FSU Primer 2013
Jan 19, 2013
Evan Nolte and the Hoos hope to win their second ACC game as FSU comes to town.
After a disappointing 59-44 loss at Clemson, the Virginia Cavaliers (11-5, 1-2 ACC) return home on Saturday afternoon to square off against the Florida State Seminoles (10-6, 2-1 ACC). Will the Wahoos even their ACC record at 2-2, or will they again lose to a team that they haven't topped since 2007? Find out in the Florida State Primer.
1. Team Introduction. Last season, Florida State started slow in nonconference play before turning it on during the ACC portion of its schedule to finish with a 21-9 (12-4 ACC) mark that included two nail-biting wins over UVa (58-55 at home and 63-60 at JPJ). The Noles then put an exclamation point on their year with back-to back wins over Duke and UNC to win the ACC Tournament. In the NCAA Tournament, Florida State clawed past St. Bonaventure before dropping another close one to Cincinnati. This season, after losing many key players, the Seminoles were picked to finish fourth in the preseason ACC basketball poll.
As has been par for the course for Leonard Hamilton's team the last several years, Florida State was wildly inconsistent in out-of-conference play. The squad's 8-5 nonconference record included some decent wins over BYU (RPI No. 50), Saint Joseph's (RPI No. 66), and Charlotte (RPI No. 59). But the Noles also dropped some head-scratchers to the likes of South Alabama (RPI No. 206), Mercer (RPI No. 162), and Auburn (RPI No. 187). But, as usual, FSU has seemed to flip a switch against ACC opponents. The Seminoles opened ACC play by recording road wins against Clemson (71-66) and Maryland (65-62) and seemed primed for a 3-0 record for much of the game before fading late in a 77-72 home loss to UNC. On the year, Florida State's 10-6 (2-1 ACC) record has them ranked No. 69 in RPI, No. 71 in KenPom, and No. 80 in TAPE.
2. Offense. Hamilton's offensive scheme is a read-and-react motion offense that often utilizes high-low action, cuts and back cuts, and constant screening, including double and elevator screens. This season, the Noles have mostly used a three-guard lineup, with the offense being run out of a "3 out, 2 in" set with some "4 out, 1 in" sets as well. Since Tony Bennett has come to Charlottesville, Florida State really has killed the Hoos on the offensive glass, enabling FSU to record a good number of second chance points. In Bennett's first three years here, the Seminoles ranked No. 67, No. 50, and No. 97 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. This year, however, with the turnover that it has experienced, Florida State is a mere No. 181 in this category, which offers some solace given that UVa's bigs are banged up. On the year, Florida State is No. 46 in adjusted offensive efficiency.
3. Defense. On the defensive end, we can again expect to see Hamilton's patented Junkyard defense. Essentially, the Junkyard defense is a pressure man-to-man defense with the following defining characteristics: denying entry passes, switching on picks, and putting an emphasis on forcing turnovers and getting weakside blocks. This is basically the nightmare defense for Virginia's offensive philosophy, and the Hoos saw their share of scoring droughts against the Noles in Bennett's first two years when Florida State was No. 1 in adjusted defensive efficiency. Last season, State slipped a bit to No. 15 in this category, and the Cavaliers had some more luck on the offensive end, but this luck ran out at the end of both games. But this year, Florida State is simply a different defensive team. The Seminoles rank a mere No. 112 in adjusted defensive efficiency. The interesting thing is that Florida State has been decent this season in forcing turnovers and blocking shots, but it has been terrible on the defensive glass (No. 229 in adjusted defensive rebounding percentage).
4. Player Turnover. Again, Florida State suffered from some pretty big losses in the offseason. Leading rebounder (8.1 RPG) and second-leading scorer Bernard James (6'10") is now lacing them up for the Dallas Mavericks. Also gone are last year's starting point guard, Luke Loucks (7.1 PPG, 4.3 assists/game), last year's starting shooting guard, Deividas Dulkys (7 PPG), and last year's starting center, Xavier Gibson (6.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG). In addition, backup point guard Jeff Peterson (3.1 PPG, 1.8 APG) and backup center Jon Kreft (2.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG) have played their last games for the Noles.
5. Likely Starters. The first five for FSU ...
Point Guard: Starting at the point for should be Montay Brandon (No. 5), a 6'7", 216-pound freshman. I remember UVa showing some interest in Brandon, and I can see why because he has the versatility to play the "1," "2," and "3." Brandon is long and athletic and likes to get out on the fastbreak and slash to the basket. It's thus no surprise that his last game against UNC might have been his best as he registered 7 points (on 3-4 shooting) and 4 assists. But on the season, he hasn't been quite as effective, averaging 5.5 points per game on 46.6% shooting from the field and 31.8% accuracy from behind the 3-point line. As many of Brandon's scores come on drives to the basket, you can see that he doesn't have much of an outside shot. He's also a bit uncomfortable at the "1," with a 1.8/2.1 assist/turnover ratio. Brandon has also struggled on the defensive end against faster players and only has 2 steals on the season.
Shooting Guard: Terry Whisnat II (No. 31), a 6'3", 185-pound sophomore, sees 20.8 minutes of action a game as an off-guard. Leonard Hamilton has told Whisnat: "If he can see the orange on the rim then it's a good shot." This tells you pretty much all that you need to know about Whisnat. He can't really create his own shot, and he doesn't record much in the way of rebounds (1.6) or assists (.8) per game. But when he gets his 3-point shot off, it is a thing of beauty: 3.7 of his 5.4 field goal attempts per game come from behind the 3-point arc, and he's connecting on 44.1% of them, allowing him to average 7.4 points per game. Defensively, Whisnat is still not a great on-the-ball defender and too often gives opposing guard too much space to shoot or drive.
