StLou's Previews: Florida State Seminoles

Florida State Seminoles

Virginia takes its perfect ACC record on the road to face one of the conference's streakiest teams. The Seminoles have scored some big wins this year, and will be looking to solidify their tournament resume with an upset of the #2 Hoos. Will Virginia be ready for the challenge?

Game Details:

Date/Time: Wed, Feb 7th, 7:00 PM Eastern
Location: Donald L Tucker Center, Tallahassee, FL

What 'They' Say

Vegas: Virginia -3; O/U 132
TAPE: Ranks FSU #13, predicts a 72-67 UVA win, 65% confidence
KenPom: Ranks FSU #22, predicts a 67-62 UVA win, 69% confidence


Depth Chart:


PG #2 CJ Walker, 6-1 195, SO
25.9 mpg, 9.3 ppg, 3 apg, 34% 3P%
SG #11 Braian Angola, 6-6 195, SR 
28.3 mpg, 14.1 ppg, 3.2 apg, 41% 3P% 
SF #14 Terance Mann, 6-6 215, JR 
30.4 mpg, 15.5 ppg, 2.8 apg, 27% 3P% 
PF #0 Phil Cofer, 6-8 218, SR 
29.6 mpg, 13.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 49% FG% 
C #21 Christ Koumadje, 7-4 233, JR 
19.8 mpg, 8.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.1 bpg 

Key Reserves


#23 M.J. Walker, 6-5 205, FR
19.7 mpg, 8.3 ppg, 1.2 apg, 40% 3P%
G/F #3 Trent Forrest, 6-5 215, SO 
24.2 mpg, 6.1 ppg, 3.9 apg, 22% 3P% 
F/C  #25 Mfiondu Kabengele, 6-9 235, FR 
14.5 mpg, 7.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 50% FG% 
C #12 Ike Obiagu, 7-0 240, FR 
11.4 mpg, 2.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2 bpg 


The ABC's of FSU:

A) I can't explain why their defense is so bad, but it is. Their roster is long, athletic, and relatively deep (a comfortable 8-9 man rotation in ACC play). They're pretty experienced (only two freshmen in the top 8). And yet they're 13th in the ACC in defensive efficiency (110.4), were 15th as recently as last week, which means there isn't anything they're doing particularly well. They let teams score from deep (allowing 38% from 3, 12th in the league), at the rim (49.5% allowed, 11th) despite the presence of a 7'4" anchor, foul a ton (14th in the ACC at putting opponents on the line), and can't create turnovers (also 14th). Disciplined but still aggressive play from our diverse offense should result in a lot of good looks, especially if we can challenge them to defend complicated screens or off-ball motion.

B) Their offense is largely position-less. A staple of recent Hamilton teams has been to have a variety of big wings play the 2-4 spots, sometimes even the 1. This year is no different. Angola, Mann, Cofer, MJ Walker, and Forrest all fit this bill. They'll take turns with the ball in their hands, as Mann, Angola, CJ Walker, and Forrest all average between 2.5 and 3.4 assists a game, making it hard to key in on one ball handler. They've all been effective scorers in ACC play as well, each with an offensive efficiency between 103.8 and 120.6. While none are necessarily snipers from 3, everyone except Forrest is at least capable of knocking down 3-pointers as necessary. This versatily is making them very hard to defend, and it's why they've had the ACC's 3rd best offense so far, dropping 84 points a game in conference play. Mann, Cofer, and Angola are the lead dogs, each taking about 10 shots a night, but the threats really can come from anywhere, no true weak link in the roster offensively. Of the posts, only freshman big man Kabengele is a threat away from the basket, shooting 9/20 from deep on the year.

C) They protect their home court. FSU has only lost one home game this year. They didn't lose at home at all last year. It's quietly become one of the more challenging places in the ACC to win, right up there with Cameron and JPJ. Running their home/away splits, the numbers really show up in their offensive performance. Their defensive efficiencies are pretty stable regardless of location (109.8 away, 110.7 home). But their offense really comes alive at home. The H/A split is 118.2 in Tallahassee, only 107.5 on the road. Maybe it's confidence, maybe it's a comfort level with their own rims, but we should be prepared to see them making some tough shots in this game. 

