What: The last home game before a long 1-game road trip
When: 8:00 PM
Where: Comcast and the CW in Maryland (going to get a solid audience of middle school girls accidentally flipping to the game tonight)
Line: Maryland (-6.5)
Up until I really looked into them a few weeks ago, I thought the Seminoles (9-5; 1-0 ACC) were just having the same issues that Leonard Hamilton teams always run into: more than enough defense, but not nearly enough scoring. But after being the darling of KenPom’s adjusted defense rankings the past three years (1st in 2010, 1st in 2011 and a “disappointing” 15th in 2012), D has seemingly gone by the wayside in Tallahassee.
The Seminoles are 97th in those adjusted defense rankings this year, good for 8th in the ACC. They’re allowing opponents to shoot 40.5% from the field (104th NCAA) and score 67.6 points per game (202nd NCAA). So although last year’s ACC champion squad also started 9-5 before getting red hot, this year has been a very different means to the same end. With major contributors Bernard James, Devidias Dulkys, Xavier Gibson, and Luke Loucks all graduated and a strangely toothless defense, this FSU squad looks to be in a similar hole without the tools to get out.
Let’s move on to Michael Snaer. If you follow ACC basketball, Snaer is probably the name that you know at FSU. He’s an athletic 6’5” wing who defends well, and made his name icing game winning threes while playing chicken with the buzzer last year. This season, Snaer seems to have taken that reputation to heart, as he’s actually taken more threes (72) than twos (71). Not necessarily a bad thing considering he’s shooting a cool 38% inside the arc and a much better 40.3% outside of it. Long story short, Snaer is the Bizarro Erick Green: force him inside the arc, because he can kill you from downtown. In fact, in the next interesting FSU twist, practically the whole team can.
The Seminoles 3-point percentage has risen dramatically from last season’s 35.4% (118th NCAA) to 38.8% (27th NCAA). That percentage is so good it’s strange that they don’t take more threes. Snaer is the only one on the team with 50+ attempts (although Terry Whisnant is essentially there with 49). Regardless whether it’s Snaer, Whisnant (21/49, 42.9%), Okaro White (17/38, 44.7%), or Devon Bookert (14/28 50%), this team can definitely knock down open threes. Maryland has had noticeable lapses in concentration defending the perimeter this year, but they haven’t really been burned yet. Florida State has the best team three-point percentage of any opponent Maryland has faced this season, so make no mistake, if they don’t get out on shooters, they will definitely pay in this game.
White is the 2nd scorer for Leonard Hamilton. He’s a stretched out 4 who’s made himself into a legitimate outside threat while still leading the team in rebounding at 6.1 per game. While I think Snaer can be contained by either Wells or a healthy Faust, White is the one who really provides a matchup problem. In a perfect world, he would fall in love with his much improved outside shot and stay at arms length all game. But if he decides he wants to isolate and penetrate (Walt Clyde Frazier TM) there’s really not a matchup for him. Layman has the size, but nowhere near the foot speed to stick with an athlete like White. He could be an issue on the boards as well, because for all of the things that the Terps are inside (large, fundamentally sound, productive) there’s not much they can do about a freak athlete tipping balls up (like Cadarian Raines did for Va Tech).
Otherwise, this team has pieces that can put up points, but nobody that’s necessarily terrifying. Terrance Shannon is a more traditional 4 than White (he’s taken 0 threes this year) who has scored in double figures six times, but has also scored 10 points or less in 4 of his last 6 games. For the second game in a row, Maryland will face an opponent that doesn’t agree with their “sharing is caring” philosophy. Florida State averages an anemic 12.7 assists per game (197th NCAA) with no individual averaging even three.
Three things to watch for:
There’s a Faust in the House!
With all indications from Alex Prewitt over at the Washington Post that Nick Faust will suit up tonight, the question now shifts to how much will he play. A lot of people are expecting Jake Layman to get plenty of burn due to his breakout last game, but I don’t necessarily see it that way. Turgeon always says it’s about closers more than starters, and nobody closed that VA Tech game better than Seth Allen. Sure Allen will get a few minutes at the point, but his game is much better suited to being a trigger happy 2 man along side the more patient Pe’Shon Howard. By no fault of his own, I think Faust’s leash just got a little shorter. Considering his recent underwhelming play (not just the obvious offensive shortcomings, but he hasn’t had a steal since the Monmouth game) and the play of Layman and Allen, I can’t see him getting more than 20 minutes tonight in his return.
Beat the Press:
One thing I failed to mention about Virginia Tech is how shallow they were on the bench: the Hokies were working with only 8 scholarship players in their loss at Comcast last week. With that few bodies on the bench, it’s a difficult balancing act knowing how long to employ a press without completely gassing your lineup. However, Tech’s press was what got them back into the game. Late in the second half, they called the dogs on and forced Maryland into a rash of turnovers that pulled the game close. Florida State is deeper than VA Tech (10 players averaging 10+ minutes), and I think Leonard Hamilton would be crazy not to use that depth to replicate the press that Tech used so briefly but effectively. FSU may not be accustomed to taking something that doesn’t belong to them (7.4 spg, 134th in NCAA), but judging by what I saw last game it could be easy money.
Len gets some competition:
Last game VA Tech trotted out resident “biggest guy on the roster” Joey van Zegeren against Alex Len, and Len finished with a relatively quiet 16/9 vs. a freshman playing way beyond his usual minutes. Tonight, Len could face a rotating door of 7 footers as Leonard Hamilton has three in Kiel Turpin, Boris Bojanovsky, and the lesser used Michael Ojo. Turpin and Bojanovsky have been used sparingly this season, but really how many teams have 7 footers for them to play against? I’m actually excited to see this, against smaller more agile guys Len attracts more attention than a bug zapper and is hesitant to put the ball on the floor. Tonight he may finally get some alone time in the post which could lead to the breakout we’ve all been waiting for.
Once more, I have to say that 2011-2012 Florida State also started 9-5 with some terrible losses (Princeton and Harvard)? But again this is different, FSU lost a lot of important pieces from that team to graduation so this 9-5 is more legitimate source of worry in Tallahassee than last year’s. This is always a tough game, and if it were in Tallahassee where the Noles usually play at a whole other level, I might pick them in an upset. But the Comcast Center swings this one for me, with the Terps yet again dominating the glass and forcing Michael Snaer into a bad shooting night on the way to a double digit win.
Maryland – 76 Florida State – 65