Shooting Guard: Rounding out the three guard lineup is the supremely talented and supremely confident Michael Snaer (No. 21), a 6'5", 202-pound senior. UVa fans probably best remember Snaer for going scoreless in about the first 36 minutes of last season's game in Tallahassee before driving multiple daggers into the Cavaliers' collective heart down the stretch in FSU's 63-60 win. That game is pretty much a microcosm of Snaer's up-and-down career. Snaer uses his top notch athleticism and high release jumper to pace the Noles with 15.1 points per game. But his offense isn't always there. Against Maryland, Snaer scored 15 points on 5-8 shooting, but he only scored a combined 17 points on 5-16 shooting against Clemson and UNC. Another problem for Snaer is that he is a turnover machine when he tries to take it to the hoop as reflected by his 3.3 turnovers per game. But Snaer now takes 5.5 of his 10.7 field goal attempts from behind the arc and connects on 40.2% of them. Defensively, he is fast, athletic, and has a long enough wingspan to disturb the shots of even the ACC's best shooters.
Power Forward: Okaro White (No. 10), a 6'8", 204-pound power forward, should start at the "4." In last year's Florida State Primer, I noted how White started in the Noles' early games before being relegated to the bench due to offensive deficiencies. This season, the player often referred to as a 'tweener has really picked it up. He's averaging 13.4 points per game on 50.4% shooting and has even displayed a nice touch from 3-point range (40.9% on 2.8 attempts per game). And while White has always been a good defender, he's really picked it up on the defensive end, posting career highs in blocks (1.4) and steals (1.1) per game.
Center: Kiel Turpin (No. 11), a 7'0", 240-pound junior who came from Lincoln Junior College, has started each of Florida State's 16 games but only averages 12.9 minutes per game. Turpin led Lincoln to back-to-back national titles and was MVP both years. He thus came to Tallahassee with high expectations given his athleticism and sweet touch with the ball. But something was lost in translation. Turpin is scoring a mere 3.9 points per game on 46.2% shooting from the field and 58.3% accuracy from the free throw line. Turpin has also proven to be nothing more than adequate as a defender.
6. Key Reserves. Some of the bench depth ...
Point Guard: With Montay Brandon averaging 21.4 minutes per game at the point, he's basically splitting minutes with backup Devon Bookert (No. 1), a 6'3", 185-pound freshman that sees 18.6 minutes of action a game. Bookert isn't the most athletic player in the world, but he has a terrific handle and court savvy that belies his age. It is unusual for a freshman point to play within himself, but that's exactly what Bookert has done. He's averaging 5.4 points per game on 50% shooting, and his assist/turnover ratio is 2.4/1.6. Bookert, though, isn't a great defender, especially against offensively inclined foes and only averages .7 steals a game.
Shooting Guard: This year for Ian Miller (No. 30), a 6'3", 186-pound junior, has to qualify as a disappointment. After averaging 10.3 points as a sophomore, Miller was supposed to take the leap as a junior to a solid starter, and he did indeed start the first 5 games. But he hasn't started another game since, and that's because he simply hasn't been nearly as productive as last year, and that was even before a bone bruise in his foot sidelined him for several weeks. His points per game have dropped to 6.2, and his shooting percentages from the field (35.4% vs. 39.7%), 3-point range (33.3% vs. 35.4%), and the free throw line (47.6% vs. 77.4%) have all dipped. Even Miller's defensive intensity, usually his strong suit, has waned, and this explains why he has ceded his minutes to younger players.
Shooting Guard/Small Forward: Aaron Thomas (No. 25), a 6'5", 195-pound sophomore, plays 16.2 minutes per game. Thomas is a slasher who likes to take it to the rim and has averaged 7.2 points per game on 44.1% shooting. Thomas isn't a threat at all from long range (18.2%) and has more turnovers per game (1.4) than assists (1.3). I like Thomas' potential, but I think that he's a good while away from being much of a threat against ACC opponents.
Power Forward: Terrance Shannon (No. 2), a 6'8", 240-pound redshirt junior, averages 22.3 minutes per game. After missing most of last season with a separated shoulder, Shannon has returned to being one of the best offensive rebounders in the league (2.2/game). Shannon is basically a garbage man with a high motor, averaging 8.9 points per game on 45.9% shooting, mostly on close range shots. Shannon's motor produces 1.3 steals on the defensive end but also 2.5 turnovers a game as he fumbles entry passes.
7. Prediction. The Team Rankings Simulation has this as a 63-61.7 Florida State win while 504-C Brandon has it as a 64.1-59.3 UVa win with the Hoos having a 64.3% chance of winning.
In years past, Virginia's injury situation with its bigs this year would have scared me to death. But this year, Florida State's frontline is a lot less imposing, and its backcourt is not nearly as good at forcing turnovers. Given the Cavaliers' youth, up-and-down year, and injuries, it is nearly impossible to say how they will do in any one given game. That said, Florida State is not a great offensive team, and the Seminoles' defense is not up to the standard of recent years. Given this, I don't think that they can blow UVa out. Instead, I expect a close game like both games last year. In the end, I think that Tony Bennett rallies the troops and that the Hoos end up winning a close one, 58-56.
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