Leonard Hamilton dislikes the Saturday-Monday turnaround.
But it’s also a good thing: Playing on ESPN’s Big Monday telecast is an indicator that Florida State is one of the top teams in the ACC and college basketball. And he has a built-in strength to counteract the short turnaround: depth.
Look around the ACC each night and coaches are forced to go with short benches. It’s the reality for veteran coaches like Virginia’s Tony Bennett, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, Notre Dame’s Mike Brey and Miami’s Jim Larranaga. It’s also the reality for coaches who are trying to establish their programs, such as Pittsburgh’s Jeff Capel, Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner and NC State’s Kevin Keatts.
Hamilton knows that depth is the answer, especially when playing two games in under 54 hours – and in two locations while also being a college student. FSU is 11 deep – that’s how many players average 9.8 minutes or more per game.
No. 8 FSU (23-4, 13-3) has already played a few Saturday-Monday games, with another coming Monday night as No. 11 Louisville (23-5, 13-3) travels to Tallahassee in a top-15 showdown. The Seminoles have fared well in the Saturday-Monday games, going 4-1 so far (the only loss of course being at top-10 Duke).
They traveled to Virginia Tech on Feb. 1 (a Saturday) and then hosted North Carolina (both wins). FSU then hosted Miami the following Saturday (resting a large number of players) but falling at Duke on a Monday.
The Seminoles weren’t able to rest players at NC State on Saturday by traditional means, but M.J. Walker and Trent Forrest were in foul trouble in the first half. Walker was limited to just six minutes and Forrest to nine minutes before halftime (Walker finished with 26 minutes and Forrest with 29 minutes). Those numbers are about Walker’s minutes-per-game average and two minutes less than Forrest’s average.
Perhaps not a huge edge but definitely better than if each had logged 35 minutes on Saturday, for example. One area of concern for Monday’s game is that Devin Vassell played 37 minutes at NC State.
It’s an unfortunate reality that TV dictates what night and what time you play. But it is good exposure for FSU and good preparation for the March postseason, when games will be played on back-to-back days at the ACC Tournament and either Thursday-Saturday or Friday-Sunday games in the NCAA Tournament.
Louisville played UNC on Saturday but three of its starters logged 31 minutes, including Malik Williams (17 points, nine rebounds) and potential first-round pick Jordan Nwora (18 points, 11 rebounds).
That could play to FSU’s strength as the Seminoles are capable of going 11-12 deep while Louisville realistically only is eight-nine deep (removing four players who were in the game just a minute apiece on Saturday).
Jumpers may be a little flat. It could be a sluggish game. But FSU’s depth yet again may be a decisive factor late in the second half.
Time/TV: Louisville at FSU, 7 p.m. on ESPN.
FSU potential starters: 6-7 G Devin Vassell (12.9 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 40 3-pointers), 6-4 G Trent Forrest (11.5 ppg., 4.3 rpg., 4.2 assists), 6-5 G M.J. Walker (10.5 ppg., 38 3s), 6-9 F Malik Osborne (6.1 ppg., 4.8 rpg.), 6-8 F RaiQuan Gray (5.9 ppg., 3.6 rpg.).
FSU reserves: 6-8 F Patrick Williams (9.3 ppg., 3.8 rpg.), 6-6 G Anthony Polite (6.0 ppg., 3.0 rpg.), 7-1 C Balsa Koprivica (4.9 ppg., 2.7 rpg.), 7-0 C Dominik Olejniczak (3.7 ppg., 2.3 rpg.),
Louisville potential starters: 6-7 F Jordan Nwora (18.2 ppg., 7.4 rpg., 69 3s), 6-5 F Dwayne Sutton (9.4 ppg., 8.4 rpg.), 6-10 C Steven Enoch (9.6 ppg., 5.5 rpg.), 6-0 G Ryan McMahon (8.5 ppg., 61 3s), 6-2 G Darius Perry (5.6 ppg.).