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ACC-Big Ten Challenge

December 1, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Previewing Northwestern – Florida State

by Alan Rubenstein and Michael Protos

The Big Ten-ACC challenge enters its fifth year with the ACC holding a 20-15 advantage. The ACC has won the Commissioner’s Cup all four seasons, but has never won more than five games in a year. Northwestern (2-2) and Florida State (4-0) will tip off this year’s challenge Monday night in Tallahassee. Northwestern is 1-3 and Florida State 2-2 in the first four years of the challenge.

The Seminoles have not received much attention from the media this season, despite having an experienced lineup that plays excellent defense. The Seminoles return their top three scorers and four starters and bring in a top five recruiting class. Although none of these teams compare to a school from a major conference such as the Big Ten, the Seminoles have built a strong defensive foundation by holding each opponent to under 37 percent shooting from the field.

FSU mirrors the Wildcats in that their strength lies in their backcourt. All-America Candidate Tim Pickett should match-up with Northwestern star Jitim Young. Pickett was second team all ACC a season ago and led the Seminoles in scoring, rebounding, free thrown percentage and paced the ACC in steals. Pickett is averaging 16.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, and has hit 12 three point field goals in the ‘Noles first four games. Former Mc Donald’s All-American Anthony Richardson is off to a good start in his junior season averaging 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds. The slim junior forward reached double figures in 21 out of 29 games in 2003. Richardson and Pickett are the only starters scoring in double figures nightly. Look for Richardson and senior forward Michael Joiner to have strong games.

Nate Johnson and Todd Galloway share the point guard duties. Galloway comes off the bench, but it the greater scoring threat. The sophomore from Baltimore has put up 6.5 points and 3.8 assists per game. Johnson provides a steadying influence to a very young team and rarely turns the ball over, but struggles to put up points.

The Seminoles outstanding freshmen class has been important contributors through the first four games. Highly touted swingman Von Wafer has been in double figures in three of his first four career games and Power forward Alex Johnson and small forward Al Thornton have also provided spark off the bench. Johnson is putting up 8.3 points and Thornton 7.8 points per game.

Northwestern enters the game against Florida State 2-2, with wins over Chicago State and Northwestern State and losses to Colorado and DePaul. Both wins came on the road, so maybe Northwestern is fortunate to be playing Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla. But probably not. Their lack of athleticism has hurt them early.

Senior swingman Jitim Young has done it all for the Wildcats. The senior from Chicago is leading NU in scoring (18.7 ppg), steals and field goal percentage and three point field goal percentage. Young has already registered more than 20 points twice this season. Although he is listed at 6’2, Young averages five rebounds a game. He is the type of aggressive, experienced leader every team needs to count on to win big games. The Wildcats have had problems taking care of the ball, averaging 15 turnovers per game, and the Wildcats will need the best performances of this young season from each key player to beat an underrated Florida State team.

Vedran Vukusic and T.J. Parker are the only other Wildcats scoring in double figures.

Florida State’s size and athleticism are likely to be too much for Northwestern. The Cats are being out-rebounded by 5.5 per night. This will be FSU’s first test of the season, but with a more talented roster and the home crowd behind it, the ‘Noles should roll. Florida State’s defense should hold Northwestern to under 65 points and frustrate Young and the Wildcats’ shooters. The Seminoles also have their first opportunity to prove to a national audience that their team is for real.

Prediction: Florida State 79 Northwestern 61


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