StLouHoo's Preview:

Second Chance at the Seminoles

Florida St. Seminoles

Virginia once again tries to recapture some positive momentum, this time against league front-runner Florida State, just two weeks after a tough loss in Tallahassee. The Hoos will need their A-game to get the win; what exactly will that entail?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Tuesday, January 28th, 7:00 pm ET
Location:John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA


What 'They' Say

Vegas:UVA -1, O/U 115, equates to ~58-57 UVA win
Torvik:Ranks FSU #25, predicts a 56-55 UVA win, 50% confidence
KenPom:Ranks FSU #17, predicts a 57-56 FSU win, 51% confidence


Depth Chart:

PG#3 Trent Forrest, 6'4" 210, SR
32.1 mpg, 11.8 ppg, 4.3 apg, 31.3 3P%
SG#23 M.J. Walker, 6'5" 213, JR
25.1 mpg, 11.4 ppg, 1.4 apg, 36.8 3P%
SF#24 Devin Vassell, 6'6" 180, SO
27.8 mpg, 13.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 49.5 FG%
PF#10 Malik Osborne, 6'9" 215, SO
20.7 mpg, 5.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 46.8 FG%
C#1 RaiQuan Gray, 6'8" 260, SO
20.9 mpg, 6.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 39.6 FG%
Key Reserves
G#2 Anthony Polite, 6'6" 215, SO
21.4 mpg, 7.0 ppg, 1.4 apg, 39.1 3P%
F#4 Patrick Williams, 6'8" 225, FR
21.1 mpg, 8.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 47.0 FG%
C#15 Dominik Olejniczak, 7'0" 260, SR
10.1 mpg, 3.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 59.1 FG%
C#5 Balsa Koprivica, 7'1" 260, FR
11.9 mpg, 6.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 74.5 FG%


The ABC's of Florida St.:

A) Hamilton refuses to shorten his bench. Our game preview program limits us to nine players when previewing opponents, but I easily could've gone with eleven looking at FSU. In an era when many teams look to find 7 or many 8 players tops to ride with come conference play, Hamilton has double-digit scholarship players whom he loves to play as much as possible. Seven different players average more than 20 minutes a game, and another four average between 9 and 12. (FWIW, guard Rayquan Evans and F Wyatt Wilkes were the two I cut above.) There's an argument it's prevented guys from finding a rhythm. But at the same time it's allowed the Noles to not miss a beat when someone gets in foul trouble or a player misses a game, such as in their recent win over Notre Dame when Patrick Williams had a sprained toe, or earlier in January when Koprivica dealt with a bad back. Long story short, other than Forrest as their only guy resembling a point guard, expect a ton of substitutions.

B) Lots of size and length at every position. We hit on this two weeks ago, but it's FSU so it bears repeating. This is the biggest, longest team we'll see all year. From their 6'4" point guard to their center trio that includes two 7-footers and no one less than 260 lbs, FSU looks to overwhelm their opponents physically for 40 minutes. They even rank #1 nationally in KenPom in average height. That length manifests defensively as they're 2nd nationally in blocks and 4th nationally in steals, making FSU potentially the country's most disruptive defense.

C) Devin Vassell is breaking out. The 'Noles have some high-ranked players populating their depth chart, with Forrest, Walker, Williams, and Koprivica all 4- or 5-star players. But the best performer so far this year has been 200th-ranked (per the 247sports composite) 3-star Vassell. The Georgia-native was 10th on the team in minutes played just last year, but the 6'6" combo wing has thrived in his expanded opportunity. He's leading FSU in scoring on a cool 55% from 2 and 39% from 3. He's leading them in all of defensive, offensive, and total rebounding at 5.2 total a game. He's got the best A:TO ratio in the rotation, picks up almost 2 steals a game, and rarely fouls. Oh, and he led all scorers in FSU's earlier win over UVA, the Hoos unable to slow him down as he went for 18 points on 15 shots, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in his 34 minutes. Expect FSU to try and run their offense through him again and dare UVA to stop him this time around.


Their Season To Date

FSU is 17-2 on the season, 7-1 in the ACC. They haven't lost a conference game since a November opening night fluke at Pitt. Their only other loss was at Indiana in the B1G Challenge. Their best win was at Louisville by a comfortable 13 points. Since beating UVA 54-50 two weeks ago, the needed OT to win at Miami and squeaked by Notre Dame by 1 at home.


Keys to getting the win:

1) Win the TO battle. Turnovers were the story of the first matchup for both teams. UVA committed 18 (10 live ball), FSU coughed up 16 (6 live ball). The advantage went to FSU and contributed to the final margin of victory. UVA needs to flip that advantage to have a chance to upset Florida State in this one. Since then, UVA's been slightly better, committing 12, 10 and 14 TOs against GT, State, and Wake ( 9, 6, and 8 live ball respectively), but it's still below Tony's standard. The Hoos defense needs to stay disruptive, but the offense needs to play its best game of its young ACC season in cutting down the errors.

2) Make enough 3's. The FSU defense is doing an excellent job this season contesting the paint. We already talked about their shot blocking and their takeaways, and ACC opponents are hitting only 43% from inside the arc, 2nd-lowest in league play. The Hoos can probably hope to have some success playing through the bigs (Braxton, Mamadi, and Jay were a combined 12 of 15 from 2 against FSU last time out), but it can't be the entirety of our offensive success. FSU ranks just 12th in league play in defensive 3P%. In near-upsets last week, Miami hit 11 of 24 (46%) from 3 and Notre Dame hit 10 of 27 (37%). Virginia may not need double-digit makes to make it a contest since we'll be playing far fewer possessions and can rely more on defense than the Canes and Irish could, but we probably still need to hit 7 or 8 of them on a respectable percentage.

3) Keep them off the offensive glass. One of the disappointing statistics from our loss to FSU earlier this month was the 12 offensive rebounds we gave up, allowing FSU to score some second chance points that proved the difference in a tight game. UVA is usually pretty disciplined when it comes to defensive rebounding, rarely losing double-digit boards to the opponent's offense. So against the 'Noles big, active front line, UVA's bigs must get good position and hold it. More time for Caffaro against Gray, Olejniczak, and Koprivica will free up Diakite, McKoy, and Key at the 3 and 4 to neutralize FSU on the glass. The Hoos are coming off a game against Wake Forest where they allowed a mediocre offensive rebounding team to grab over one-third of its misses. They must be tougher on the boards if they are going to have any hope against the 'Noles, who are 2nd in the ACC in OR% (the Hoos are 4th).




It's great that UVA got the hard-fought win in Winston-Salem on Sunday. There were encouraging signs in that win; Woldetensae's shooting, the team's grit in coming back. But Wake was a team that, on paper, UVA should've handled better, especially after UVA's solid start out of the gate. To not only blow the early lead but to let Wake later run their own lead up to double digits was beyond worrisome, even with the eventual win.

Meanwhile, though FSU has won seven straight ACC games and sits just a half-game out of first (Louisville is 8-1), they've been playing with fire lately. Needing late bounces to beat UVA by only 4 at home, getting taken to OT by 2-(ACC-)win Miami and blowing a big lead before escaping 2-win Notre Dame.

With that said, FSU's a deep and talented team that, likely due to their depth, has found a way to close out tight games and win blowouts against other ACC teams (their four league wins preceding their 1st UVA clash were all by double-digits), and it feels like they're capable of much more. UVA, meanwhile has been losing to bubble teams and NIT teams this month, and counting on our 3's to fall and our turnover problem to abate to get the win here may be asking too much.

Florida St. Wins 62-54