Their season to date:

Florida State is 17-6 on the year, 6-5 in the ACC. They've struggled on the road, dropping games at Wake and BC, but have been strong at home, beating the likes of Miami and UNC. Most recently they scored an 80-76 road win at Louisville on Saturday. 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Slow down the game. Florida state wants to run. That's no secret. They're comfortable like that. And they will try their damnedest to force tempo on this game. But a few teams have managed to slow them down this year with effective results. The Noles are racking up, on average 72.5 possessions a game in conference play (up from 72 on the season as a whole). But on the occasions they've been held to 70 or fewer possessions? A 76-72 loss at Wake (66 possessions), a 73-69 loss to Louisville (66 possessions), and in the non-conference struggling to narrow wins over Rutgers (KenPom #153, only a 78-73 win) and Charleston Southern (KenPom #288). In their ACC wins, they average 76.5 possessions played, and in their losses, 73.2 possessions. This key is somewhat of a no-brainer, as imposing our pace of play on running teams is kind of Tony Bennett's thing, but it needs to be said. The longer FSU is forced to defend, the more their defense breaks down (Wake dropped 1.15 ppp, they average only 0.97 ppp in ACC play), and given the continuous offense we run, FSU should struggle to keep up for all 30 seconds of the shot clock. 

2) Force them to play downhill hero ball. This means make life hell for them on the perimeter and deny passing lanes; make them play 1-on-1. This was the defensive game plan in FSU's two worst offensive outputs in ACC play. Miami, in the first matchup, held them to 5/24 (21%) 3-point shooting and a 10:15 A:TO ratio. Boston College held them to 5/26 (19%) from 3 and an 11:10 A:TO ratio. This shouldn't be too big a leap for our defense, which is best in the ACC at 3-point defense (27.6%), and given how we've excelled at takeaways, 1-on-1 drives have basically been all we've been leaving opponents (we also lead the ACC in A:FG ratio; only 39% of our opponents' baskets come off an assist, meaning 61% of their makes are 1-on-1). 

3) Win the foul battle. There's an interesting dynamic at play looking at foul statistics for both teams. When we have the ball, it's weakness-vs-weakness; we're the worst in the ACC at drawing FTs (FTA/FGA ratio of 19.2%), they're second-to-last in giving them up (36.8%). When they have the ball, it's strength-vs-strength, with our defense being the best in the ACC at limiting FT rate (giving up only 20.5%), and FSU being the league leaders in drawing them (38.6%). Something's gotta give here. Their big athletes are going to turn the corner into the lane and look to make contact, putting the onus on our defenders to challenge cleanly. Generally we do okay here, but against Duke we saw Wilkins and Mamadi have issues with similar strategy, combining for 6 fouls in only 24 total minutes, so it's something to watch. On the other end of the floor, it means we can't shy away from contact when we go into the lane. The last couple games, against elite rim-protecting teams in Syracuse and Louisville, I advocated relying on the midrange game to score over the likes of Anas Mahmoud and Pascal Chukwu. That can afford to change in this game, as FSU is not known as a shot blocking team (13th in the ACC in blk%), and their center rotation of Koumadje, Kabengele, and Obiagu are relatively foul prone (averaging 6 fouls per 40, for comparison, Mamadi is the only player we have that commits more than 4 fouls per 40). This calls for more aggression than we typically show, going to the rim strong and in the process earning some bonus trips to the FT line. I'm not optimistic on this key, to be honest, as we didn't get to be dead last in FT rate by accident... But should the Hoos find a way to make a dent here, it could be the points that swing a tight game in our favor. 

The Paradox of Florida State

Updated on February 6, 2018 by Seattle Hoo

Florida State is confusing.  Leonard Hamilton was known for his defense and he plays 13 guys at a frenetic pace, the rim protected by seven-footers - but the defense is amongst the worst in the ACC.  They have no sure-thing NBA stars and aside from one guy from South America named after a country in Africa are an adventure from the arc - but they have one of the most potent offenses in the conference.  On paper, they are everything Virginia Basketball is built to defeat - but they have just the kind of players that can be the most difficult for Virginia to contain.

