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Seminole Semis

Florida State Seminoles

Virginia is back in the ACCT semifinals for the fifth time in the last six years, this time against a ranked Florida State squad. Virginia ran away with the first matchup all the way back in early January, but a lot has changed since then. Will FSU be better prepared for the Hoos this time around?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Friday, March 15th, 7:00 pm ET
Location:Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC


What 'They' Say

Vegas:Virginia -9, O/U 125.5, equates to ~67-58 UVA win
TAPE:Ranks FSU #26, predicts a 67-57 UVA win, 82% confidence
KenPom:Ranks FSU #15, predicts a 68-59 UVA win, 81% confidence


Depth Chart:

PG#3 Trent Forrest, 6'4" 210, JR
30 mpg, 7.9 ppg, 3.9 apg, 17% 3P%
SG#23 M.J. Walker, 6'5" 213, SO
25 mpg, 7.9 ppg, 1.7 apg, 31% 3P%
SF#14 Terance Mann, 6'7" 215, SR
32 mpg, 10.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 47% FG%
PF#0 Phil Cofer, 6'8" 230, SR
27 mpg, 7.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 39% FG%
C#21 Christ Koumadje, 7'4" 268, SR
16 mpg, 6.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 61% FG%
Key Reserves
PG#11 David Nichols, 6'1" 185, SR
17 mpg, 5.5 ppg, 1.9 apg, 27% 3P%
G#5 PJ Savoy, 6'4" 210, SR
12 mpg, 5.4 ppg, 0.3 apg, 32% 3P%
F#24 Devin Vassell, 6'5" 170, FR
9 mpg, 3.6 ppg, 1 rpg, 46% FG%
C#25 Mfiondu Kabengele, 6'10" 250, SO
23 mpg, 14.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 51% FG%


The ABC's of Florida State:

A) This team is deep. Like legitimately goes 10 guys deep (we list 9 guys above, the max our system is set up for, I selectively left off Raiquan Gray, who chipped in 9 minutes, 4 points, and 3 rebounds in their quarterfinals overtime win over VT). All 10 average at least 9 minutes a game in ACC play, only one player playing over 30 mpg, which means these guys are fresher later in the year than most rosters, serving them well in tournament environments with limited recovery time. Any hopes that UVA might capitalize on tired FSU legs after their overtime game barely 24 hours prior, expect it to affect the Noles less than it would most other teams.

B) They're a big, athletic defense. FSU has incredible size and athleticism everywhere from the 1 to the 5 (reserve PG David Nichols being the lone expection) and use that to field a fierce, effective man defense that ranked 3rd in the ACC in efficiency this year. They've got the league's best paint defense, allowing just 42% shooting inside the arc, and teams have been forced to try to beat the Noles with the long ball. They don't force a ton of turnovers, but they do force bad shots, blocking many of them, and challenge passing lanes forcing teams out of systemic rhythms and into hero ball. Needless to say, UVA's Sides offense, which was highly effective against NC State in the 2nd half, is a poor schematic fit for attacking this FSU defense.

C) Mfiondu Kabengele has emerged as their offensive star. The sophomore big man has been coming off the bench all year, yet has become the Noles' most consistent scoring threat, leading the team in PPG in ACC play by a comfortable margin and earning Honorable Mention all-ACC honors. As much as FSU spreads the shots around their deep cast, Kabengele is still racking up over 14 ppg on a cool 54% shooting from 2 and 38% from 3 in league play. More than just his scoring, however, he's effective defending the paint (KenPom gives him the ACC's 6th best block rate) and rebounding well on both ends (ACC's 7th-best in both OR% and DR%). Oh, and did I mention no one in the conference (not even Zion and RJ) draw fouls at a higher rate? He's going to be a challenging cover for Salt and Diakite, and will likely overmatch Huff. It will be interesting to see how Tony schemes to stop him.


Their Season To Date

Florida State is 26-6 on the year, 13-5 in the ACC regular season. After a tough stretch to open ACC play in early January, losing 4 of their first 5 ACC games (respectable losses to UVA and Duke, awful losses to Pitt and BC), the Noles have won 13 of 14 games since, the only trip-up being at UNC. Granted, in that stretch they got neither Duke nor UVA again, so they were beating up on the ACC's bottom 10, but credit where it's due for beating the teams you're supposed to beat. Most recently FSU beat VT in overtime in the ACCT quarterfinals, a week after beating them in overtime on their senior night.


Keys to getting the win:

1) Play big. I know coach Bennett has been in love with the 3 guard lineup for long stretches lately, but this isn't the opponent for it. Florida State is a big, athletic team who will use that to overwhelm our 3-guard backcourt on both ends of the floor. We'll struggle getting past them, shooting over them, challenging their jumpers, and keeping them out of the lane. In our big January win, Kihei Clark came off the bench and played less than half the game against the Noles, with Mamadi starting alongside Salt, and those two bigs, along with Key, all getting over 20 minutes of PT.

2) Bait them into being a jump shooting team. In many ways a poor man's Duke on offense, the Noles prefer to make hay at the rim, both by posting up their bigs and driving their wings. They do have a couple of plus shooters (Mann and Vassell are over 40% on the year, and Kabengele has come on of late), but as a whole they shoot only 32% as a team from 3. Virginia should copy their defensive strategy from the Duke games and make the concession that if FSU can win by hitting contested 3's, hats off to them, but make them earn everything they attempt in the lane.

3) Win the FTA battle. FSU games tend to be whistle-heavy affairs. On one end the Noles are the ACC's 2nd best in drawing free throw attemps; on the other they're the league's 2nd worst in giving them up. In a win over NC State two weeks ago, the teams combined to shoot 51 FTAs. In a loss to Pitt back in January, the Panthers shot an ungodly 46 FTs. Virginia trends to the other end of the spectrum, both on offense and on defense, but in a tournament environment it's anyone's guess how the refs will be looking to call things. Florida State will play aggressive and UVA's defenders will have to be disciplined to not reach in, hack, or block on those drives. On the other end, Virginia must make Florida State pay for its tenacious paint defense by getting to the line more than usual. FSU will probably win the disparity here, but the Hoos must at a minimum keep it close. In January, the balance was 23 for FSU, 18 for UVA, a fair result.




FSU is a tough opponent for UVA. While the Hoos ran away with the game in January, the Noles have played UVA very well in the couple matchups prior. Their mix of athleticism, talent, and energy can at times overwhelm the more finesse UVA squad, causing our offense to stall out and our defenders to wear down.

The Hoos must commit to defending the paint and trust that FSU will repeat the cool shooting night we saw from them last time (6/23 from 3), while UVA attacked aggressively with a big lineup, set up the shooters for a low-volume but efficient night, and finished things off at the FT line (16/18 on the night). Expect FSU to shoot somewhat better this time making it a more challenging contest, one that could wear the less-deep Hoos down in the 2nd half. While we've been a second half team the last few games, don't think that will continue in this one. Calling this to be a grinder, down to the final minute, could go either way, but I'll take the Hoos to take the W by salting the game away at the FT line late.

Hoos Win 65-61