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StLouHoo's Preview:

Tall Task in Tallahassee

Florida St. Seminoles

Virginia takes its unfamiliar losing streak on the road this week to Tallahassee to face one of the ACC's best teams. Florida State has looked impressive thus far, riding a six game win streak and is undefeated at home. Is UVA going to be able to score the road upset and snap its own personal funk?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Wednesday, January 15th, 7:00 pm ET
Location:Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, Tallahassee, FL
TV:ESPN2

 

What 'They' Say

Vegas:Virginia +6.5, O/U 113, equates to ~60-53 FSU win
Torvik:Ranks FSU #19, predicts a 57-50 FSU win, 79% confidence
KenPom:Ranks FSU #14, predicts a 59-51 FSU win, 76% confidence

 

Depth Chart:

Starters
PG#3 Trent Forrest, 6'4" 210, SR
31.5 mpg, 12.2 ppg, 3.9 apg, 33.3 3P%
SG#24 Devin Vassell, 6'6" 180, SO
26.8 mpg, 12.3 ppg, 1.3 apg, 37.0 3P%
SF#23 M.J. Walker, 6'5" 213, JR
25.1 mpg, 11.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 38.5 FG%
PF#10 Malik Osborne, 6'9" 215, SO
20.2 mpg, 6.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 48.2 FG%
C#1 RaiQuan Gray, 6'8" 260, SO
21.1 mpg, 6.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 37.8 FG%
Key Reserves
G#0 Rayquan Evans, 6'4" 210, JR
9.5 mpg, 2.9 ppg, 1.2 apg, 42.9 3P%
G/F#2 Anthony Polite, 6'6" 215, SO
20.7 mpg, 6.3 ppg, 1.2 apg, 33.3 3P%
F#4 Patrick Williams, 6'8" 225, FR
21.9 mpg, 8.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 49.5 FG%
C#15 Dominik Olejniczak, 7'0" 260, SR
10.2 mpg, 3.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 60.5 FG%

 

The ABC's of Florida St.:

A) They're huge on the perimeter. As per usual, coach Hamilton has put together a deep cast of long, athletic guards and wings to deploy interchangeably at the 1-4 spots. Lead guard Forrest stands an impressive 6'4" with a 6'7" wingspan, which is massive for a 1. Vassell, Walker, Williams, Osborne, Polite, and Evans all fit those NBA athlete molds between 6'4" and 6'9" as well. It will present unique challenges for Kihei on both ends of the floor, and UVA won't be able to rely on a size advantage like they can against many teams by going big and moving Key to the 3. The 'Noles are a little smaller at the starting 5 than they've been in years past, going with the 6'8" (but a hefty 260 lb) Gray in the middle, while their 7-footers (Koprivica and Olejniczak) are used off the bench.

B) They lack a true PG. It's become a bit of a tenet of Hamilton's teams that they go with more of a bigger scoring combo guard at the 1 than a true floor general who's going to rack up assists. This year, that role falls to senior Forrest (3.9 apg vs 2.9 topg), who is built in the Brogdon combo mold. While going with size and length at the point lends some advantages on defense and in ball-dominant scoring, it reflects also in a few negative ways. Their turnover rates are pedestrian, especially of the dead ball variety, and their assist-to-FG ratio is well below average. The Hoos' defense can hopefully gum up an offense that relies far more on iso-ball that sets, disrupting the ball movement of a team that lacks a true expert in facilitation.

C) They have a highlight reel defense. The 'Noles are putting all that length and athleticism to good use on the defensive end, currently boasting KenPom's #18 defense nationally. That defense is padding a few statistical areas, specifically with a Top 10 ball pressure attack, where they're arguably the ACC's best at turnover generation, both dead- and live-ball. Six different 'Noles have double-digit steals on the season. And even if you beat their ball pressure, their athletic forwards are waiting on the back end with excellent rim protection instincts. FSU is 4th nationally and tops in the ACC in block rate, and five FSU players have double-digit blocks on the year already.

(Want an early statistical front-runner for ACC DPOY? Devin Vassell is leading them in both steals and blocks, with 1.6 and 1.2 per game respectively.)

 

Their Season To Date

Florida State is 14-2 on the season, 4-1 in ACC play. They lost a fluke road game at Pitt to open the season, but since then have scored impressive road and neutral wins over Florida, Tennessee, Purdue, and Louisville. Their only other loss was on the road at Indiana in the B1G Challenge. Most recently they won at Wake Forest last week by 10; they had a mini-bye this past weekend.

 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Keep them off the offensive glass. Virginia is going to have to work its tail off to get stops against a diverse Seminoles offense that can ask just about anyone in its main rotation to score. But this is the UVA defense, so we'll probably still force missed shots. That's all for naught though if the Seminoles turn those misses into second chances. They are an above average offensive rebounding team, and given that they don't need to respect our fast break, they'll send most of their players to the offensive glass on every shot. If FSU gets a lot of offensive rebounds that they can turn into putbacks and second chance points, UVA's going to lose its grip on a tight margin of error in this contest. Virginia's bigs and guards alike must fight for rebounding position and secure the ball on every possession.

2) Ball security. The 'Noles pick off more than 9 steals a game, at a rate that ranks 6th best in D-1. Virginia's offense, by contrast, is in the bottom 10% of the country in getting the ball stolen. You can see where I'm going with this. Whether it's how we run actions, making smart decisions out of double teams, or just being tight with the handle in traffic, Virginia cannot afford to let FSU pick pockets at its usual rate. If FSU can get our defense turned over before we even get a shot up, the Hoos are in trouble.

3) Break through from 3. This is a tall ask, given that, you know, we kind of suck as a team from long range. But it's really the one statistical area where FSU is vulnerable. With all their length and athleticism, they're incredibly active in the paint against even good offenses. That league best block rate and steal rate are legit; teams get in a ton of trouble going into the paint against them. Not to say that our seven footers can't be of some value (none of Gray, Koprivica, or Olejniczak are scary on the perimeter or in space, so Huff and Caffaro will be assets against the FSU 5's). But the 3-point line is one of the few areas of the floor they even come close to conceding. ACC opponents are hitting nearly 36% against them (just the 10th-ranked 3P% defense in the ACC), so the Hoo shooters absolutely must warm up to at least an adequate level to stay in this game.

 

 

Predictions:

This one does not set up well for the Hoos at all. We're short on confidence after losing two games the metrics say we should've won. FSU got the weekend off to rest and prep. Our offense has played just one good game (VT) in recent weeks and now has to go on the road to face maybe the league's best non-UVA defense. Leonard Hamilton is an excellent coach (one of my favorites, truth be told, and I hope this is the year he gets his Final Four), and has this deep and experienced club playing great ball.

This isn't to say UVA can't win this game if a few key areas break our way. We need to hit our 3's for once. We need to make some hay on the offensive glass (FSU's steal/block-gambling defense has left them as the league's worst D-rebounding team). We need to take immaculate care of the ball. But if I have to bet on whether or not the Hoos are going to play clean offense and hit big shots on the road against an active and athletic defense, then little I've seen lately leads me to pick UVA to win. Hope I'm proven wrong, but I think the Hoos' losing streak extends to three this week.

Florida St. Wins 63-49