the main storyline, but Florida State remembers very well what the newest addition to the Tar Heel starting five did to them last time out.PJ Hairston went off that afternoon for 23 points including several clutch jumpers that eventually propelled Carolina to victory and prevented them from falling 0-3 in ACC play for the first time in school history. It’s safe to say that not only has PJ improved since that game, but the entire UNC squad has as well which could prove problematic for Florida State this afternoon.
Even though it’s been a bit of a disappointing year for the Seminoles, they still have plenty of weapons. Michael Snaer and Okaro White are certainly hard to handle if you aren’t prepared for what they bring to the table. White is a shifty big man that has no issues scoring around the rim and will most likely be matched up with Hairston down low. White will clearly have an advantage inside and will look to get easy second chance buckets off of the offensive glass. If Hairston can put a body on him, he has the frame that could cause enough discomfort for White to throw him off his rhythm.
We all know how good Michael Snaer is. The senior has had big games against UNC in the past and is putting up the numbers again this season that doesn’t prove anything otherwise. Snaer has great range and moves extremely well without the ball making him very tough to guard. Another problem with Snaer is that you have to guard him throughout the entire shot clock because he will make sure he gets a shot off and he is clutch enough that he can make every shot he takes at the last second. Last time out, Snaer only went for nine points due to the stellar defense of Reggie Bullock, but he isn’t the type of player to have two off nights.
I think the key for UNC will once again be the play of the freshman Marcus Paige. It’s unbelievable how much he has improved over the past several weeks and he has really shown that he is more than capable of leading this very difficult North Carolina offense. Over his last four games, Paige is averaging a little over 12 ppg and is boasting a 10:3 assist to turnover ratio. Those are the types of numbers that we all anticipated the number one point guard out of high school to put up prior to him coming to Chapel Hill. Not only is he scoring more in general, but Paige is beginning to find his range behind the arc. It’s pretty clear that UNC is hard to beat when the have guys making threes, but if Paige continues to be consistent, North Carolina could end up being a very tough out in the postseason. I think Paige will set the tone offensively for the Heels in this one and open things up for his playmakers like Hairston, Bullock and McAdoo to really shine.
The Tar Heels haven’t won more than 4 games in a row yet this season, but they have enough momentum and confidence to make sure that trend ends this afternoon. If the shooters get going early, I fully anticipate the Tar Heels defending their home court and getting a big win.