Florida State has been impressive dismissing a pair of reasonable mid-majors; downing both Central Florida and UMass by 23 and 20 respectively. Tonight they’ll face their sternest test of the young season, a disciplined and veteran Harvard squad led by former Michigan coach and Duke alum Tommy Amaker.
The Seminoles entered the season with relatively limited fanfare after the departure of do-everything star Chris Singleton, but aside from that admittedly large loss, the rest of the Seminole roster is relatively in tact. This is a team that was one point in an overtime loss away from a berth in the Elite Eight last season. I expect them to finish a solid third; clearly behind Duke and Carolina, but also clearly ahead of the rest of the ACC pack.
Harvard, on the other hand, enters the season with perhaps their largest expectations in more than a generation. The enter today fresh off an impressive 75-47 dismantling of Utah. The Utes aren’t good this year, but anytime an Ivy League squad drops a 28-point beatdown on a Pac-12 school, it raises some eyebrows.
The Crimson get a lot of credit for being a smart ball club (obviously) that takes quality shots and moves the ball efficiently. However, their overall FG% is only one percentage point better than the Noles, and I’d expect the defensive quickness of Florida State, as well as their interior size and strength to present a whole different challenge tonight.
Florida State will need to shoot better from the floor than yesterday’s dismal 37% against UMass, but likewise, if they bring the same defensive intensity that smothered the Minutemen into 27% shooting from the floor, their offense can afford to be a little less precise.
Harvard is a very good ballclub, and I fully expect to see them as an 11 or 12 seed in March. However, Florida State appears to be one of the more underrated teams in the country based on a small opening sample. The athleticism and depth should be enough to get them past Harvard, and into a likely Atlantic Challenge championship game against UConn.
FREE PICK: Florida State Seminoles -3.5
Bonus Picks: I really like St. Louis over Villanova today straight up, though they are also getting two points. St. Louis is one of the better mid-majors that no one has heard much about. Rick Majerus has the Billikens best ball club since 1993 and I would expect them to make an appearance in Madness for the first time in two decades. Villanova relies heavily on Malik Wayans to generate offense, but this is one of the more limited offensive teams Jay Wright has head since landing in Philadelphia. I like St. Louis to get a nice win today and advance to the 76 Classic championship game.
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