Friday, January 17, 2014

game preview: Florida State

Date/Time: Saturday, January 18; 12:00

TV: ACC Network, ESPN3

Record against the Noles: 19-22

Last meeting: UVA 62, FSU 50; 1/4/14, Tallahassee

Last game: Duke 69, UVA 65 (1/13); FSU 63, Miami 53 (1/15)


UVA: 63.3 (#333)
FSU: 68.3 (#134)

UVA: 107.5 (#112)
FSU: 110.0 (#68)

UVA: 87.6 (#3)
FSU: 89.2 (#6)

UVA: .9137 (#17)
FSU: .9179 (#15)

Projected lineups:


PG: London Perrantes (4.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 3.4 apg)
SG: Malcolm Brogdon (10.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.6 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (10.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.9 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (6.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.3 apg)
C: Mike Tobey (7.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.4 apg)

Florida State:

PG: Devon Bookert (8.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.1 apg)
SG: Montay Brandon (9.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.8 apg)
SF: Okaro White (12.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.3 apg)
PF: Robert Gilchrist (4.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 0.3 apg)
C: Boris Bojanovsky (6.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.3 apg)

The first rematch of the season is Saturday, with Florida State coming to town looking for revenge.  The game in their building wasn't especially close and the Noles looked horrible, which may well have spurred them on to better things; they're on a three-game winning streak.  UVA needs this one in order to ensure a good shot at a good homestand, by which I mean going at least 2-1 if not 3-0.  North Carolina is no pushover, after all, even if they're winless in league play.

-- UVA on offense

Big teams are usually good on defense, and Leonard Hamilton teams are usually good on defense; since FSU is both, it stands to reason it'll be tough to score.  FSU has height everywhere, not just down low, and it results in them being the second-best team in the country at defending two-point shots.  This is one of the few teams against whom UVA won't find a size advantage in the backcourt; quite the opposite, actually, since the Noles feature 6'7" Montay Brandon at shooting guard and nobody under 6'3".

Nearly all the time, the Noles will have a shot-blocking seven-footer on the court, as they platoon their centers Boris Bojanovsky and Michael Ojo - in a 40-minute game, they'll both be off the court less than eight minutes.  Bojanovsky is a taller, skinnier Mike Tobey in so many respects - skilled, not yet playing to the potential folks think he has, no ups to speak of, looks like a way-overgrown 12-year-old but doesn't shave in an effort to look closer to 15.  He's 7'3", though, so naturally he blocks all the shots.  So does Ojo.

In the backcourt, the most dangerous defender is probably Aaron Thomas and his two steals a game.  Thomas is technically a reserve, but plays starters' minutes.  FSU is pretty good overall at creating turnovers, but it's not what drives their elite defensive rating.  It's the shot-blocking and the low, low shooting percentages from opponents.

There's one chink in their armor, and it's a surprising one given their size: defensive rebounding.  Bojanovsky in particular has an embarrassingly low rebounding rate for a guy his size, or even for a guy half a foot shorter.  So does starting power forward Robert Gilchrist.  Ojo is much better when he's in (which is only 13 minutes a game) and Okaro White is an excellent athlete and does decent work on the boards, but FSU is 291st in the country in defensive rebounding.

So Tobey ought to be important in this game.  Interestingly, despite being one of the country's elite offensive rebounders (weird but true for a Tony Bennett team) he was held scoreless and almost entirely ineffective in the last matchup.  Even though the Hoos won handily, that probably can't happen again; UVA's frontcourt, but Tobey in particular, need to do some quality work against FSU's biggest weakness.  Doing so last time (an incredible offensive rebound rate of close to 40%) was one of the biggest reasons for the easy win.

Good ball movement and transition baskets are two more weapons an offense has to neutralize opponent size, and UVA did both pretty well last time as well as limited themselves to only six turnovers.  Still, it's a testament to Florida State's defense that UVA destroyed the Noles on the offensive glass, didn't turn the ball over, and still scored below the point-per-possession mark.  It's just a fact of life for this game that scoring won't come easy.

-- UVA on defense

Defense and a really sloppy first half from FSU contributed mightily to the near-blowout a couple weeks ago; UVA can control one of those two items.  Part of the reason this can be a good matchup for UVA is FSU's style; they prefer to go inside (who wouldn't, with that size?) and limit three-point attempts.  They're not actually terrible at shooting them, they just don't have that one single guy who's a go-to shooter.  If anything, that might be Ian Miller, but he doesn't make you go argh just by hoisting up for the shot.

Come to think of it, though, maybe that sloppy first half can be repeated; as with their defense, FSU does most things pretty well and one thing really badly.  That one thing is take care of the ball.  They turn it over more than once every five possessions, which is stinky as hell.  They're 33rd in the Slop Factor metric I literally just thought of, which I got by subtracting a team's opponents' steal rate from their turnover rate; in other words, only 32 other teams in the country turn over the ball unprovoked more than the Noles.

UVA's obvious tendency to collapse and sometimes double-team in the paint clearly is a good way to defend Florida State.  A lot of those turnovers obviously come from FSU's bigs, but their primary ballhandlers, Miller and Devon Bookert, can be pretty loose with the ball too.  Other than Montay Brandon, FSU's guards are all over 2 TOs a game.

FSU is strange in another way: their two leading scorers come off the bench.  These are Miller and Aaron Thomas.  Okaro White is a third primary threat; there's a pretty big dropoff after that.  The backcourt players, save Brandon, are all excellent free-throw shooters and like to slash at the rim, so foul discipline is key.  Both 7-footers, though not primary or even secondary scoring options, can be somewhat rangy shooters if you let them, though unlikely to do like Tobey and attempt 15-footers.

-- Outlook

UVA won the last game by pounding FSU at their weaknesses: turnovers and defensive rebounding.  That's exactly how they'll need to approach this one.  The Hoos will be at a disadvantage, in that the team that lost the first game has much more ability to adjust.  Being at home will help, but the home-court advantage could be mitigated by the early game time.

Despite all that, you have to like UVA, despite the fairly dominant streak of games FSU has played in the past couple weeks.  The team that doesn't have a pair of glaring weaknesses (only one, which isn't the kind that's worth game-planning to exploit), playing at home, has got to be the smart pick.  Though I don't expect the game to be as wide-open as last time, I think the odds are in our favor on this one.

Final score: UVA 56, FSU 50

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