Date/Time: Jan. 20, 2018 / Noon
Opponent: Florida State University
Site: Blacksburg, Virginia (Carilion Clinic Court at Cassell Coliseum)
Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network
Talent: Jon Laaser and Mike Burnop
Talent: Mike Couzens & Cory Alexander
Live Stats: HokieSports.com
Game Notes: Virginia Tech
SIRI 134 (Internet 955)
The Forest or the Trees
Buzzketball has started ACC play slowly and will need to defend Cassell if it wants to stay on track for tournament play. That's going to be a TALL task with the Seminoles coming to town. The Hokies return home after a really depressing loss to Louisville. Another sloppy day with the basketball leading to 19 turnovers was the primary difference in taking a loss on the road. Hopefully Tech can take care of the ball a bit better and come away with an important win today as the Hokies take on the Seminoles. Florida State has the athleticism and size that have proven extremely difficult for the Hokies to overcome this season. The Hokies must be prepared to play all forty minutes or more if necessary if they want to come out a winner tonight.
Florida State comes in on a bit of a tailspin, having dropped out of the rankings after being ranked most of the season. The Seminoles have lost three of their last four, including to a revived Boston College squad, Louisville and Miami. They did manage a 2OT win over Syracuse when the Orange simply ran out of gas. Other notable wins are over George Washington, Rutgers, Florida and UNC. They have other big losses to Oklahoma State and Duke. This will be the fifty fifth meeting between the Hokies and Seminoles. Florida State leads the all-time series 32-22, starting all the way back in 1968. The Hokies last victory against the Seminoles came in 2016 at home.
The Seminoles are coached by Leonard Hamilton, who has coached FSU since 2002, and before that coached Miami starting in 1990. Hamilton has almost three decades of coaching against the Hokies in all their different forms over the years. Hamilton has enjoyed what many would consider a quiet run of success at Florida State considering the other ACC opponents. He has led FSU to 20 or more wins in ten of sixteen seasons, including a conference tournament championship in 2012. He has taken the Seminoles to the NCAA tournament five times and the NIT seven times. His Achilles heel has usually been to end up on the backside of the middle of the ACC, finishing .500 or less in nine of fifteen seasons.
Defensively, the Seminoles employ a high pressure man to man defense primarily that varies in its starting point throughout the game. They regularly switch up to full court pressure in order to create turnovers and get easy transition baskets. One thing Hamilton and his staff do better than most is assigning defensive matchups. You may see some unusual pairings but they aim to best utilize their players strengths on the defensive end to cause the most problems for their opponents. Some assignments might be based on strengths to turn the ball over, others might be based on ability to rebound effectively and once in a while they even identify the best chance to score in transition with matchups.
Offensively, Florida State has historically run a motion offense that relied heavily on its bigs to score or distribute but with his current personnel, Hamilton has had to change to a more motion based system that relies on his perimeter players to score for the Seminoles. Regardless of the change, it appears to be working, with the Seminoles off to their second best start ever under Hamilton. So far this season, Florida State is 24th in points per contest at 84 per game. Tech has to expect to play a shootout if it hopes to win this contest.
What does that mean for the Hokies?
The Hokies are going to need to hit their shots because this is a team that can drain it from three and has the talent to get open regularly against them. They also will have to contend with bigger bigs underneath which has been the Hokies Achilles heel all season.
This could be one of the highest paced games this season especially if Florida State is looking to run away early by wearing the Hokies out. If the Hokies are unable to take care of the ball then things go bad as quickly as they give the ball away.
The Seminoles surprisingly dont heavily rely on their starting five, although four of whom play twenty five or more minutes per contest. This is one of the most balanced and widely used rosters Tech will face in the ACC. Hamilton so far has regularly used 11 players per contest so Tech has to be ready to face fresh legs and not see many opponents in foul trouble. They have eight players averaging at least 6 points per contest.
Part of the Seminoles needing to rely on such a deep roster though is foul trouble. Five Seminoles average more than 2.4 fouls per contest and they send opponents to the line 18.4 points per contest. Surprisingly, the Seminoles actually manage to get to the line more though at 20.7 times per contest. As a team though they only manage 68% from the line.
Terrance Mann, (#14), 6'6, 204 Lbs Junior Guard is averaging 15.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.9 APG, and 1.1 SPG. Mann essentially has taken over the Seminoles top scorer, giving Hamilton a long arm defender with a big enough body to keep shooters off balanced but also able to crash in to provide weak side help. He is hitting 65% inside but struggles from outside at 30%. He does manage to hit 70% of his free throws.
Braian Angola, (#11), 6'6, 195 Lbs, Senior is scoring 14.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.4 APG and 1.6 SPG. He shoots 44% inside and 42% outside and will be the biggest threat to have the night of his life from outside. He currently attempts over 6 threes per game. He also hits 82% of his free throws. He has been a major find for Hamilton, as this is only his second season with the Seminoles and does just about everything both offensively and defensively for the Seminoles.
