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FSU tries to bounce back against North Carolina

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After beating Florida on the road last week, Florida State opened their ACC basketball season on the road at Clemson on Saturday. After an inspiring win, the Seminoles suffered a devastating loss to the Tigers, a team they should have been able to handle.

This is what frustrates FSU supporters. Many times they have posted impressive wins over teams like Duke and North Carolina only to lay an egg in the next game like Saturday’s 84-75 debacle at Clemson.

On Monday night the Seminoles have a chance to end the day feeling good again. The seventh-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels come to Tallahassee seeking their third conference win.

The Tar Heels, 13-2 overall, won their first two ACC games over Georgia Tech and the same Clemson team that took down FSU. Monday’s game will be North Carolina’s first conference road game.

North Carolina struggled at times in both of those games, but both were at home and they were able to survive. Both losses, to Northern Iowa and Texas, were on the road.

Florida State will have a difficult time defeating the Tar Heels at home or anywhere. The Tar Heels’ strength is FSU’s weakness.

North Carolina’s front line featuring Brice Johnson, Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks, all average in double figures. Meeks will miss the game with an injury, but Isiah Hicks and Joel James provide depth.

Florida State has 7-3 Boris Bojanovsky in the starting lineup, but he is not an inside force. With 7-1 Michael Ojo, who has missed the entire season, and 6-8 Phil Cofer missing the game, Florida State’s guard-oriented offense may struggle for rebounds.

The Seminoles match up very well at guard. Dwayne Bacon, Malik Beasley, Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Devon Bookert, with Montay Brandon coming off the bench, account for nearly three-quarters of FSU’s points. Carolina’s guards of Marcus Paige and Joel Berry II are formidable as well.

Unless one of FSU’s star freshmen of Bacon or Beasley has a Rathan-Mayes type of game, the Seminoles will have a difficult time winning. Rathan-Mayes scored 35 points, a record by a freshman, against UNC on January 24. It was the fifth-best total by a freshman in ACC history.

Even with that, the Tar Heels prevailed 78-74. FSU’s last win against North Carolina at home was January 14, 2011 when the Seminoles posted an historic 90-57 rout. UNC has won the last 5 meetings and leads the all-time series 47-12.

ESPN will telecast the game beginning at 7 p.m. from the Donald L. Tucker Center with Sean McDonough and Doris Burke on the call.

Prediction: North Carolina by 6.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at

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