UMass vs. Florida State
Spread: Fla State -6
Tip off: 4:30 PM EST from Paradise Island, Bahamas
Betting Odds from Bodog
Last season, Florida State finished with a 23-11 record and lost to VCU by 1 point in overtime in the Sweet 16.
It was their defense that carried them that far.
Behind the lockdown defense of NBA draftee James Singleton, they finished third in conference points allowed per possession (0.96) and they were tops in the country at adjusted defensive efficiency. Singleton made the ACC All-Defensive team and Bernard James posted a 14% block rate. The Seminoles held opponents to 42% shooting and 40% two point shooting, which were both the best marks in the nation. Because of this defense, you can never count out the #22 ranked Seminoles, even against the most loaded squads.
They are off to a hot 4-0 start this season and a lot of it is due to unexpected contributions from Bernard James.
Bernard James really came out of nowhere. He was cut from his freshman team in high school and he didn’t even play organized basketball until he got to the Air Force in 2003. He didn’t end up at Florida State until he was 25, but he did go to Tallahassee Community College and led that school in career rebounds, blocks, and FG%. He had precidence to success, but he certainly wasn’t expected to make the waves he did. He’s ready to man the paint for the Seminoles. So far this season, he is averaging 10.0 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game in only 23.5 minutes per night.
No Florida State player is averaging more than 12 points per game so far this season, but they have four in double figures (Michael Snaer, Deividas Dulkys, Terrance Shannon, and James). They are also using a 9 man rotation, which leaves their players fresh while on the court, only further contributing to ther defensive ferocity and high turnover forcing. Snaer, a 6’5″ junior guard, had two impressive games to start the year, scoring 16 in the opener against Jacksonville and 15 against UCF. However, he has faded in the last two games, scoring only 16 in them conbined while shooting 5 of 12 from the floor and only 1 of 4 from down town. His usage rate has declined, as he is also averaging less assists and 5 less minutes on average than the opening two games.
6’8″ junior forward Terrance Shannon may be the biggest success story. Truncating an 11 minute performance against Stetson, he has averaged 15 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game. If they can get contributions from him consistently and Shannon can avoid disappearing at times, it could make the difference for this Seminoles team. Shannon is a good shot blocker, too, though he has only blocked 3 shots thus far this season. He should be over 1 a game by the end of the season, and blocked 2 last game in the 80-39 romping of South Alabama.
UMass is off to a hot start, much like Florida State. They currently rank near the top of the nation in both rebounding (14th with 43.8 rebounds per game) and assists (12th with 19.0 assists per game) and they have won their four games by an average of 22.8 points. Their most recent was an 82-46 drubbing of Boston College. Tonight’s game against FSU will be their first against a ranked opponent, so it should serve as a good measuring stick for the Minutemen to see how legitimate they are against top flight competition.
They lost their best player in Anthony Gurley to graduation, but they have a roster that goes 9 deep, as there are 9 players seeing at least 11 minutes a game, and only one player in the rotation plays over 30 minutes per game (leading scorer Chaz Williams). Williams is a transfer from Hofstra and the 5’9 point guard is among the best players in the A-10. Last season, as a freshman, he put up 9.8 points per game to go along with 4.2 assists per game and 4.2 boards per night. He has nearly doubled all facets of his production, scoring 17.3 points per game and 8.0 assists per game, while also swiping 2.3 steals per night. He has been remarkably consistent as well, with all of his games being at least 15 piont nights. Drilling threes has been a staple in his offensive diet, as well, as he has nailed 8 of 19 from down town (42.1%).
Sean Carter is a good center, as well. Carter rebounds well and shot 57% on two point shots last season. He hasn’t done much this season, and is only playingt 18 minutes per night, but perhaps mostly because the games have been blowouts. He saw more minutes last season (21.4 per game) and even more as a sophomore in 09-10, when he saw 24.4 minutes per game. He hasn’t been particularly impressive offensively or defensively, but as a 6’9″ body he is valuable to help bang underneath.
Truly, the Minutemen are a deep team. Raphiael Putney is also only seeing 11.3 minutes per game despite having been considered a possible starter at one point by coach Derek Kellogg. He would certainly help on the defensive glass, though the Minutemen are having no problems rebounding the ball so far against inferior competition, and as mentioned, they rank 14th in the nation in boards per game.
The 8 point spread is interesting tonight, and tough to gauge from a bettor’s perspective. On one hand, you have a UMass team that is averaging 82.3 points per game, but then you consider their competition. Tonight’s look at Florida State should give them some idea of how things might shake out against the better teams. Look for Florida State to press aggressively and use their defense to create their offense, though Chaz Williams does only average 2.5 turnovers per game.
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