FSU plays games with a lot of fouls both ways, not a lot of turnovers, and lets you shoot from the arc

It's somewhat paradoxical.  The two seniors will have to figure it out.

This is game three of the Nigel Johnson suspension. He would have come in very handy in this one. Sophomore point guard C.J. Walker is the spark plug for the Seminole engine, and is 6-1 and quick.  With the Florida State depth and pace, Johnson's minutes on Walker would be a welcome thing indeed.  But there will be no @TakingFlight_23 on Wednesday night in Tallahassee, just Nigel Johnson in street clothes.

Florida State does not really have one perimeter guy you have to shut down, and the corollary is also true, that there is no one guy you can take out of the game to cripple their offense.  The perimeter players are somewhat fungible in that any one of them is capable of getting to the rim or getting hot from the outside.  As such, Coach Bennett is likely to employ a freely switching scheme, and Devon Hall won't be assigned one guy to Erase.

If there is a guy, my guess would be Braian Angola. He's the most explosive of the Seminole perimeter tribe. Last year he was a shooter, but this year he has added the bounce. Now he can kill you from deep or drive it through the heart of your defense. Erasing him would put more pressure on the rest of the Noles to hit from the arc.  Bennett might choose to have Hall focus on Angola.

The other would be Terance Mann, the 6-6 junior from Lowell, Massachusetts. Mann is not a good three-point shooter but he is extremely difficult to keep away from the rim. His offensive rebounding is superlative and he is a good finisher.  Staying in front of Mann and especially putting a body on him whenever a shot goes up are crucial.  Bennett might decide Mann's offensive rebounding is the main threat and plan for Hall to Erase him.

Florida State's offense relies on transition and penetration to generate most of its three-point baskets. Pick-and-pop is another weapon they have with senior Phil Cofer and 6-9 freshman Mfiondu Kabengele, both of whom can hit the outside shot.  Transition defense is rarely an issue for Virginia, so it falls to preventing penetration and defending the ball screen.  Cofer plays 30 minutes per game and is arguably Florida State's most important player.  He can score inside or out and draws a lot of fouls. He will be The Zay's primary antagonist.

Florida State's defense is, as the chart above shows, bad.  It is, however, long and active and almost always has a 7-footer in the middle.  Getting to the rim will not be easy.  Or it shouldn't be, but the paradox is that even with a behemoth like Christ Koumadje anchoring the middle, they are 13th in the conference at block percentage and only 8th at defensive OR%.  So they don't block shots, they don't seal the boards, and they don't generate steals (12th) or turnovers (14th).  Couple that with fouling a lot (14th)  and giving up good 3-point looks (12th), and it looks like the Hoos should be able to have a highly efficient offense.

Having Hall back at full strength would be a big help, as his combination of outside shooting and dribble penetration would severely stress the Seminole defense.  Wilkins should be able to work the offensive boards and win extra chances for the Hoos.


This is honestly my least favorite kind of team to play; long, athletic, and streaky. They play to the level of their opponents, all but one of their ACC games ending regulation with a single digit margin. That means they have a puncher's chance if they decide to focus and put it all together for a night. They're also not afraid of top teams, having already knocked off Florida, UNC, Miami, and Louisville this year. The metrics say this is one we should win safely, but this could look like last week's Louisville game, where we have to win it on the offensive end. In the end, I think this is a tight game throughout, a lot of trading punches for 35 minutes, with the last 5 minutes decided by who's knocking down timely shots or drawing friendly whistles.

I was 50/50 on this as I started wrapping up this preview, I think there are just some matchup issues favoring Florida State given how well they shoot at home. But if it's 50/50, then I think our Wahoos have proven this season they deserve the benefit of the doubt. So while I wouldn't necessarily be surprised should the Noles score the upset tonight, I think Virginia make the plays down the stretch to pull it out.

Hoos Win - 70-67