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12:00 PM PT1:00 PM MT2:00 PM CT3:00 PM ET8:00 PM GMT4:00 PM 北京时间1:00 PM MST3:00 PM EST, Jan 5, 2019
John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Virginia  Attendance: 14,623

Florida St.-Virginia Preview

(AP Photo/Sean Rayford,File)

The moment that many have been waiting has finally arrived: The Atlantic Coast Conference season.

Arguably the most talented conference in the country finally tips off action Saturday with a slew of high-profile games, and perhaps none is bigger than the matchup between No. 9 Florida State (12-1) and No. 4 Virginia (12-0) in Charlottesville, Va.

The ACC, which has six teams currently ranked in the Top 25, will once again be full of huge showdowns as the second half of the college basketball season progresses. And it starts with a bang Saturday at John Paul Jones Arena.

"I told (our players) we always break up our team into different phases and we were undefeated in Phase 1," Virginia coach Tony Bennett told the Daily Press after the Cavaliers' win against Marshall on Monday. "That's no small thing. We just wanted to try and win every game, and they did that. Now, we go into phase two, conference play, and we understand how good the league is and we'll have to continue to improve."

Florida State, which is one just five teams to have beaten Virginia on its home floor since the start of the 2014-15 season, will look to do it again Saturday when the Seminoles aim for their eighth straight victory since their lone loss, 66-60 against defending national champion Villanova on Nov. 25. The last time these two teams met, the then-No. 2 Cavaliers came from behind to edge the Seminoles 59-55 in Tallahassee on Feb. 7.

It's a loss that still rests firmly in the minds of many of the players still on Florida State.

"We look forward to it," Florida State guard Trent Forrest told the Tallahassee Democrat of the rematch with Virginia. "Ever since I've been here so far, we've always started ACC with the first couple games being pretty tough. Now it's just something that you're kind of used to. Just got to be able to flip that switch now. It's serious from here on out really and you're getting everybody's best shot every game."

Virginia, which went 17-1 in conference play last season and is one of just four unbeaten teams remaining this season, definitely worries Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton more than most of the Seminoles' opponents … even if the Cavaliers did become the first No. 1 seed in history to lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season.

Hamilton says, if anything, that loss is only going to make Florida State hungrier this season.

"Very seldom have you seen a team lose only one game in the league last year," Hamilton told the Democrat. "17-1 in the ACC, I'm still in awe of how you can do that when you take into consideration that in this league, if you're not your best, you're going to get upset."

Of course, don't get it twisted: Florida State worries Virginia, too.

"I remember them being really deep, real up-tempo, real aggressive," Cavaliers guard Ty Jerome told the Daily Caller. "They have a lot of guys that can go athletic, big, long. So, they'll challenge us."

Virginia enters the matchup led by a trio of guards all averaging double figures: Kyle Guy (15.4 points per game), De'Andre Hunter (14.5 ppg) and Jerome (14.2 ppg). Another guard, Braxton Key, paces Virginia with a team-high 5.4 rebounds per game.

On Florida State's side, depth is the Seminoles' strength. Eight players average seven points a game or better, led by guard Terance Mann at 13.1 points (to go with 6.8 rebounds per game), followed by forward Mfiondu Kabengele (11.8 ppg) and Forrest at 10.7 points a game.

The last time two teams ranked inside the top 10 met at John Paul Jones Arena was Feb. 27, 2016, when then-No. 3 Virginia defeated then-No. 7 North Carolina 79-74. As for Florida State, this matchup is certainly rare. Saturday's showdown will be just the second time in the last 26 years the Seminoles have played in a game where both programs are ranked in the top 10.

And after Saturday, neither team's schedule gets any easier, either. Florida State will turn around and host rival Miami on Wednesday. Virginia will be at Boston College that same night.

Updated January 5, 2019

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