I was going to start off this post by saying that Florida State is still Florida State, the same Seminole team that Maryland beat by 9 in College Park. Unfortunately, that's not really true - they aren't exactly the same. Role player Jordan DeMercy transferred from FSU two days ago - he accounted for two points in 13 minutes last time Maryland played the Noles.
So not the same exact team. But close.
They're still suffocating on the defensive end and still have the best defensive efficiency in the country. They're still incredibly long. They still have no real guard play and turn it over way too much.
They do have a convincing win since the Maryland loss - a two point win over GT in Tallahassee - but they also have some less than convincing games, too, like a home loss to N.C. State. I'm really still not that sold on them.
It's important to note, though, that the FSU that showed up in College Park isn't the normal FSU. The odds that Solomon Alabi will be in foul trouble for much of the early part of the game again is slim, so Jordan Williams will have his hands full against another good post player. Remember, too, that the game in CP was one of the worst games on the season for FSU, defensively at least. I doubt they'll let that happen again. Maryland was shooting better than 50% at half. That's unusual for this team regardless, particularly against the team with the best defensive FG% in the country. I don't think you can count on that again.
One thing that might startle you: FSU is better at defense and forces more turnovers than Clemson does. Luckily, though, they play a different style; they aren't the ultra-high pressure type of defense that Clemson utilizes. That's not to say they'll sit back in a zone all day, but they don't have Clemson's pesky perimeter defenders. I don't expect another awful offensive performance in the turnover column. They do have that aforementioned best FG% defense in the country, so I promise nothing about shots, but I don't think Maryland will turn it over another 26 times.
The most noticeable difference between the FSU team that played in CP and the FSU team that will play on Thursday is where they play: instead of playing at the Comcast Center, they'll be at home in the Tucker Center in Tallahassee. No one's ever accused it of being particularly raucous, but it's an average ACC venue - not a Cameron Indoor atmosphere, but not a BC-level quiet. That means it'll be intimidating enough, and be able to alter the game to some extent. Need stats for its impact? FSU is 3-4 on the road, but 10-1 at home. Maryland is a more respectable 4-2 in true road games, but that still pales in comparison to their 10-1 home record. ACC road games are never easy.
Because there's been no real changes, I'll point you to my previous preview (pt. II is here) to refresh your memory about this team. Deividas Dulkys still hasn't established himself as a legitimate, consistent outside threat, so you don't need to worry about that. Derwin Kitchen still hasn't established himself as a legitimate, consistent point guard, so that's not a big problem yet, either. Don't be surprised if some press is broken out again.
One area they have improved in, however, is rebounding. They killed BC and Duke on the glass, and stayed close to GT. Maryland's rebounding advantage was a big component to the win in the Comcastle, and if that advantage were to evaporate, Maryland's road would be much tougher to climb.
Honestly, the biggest keys to this game will be which teams show up (the FSU team that beat GT with suffocating defense and great rebounding, or the FSU team that lost to N.C. State? the Maryland team that beat FSU or the Maryland team that lost to Clemson?), how Maryland can bounce back from a tough loss, and how the Terps handle another road venue.
The importance of this game needs not be stressed. It's not a must-win, but it's not all that far off. You should already know what this game means - a win, and Maryland climbs off the bubble and proves themselves. A loss, and we still have no idea how good this team is or can be, and who knows? Maybe it's the start of a nasty slump. Nip that in the bud and finally get a good win on the road.
Prediction for now? I'm not overly confident. I'll say FSU in a close one for now in another offensive clunker, though this time not because of turnovers, but rather FG%. 68-60, Noles.
(And thus, the blogger jinx has been avoided).