CJ Walker, (#2), 6'1, 195 Lbs Sophomore is scoring 9.4 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, and 1.4 SPG. He manages 45% inside and 33% outside. His free throws are going in at a 77% clip.
MJ Walker, (#23), 6'5, 205 Lbs Five Star Freshman is scoring 7.2 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 1.2 APG this season. He has struggled to find his shot though, hitting 35% inside but 38% from outside so another shooter the Hokies will need to stay close to.
Phil Cofer, (#0), 6'8, 205 Lbs Senior Forward is averaging 12.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, amd 1 APG. He is scoring 53% inside and 39% from outside so Blackshear and Clarke need to realize he will step outside to shoot. He attempts almost 4 outside shots per contest.
Chris Koumadje (#21) 7'4, 233 Lbs Junior Center is also providing 8.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG and 2.4 BPG but is seeing limited minutes in recovery from an injury in November. In four games back he has struggled in three of those contests, much like the Seminoles.
In his stead, Freshman Mfiondu Kabengele (#25), 6'9, 235 lbs has stepped up, scoring 8.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, and 1 BPG.
What to expect from Florida State?
The Seminoles will have several options in this game. I believe they will come out playing their normal game, working for open perimeter shots and getting good looks while creating transition basket opportunities. The Seminoles have four players that average at least 1 Steal per game. They regularly turn their opponents over with 7.6 SPG and force 16 turnovers per contest.
If their normal style of play doesn't work for them, then I expect them to transition into dominating the paint against us simply because we don't have the players available to reliably deny them the lane.
One scary number to keep in mind is that Florida State is shooting 53% from the inside as a team this year. They can simply put the ball in the basket.
The biggest change has been their steady play on defense this season. That has probably been the most crucial change in the Seminoles and why they are where they are so far. This team averages 5.3 blocks per game so the Hokies have to find ways to avoid having their shot swatted while still scoring inside.
The biggest way to counteract this is turning Florida State over. The Seminoles average 14 turnovers per game, most of that with the starters, so if the Hokies can up that total a bit it will take scoring possessions away quickly. That becomes even more important because this is an opponent that just doesn't foul that much which the Hokies have used time and time again this year to distance themselves.
The Seminoles are averaging 84 PPG and only allowing opponents 71.2 PPG. That's a 13 point average margin of victory so far this season. They haven't had to deal with many close games so if the Hokies are able to pressure the Seminoles to make mistakes it could lead to them collapsing late.
Tech needs to be ready to keep a high paced tempo the entire game without letting up if they want to win this matchup. They have to be able to get a high number of transition baskets by forcing Florida State into turnovers.
Tech will have a tough time winning the lane, so it has to be able to hit its jumpers, especially critical is hitting its perimeter shots. Tech likely needs to shoot better than 50% from outside to be a factor in this game.
Tech has to still make an attempt at getting to the basket with Blackshear, Robinson and Clarke. If they forego working the ball inside than the Seminoles will be able to ignore the inside and focus solely on the perimeter. The
Hokies dearly need clean looks today to stay in this game.
Last and probably most critical, the Hokies must avoid foul trouble. They can ill afford to have starters in foul trouble since the bench has not been called upon much in conference play.
Highlight of the Louisville Game
"He has an uncanny ability to understand time, score, momentum ... He can pass, dribble and shoot and he feels comfortable anywhere on the floor."@RTD_MikeBarber on @kjblack15 📰 » https://t.co/hwMnMdHwP7 pic.twitter.com/5B65Jz9QAT— VT Men's Basketball (@HokiesMBB) January 17, 2018
Kerry Blackshear continues to deliver, this time with a double-double of 19 and 12 along with 2 assists and a steal.
Ideally the Hokies would just keep running but I think with how well Florida State uses their bench and how limited Tech's bench is, it will require them to strategically slow the game at points. Expect to see a fast paced game on both sides in the first half and then watch Tech aim to slow that down in the second half if they are able to develop a lead. The deeper into the shot clocks Tech can take Florida State, the better as they just aren't geared to play half court ball.
Tech has to use its speed and athleticism. They have to find open looks and they have to be able to hit those shots. Defensively they have to be able to limit the number of attempts Florida State gets either by forcing turnovers or bad shots. Do these things and it's a close game. Without them it could be another blowout.
I expect to see Buzz stretch the floor, especially on defense. Buzz will likely have to use some full court pressure in this game as well as some zone defense to counter the Seminoles offense. Force them to eat up a third of the shot clock before they cross the midline.
I really wanted to be able to say that Tech would win this game but with the size and talent of their opponent, Tech takes another on the chin, hopefully in less give away fashion as last time out. Tech loses 86-84 with a couple bad passes.