On December 21st, this Saturday, there will be two basketball games at the BB&T Center:
12 PM EST: South Florida vs Florida State
2:30 PM EST: Utah State vs Florida
This is an annual event at the arena, but not often do we get to see these high caliber mid-major teams go up against Florida and Florida State. The BB&T Center is an AMAZING arena that is a great venue to host basketball games. If you are in South Florida for the holidays and are looking for something to do this Saturday on a budget, you definitely need to click the link on the top of this article and go see these games.
Today, what I’ll do is break down both match-ups and highlight some of the players to watch in the Orange Bowl Classic so you can know what you’ll be seeing!
Game 1: USF vs Florida State
USF is 6-4 on the season thus far (they do play Utah State before the game on Saturday), with the only bad loss being against IUPUI by 17 points. Otherwise, they have some solid wins against notable mid-majors in Furman (10-3), Loyola Chicago (7-4), and Wofford (7-4). They are a team that can sneak up and surprise you if you don’t circle the game on your schedule. They are riding a 3 game winning streak and are more than ready for Florida State.
Florida State is 9-2 on the season and are playing some great basketball. The only losses they have are against Pitt in the opening game of the season and on the road against Indiana where they have been pretty much unbeatable. Florida State has been a well balanced team that won’t often run up the score in a game (outside of that Chicago State game…sorry Chicago State) and will just play good, tough defense. They are coming off of back to back blowout wins against Clemson and North Florida.
Players to watch:
USF: Laquincy Rideau
Laquincy is one of the best in the nation at getting steals. He is currently ranked in the top 10 in steals per game and you can bet that he’ll be even higher on that list by the end of the season. Rideau actually has a chance to go down as the player with the most steals in NCAA History. Now obviously that would be tough, but he is 89 away. He’d have to have a historic run, but keep an eye on that going forward!
Stealing the ball isn’t all that he does though. He averaged over 13 points per game and is the leading assist man on the team. If the teams choose to run it this way, a match-up of Laquincy Rideau and Trent Forrest would be so exciting.
Florida State: Patrick Williams
Patrick Williams is a young freshman forward from Charlotte, NC. He is still trying to find his footing in college basketball, but he has had glimpses of excellence at various points this season. He has not hit double digits in scoring in any of the games against power 5 conference teams, but he has played well in every game against low D-1 teams. While USF isn’t necessarily a low D-1 team, Patrick Williams should find himself some mismatches during the game. Expect a big game out of him.
Game 2: Utah State vs Florida
Utah State is arguably the best mid-major team in the nation (Liberty would probably want to have a talk with me). They are currently 10-2 and just recently got their best big back in Neemias Queta. They’ll be playing another Orange Bowl Classic team in USF tonight (Wednesday) and if they win, can restore some momentum to their team prior to their clash with a good Florida squad.
Florida is 7-3 on the season, but played much better in their latest win against Providence. Granted, Providence was not playing up to their potential whatsoever, but it was a great sign to see Tre Mann playing extremely well off the bench again. They have 3 days off now while they head down to Sunrise to await their game with Utah State at the BB&T Center.
Players to watch:
Utah State: Sam Merrill
I was able to scout Sam Merrill about 2 years ago now when Utah State was facing off against Portland State at the Veteran’s Coliseum in Portland, Oregon. I was hoping to see Koby McEwen (who is now playing for Marquette), but he was unfortunately out. Instead, I was able to see Sam Merrill live for the first time and it was something special. He’s someone who doesn’t have any athletic prowess, but what he does have is a very smooth game. Sam has a great release, is someone you can never leave open behind the arc, and is just a crafty player that can get a bucket with ease. I expect above a 20 point game out of him in this one.
Florida: Scottie Lewis
If you missed it, I talked about Kerry Blackshear Jr. yesterday. So, today I’ll talk about one of their exciting, young defensive minded players…Scottie Lewis. Scottie was an All-American this year and deservedly so. He was one of the best players from the state of New Jersey along with teammate Bryan Antoine (who is currently playing for Villanova). He hustles harder than anyone on the court and has some crazy hops that help him make some alarmingly athletic games.
He’s someone who constantly contributes outside of the box score. With that being said, he is one of the most important players on the court at all times. He’ll be a major bother for Utah State and should accumulate a good amount of steals and blocks in that game that lead to transition buckets.
Florida State 71 – USF 62
Utah State 80 – Florida 77