Wednesday, March 11, 2015

game preview: Florida State

Date/Time: Thursday, March 12; 12:00


Record against the Noles: 22-22

Last meeting: UVA 51, FSU 41; 2/22

Last game: UL 59, UVA 57 (3/7); FSU 76, Clem. 73 (3/11)


UVA: 58.0 (#349)
FSU: 66.5 (#90)

UVA: 112.9 (#22)
FSU: 102.8 (#154)

UVA: 85.2 (#2)
FSU: 97.7 (#83)

UVA: .9622 (#3)
FSU: .6446 (#102)

Projected lineups:


PG: London Perrantes (6.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 4.7 apg)
SG: Malcolm Brogdon (13.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.6 apg)
SF: Evan Nolte (2.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 0.7 apg)
PF: Darion Atkins (7.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 0.7 apg)
PF: Anthony Gill (11.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 0.9 apg)

Florida State:

PG: Xavier Rathan-Mayes (14.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.4 apg)
SG: Devin Bookert (10.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.7 apg)
SG: Montay Brandon (11.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.9 apg)
PF: Phil Cofer (6.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 0.2 apg)
C: Kiel Turpin (5.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.1 apg)

Everything matters now, therefore game previews.  And if I told you about:

-- a 16-2 UVA team
-- that won the ACC regular season against Syracuse
-- by running away with the game in the second half
-- then lost its finale on the road on a big senior night for the opponent
-- and faced Florida State in the opening round of the ACC tourney

you still wouldn't know whether I was talking about 2014 or 2015.  Yup, it's shaping up a lot like it did last year.  UVA opens with nine-seed Florida State, who survived a near-choke against Clemson in their opener after leading most of the game.  The lone contest against FSU this year was a close one, in which FSU's terrific freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes made some tough shots, but also in which FSU scored four points in the final ten minutes.  The winner gets the Louisville-UNC winner - so a UVA win here would set up some interesting storylines.

-- UVA on offense

FSU has a pretty deep frontcourt, but it might be short a man after a strange play in the Clemson game: forward Phil Cofer, running the baseline to try and inbound the ball, slipped, lost the handle, and watched from his butt as a Clemson player picked it up and scored an easy layup.  Cofer hobbled off the court, having twisted his knee.  FSU has three seven-footers, and one is always on the court, but they're not known to ever play two of them at once, and Cofer is one of only two true power forwards on the roster.  The other, Jarquez Smith, is not the rebounder Cofer is, but is a better shot blocker.

On the good guys' sideline, it's the opposite story as Justin Anderson might finally be ready to return from a broken finger and surprise appendectomy.  I'm not sure he'd immediately jump right back into the starting lineup, but whether he does or whether he comes off the bench, the impact would be obvious.

FSU's calling card this year (as in many years) is size and length.  The smallest regular player (outside of the very lightly used Dayshawn Watkins) is 6'3" Devin Bookert.  They're athletic, tough shot-blockers, and frankly, Leonard Hamilton's teams usually make things difficult on opponents trying to score.  They don't gamble much because they don't need to.  The one puzzling thing is that despite their size and always having a seven-footer on the floor, they don't rebound well on defense.  Anthony Gill pulled down four offensive boards during the last game.

You'll recall, of course, that not only did the Hoos lack the presence of Justin Anderson, they also lost London Perrantes during this game.  For a short time there, Malcolm Brogdon was out, too.  Having all three for the duration of the game should help the offense, which produced one of its worst games of the season trying to solve the FSU defense.  The more ominous sign for FSU might be this, though: in three of four ACC rematches, the UVA offense improved over the previous showing - sometimes explosively, as Wake and VT would attest to.  The only exception was NC State, which was the first game UVA played without Anderson.  Expect Tony Bennett's scouting to pay off again.

-- UVA on defense

For all that athleticism and length, FSU has a few major weaknesses on offense.  They can't shoot and they turn the ball over a ton.  Nobody in particular is a huge turnover machine, they just all lose it with some consistency.  And despite Rathan-Mayes's 30-point outburst against Clemson, he's an under-.300 three-point shooter.

FSU doesn't shoot a lot of threes anyway, though, which is smart given the makeup of their team.  They'd rather go inside, and they shoot over 50% from two.  Montay Brandon is a very effective scorer inside the arc, and Rathan-Mayes's efficiency skyrockets when he goes inside as well.

Their big strength is their inside play - and not coincidentally, getting to the free-throw line (8th in the country in ratio of FT to FG) - so the fact that UVA is one of the elite teams in the country at interior defense (opponents shoot 39% inside the arc) is naturally encouraging.  (And goes a long way toward explaining why the last game was such a rugged affair.)

Much will be made, no doubt, of Rathan-Mayes's big game, and the analysts will probably say that stopping him is the key to winning.  UVA, though, will be happy to bet he can't shoot 5-for-9 from three again.  Keeping him out of the lane is more important, and of course, exactly what UVA's defense is geared to do.  Actually, for my money, it's the defensive rebounding that matters most.  FSU can hurt you with second-chance points.  The Hoos did a fantastic job on the defensive glass last time out, so, again, UVA is geared to stop the Noles.

-- Outlook

Last game was a rock fight and a half.  It wasn't pretty, but it was fun to watch regardless.  In an elimination game, there's no reason to expect any different.  I don't think it'll be an easy time scoring the ball for anyone.  UVA will get a much-needed shot of athleticism if Justin Anderson returns, which should help open up the offensive end.

It'll most likely be a pitchers' duel, though; bet on the team that sends Randy Johnson to the hill every damn night.

Final score: UVA 59, FSU 47

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