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The Big Preview: Virginia and FSU Run it Back

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

A couple of weeks ago, the Virginia Cavaliers, coming off back-to-back losses badly in need of a win, went down to Tallahassee to face then No. 9 FSU. Despite arguably outplaying the Noles, the Hoos fell 54-50, unable to close out despite leading by three with 3:11 left in the game.

The biggest shot of the game was a late three by FSU wing Devin Vassell, who had a game-high 18 points, including the last five for FSU as they pulled out the win.

In that game, Tomas Woldetensae was 3-4 from downtown in 32 minutes. He’s started all three games since then and been a big part of two wins. He did not play well in just 18 minutes against NC State.

Woldetensae is shooting 35% from downtown on the year. But more tellingly, he’s shooting 42% since December. Woldetensae also had eight assists through his first 14 games and has eight over the past four games alone. Whether his wrist was worse than we thought or he just needed some time to acclimate to DI basketball under Tony Bennett, his emergence has been a big boost to Virginia’s offense. The 21 points he scored on Sunday against Wake wasn’t just his career high, it also tied the team high this season. For a team struggling to knock down shots, they need somebody to get hot and stretch the defense. That opens things up inside for Diakite and company.

An issue in the first game was turnovers. Virginia had 18 of them (29% of possessions), including nine from Kihei Clark. Obviously, that isn’t going to get it done from your PG, though he did solid job on FSU PG Trent Forrest, holding him to just five points on 1/6 shooting. (Forrest did have 7 rebounds and 7 assists...and five TOs of his own.) At 6’4” 210, Forrest is a tough matchup for the 5’11” 160 Clark, though Virginia doesn’t really have another option at PG right now. Clark simply has to be better with the ball. FSU thrives in transition.

FSU is 17-2 overall (7-1 in ACC) and sits at 17th in KenPom’s rankings and fifth in the AP Poll. Virginia’s best win right now is a road win over Syracuse to open the season. Currently, Virginia would be on the outside of the NCAA bracket. There are only four remaining games (including this one) against currently projected NCAA teams. This game is likely the easiest of those four, so a win is almost a necessity for the Hoos to end up playing in the big dance this March.