Thursday, December 17, 2009

Game of the Night Preview, Dec. 17

Game of the Night: Auburn at Florida State (7:00 PM, Regional TV)

It is a very light week in college basketball, with colleges and universities taking final exams and winding down their semesters. On Thursday, there are only 18 games, with no ranked teams in action. Furthermore, just two games pit two .500-plus teams against each other, with only four BCS teams in action. Despite that, there is an interesting game on the docket, with Auburn travelling to Tallahassee to take on Florida State. Auburn has split its two games against the ACC this season, beating Virginia but falling to North Carolina State. Florida State has only lost two games this season, road contests at Florida and Ohio State, while Auburn has lost to Troy and Central Florida and has won only one road game.

Auburn has a very solid perimeter group, led by three double-figure scorers. DeWayne Reed has struggled shooting the ball, but is still averaging 15.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.0 steals. Starting next to him is Frankie Sullivan, a very effective three-point shooter who has scored in double-figures in every game but two this season. The team’s best shooter, Tay Waller, missed the first six games of the season, but he has returned and been a good scorer. Earnest Ross started seven games in his absence. Up front, Lucas Hargrove has really come on strong lately. Over the past four games, he is averaging 16.0 points and 10.8 rebounds. Brandon Knox and Johnnie Lett split time down low.

Florida State looks like it could be a sleeper in the ACC this season, mainly because the Seminoles have some of the best frontcourt talent in the league. Center Solomon Alabi is an excellent shot-blocker who has vastly improved his offensive game this season, while forward Chris Singleton has plenty of potential and has become a very good all-around performer this year. Xavier Gibson and Ryan Reid combine to average 12.0 points and 7.8 rebounds at the other starting spot. In the backcourt, journeyman Derwin Kitchen is a double-figure scorer, while Deividas Dulkys is the team’s best three-point shooter. Freshman Michael Snaer could eventually be an all-conference guard.

Can Auburn win the rubber match in its three-game series against the ACC? Doubtful. The Tigers have won only one road game this season, and don’t have enough frontcourt firepower to deal with Florida State. Alabi leads a deep and tall post group that should be able to corral Hargrove, while the Seminoles are also ranked No. 29 in the country when it comes to defending the three-point shot. If Auburn is not able to knock down its outside shots, and Hargrove can’t continue his outstanding stretch, this game could get out of hand quickly.

Prediction: Florida State 73, Auburn 57

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