The Daily Nole

Preview: FSU Hosts Virginia Tech in Top 25 Showdown

Jeremy Esbrandt/FSU athletics

Florida State aims for its first-ever 3-0 start to ACC play on Saturday as the No. 12 Seminoles welcome in Virginia Tech. After debuting in the polls at No. 21, Virginia Tech is coming off an embarrassing 104-78 loss at North Carolina State. Most teams in the ACC have played two conference games, but FSU miraculously is one only of two undefeated teams in conference with the other being Notre Dame. FSU is coming off a thrilling 60-58 win at Virginia last weekend.

Virginia Tech beat FSU in each of the two meetings between the schools last season, winning 83-73 in Blacksburg and then 96-85 in the ACC Tournament. The Hokies lost in their last trip to Tallahassee two years ago by an 86-75 score. Since joining the ACC, the Hokies are 0-8 in Tallahassee.

The Match-Up

Who: No. 21 Virginia Tech Hokies (12-2, 1-1 ACC) at No. 12 Florida State Seminoles (14-1, 2-0 ACC)
When: Saturday, Jan. 7 at 2 p.m. EST (ACC Network)
Where: Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Florida

Key Players

For Virginia Tech: Versatile senior Zach LeDay leads the Hokies in scoring and ranks second on the team in rebounding averaging better than 16 points and seven boards. LeDay has done so while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field. In total, five Virginia Tech players are averaging in double-figures scoring. Ahmed Hill is averaging better than 15 points and has been Virginia Tech’s biggest threat from deep this season. Chris Clarke is averaging 11.3 points and a team-high 7.6 rebounds per game. Guards Justin Robinson and Seth Allen are averaging 11.6 and 10.7 points per game. Clarke, Robinson and Allen combine to average nearly 12 assists per game.

For Florida State: Fresh off a 29-point effort, Dwayne Bacon is the guy to watch for FSU, averaging better than 18 points per game. Freshman Jonathan Isaac is averaging better than 12 points and a team-high 7.3 rebounds per game. Xavier Rathan-Mayes is scoring nearly 11 per contest while leading the team with 4.5 assists per game.

What to Watch For

3-point shooting: In Virginia Tech’s two victories over FSU last season, the Hokies shot lights out from deep, going a combined 19-for-37 from downtown. That equates to better than 51 percent. A big reason for that is that the Seminoles were routinely broke down off the dribble, forcing defenders to leave the shooters and help. As a team this season, Virginia Tech ranks 13th nationally in 3-point percentage and 30th in assists.

Dwayne Bacon: Since the start of ACC play, FSU sophomore guard Dwayne Bacon has been red hot. Bacon has shot 58 percent from the floor and averaged 26 points per game in two ACC contests. In a win over Virginia his last time out, Bacon scored 26 of his career-high 29 points in the second half, which included the game-winning 3-pointer with two seconds remaining. In two games against the Hokies last season, Bacon performed admirably averaging 17.5 points. In the loss in Blacksburg, Bacon finished with 22 points on 8-for-16 shooting and 5-for-10 from beyond the arc.

FSU’s size: One area where Florida State looks to have a distinct advantage over Virginia Tech on Saturday is in the paint. The Seminoles have a plethora of big bodies headlined by Christ Koumadje, a 7-4 sophomore, and Michael Ojo, a 7-1 senior. The Hokies have four players who stand at least 6-10, but Virginia Tech has not been very good in the paint. Virginia Tech ranks just 13th in the ACC in rebounding margin and dead last in blocked shots. Virginia Tech was outrebounded, 40-25 in Wednesday’s loss at N.C. State.

Seth Allen: Virginia Tech senior guard Seth Allen may be just the fifth-leading scorer for the Hokies, but he’s a guy Florida State has had no answer for. Dating back to his time at Maryland, Allen has averaged better than 22 points in his last four games against the Seminoles while shooting 29-for-46 or 63 percent from the field and 15-for-25 from 3-point land. This included a career-high 32 points while playing for Maryland in an 83-71 victory on Feb. 8, 2014.

Number to Pay Attention To

21-24: That’s Florida State’s record against ranked opponents at home under head coach Leonard Hamilton. FSU is 1-0 in such games this season, beating Florida 83-78 on Dec. 11.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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