Basketball Preview: Virginia Tech vs. FSU

, TechSideline.com, on January 10, 2012
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The Hokies will look to pick up their first ACC win of the season tonight when they host Florida State in Cassell Coliseum.  Both teams are looking to avoid an 0-2 start in conference play, particularly since they both play North Carolina soon.

In the first weekend of ACC basketball, we saw a lot of things we normally see.  Five of the six home teams won, and four of the games were decided by seven points or less.  Look for that trend to continue as the season goes on.

Thus far, Florida State has underachieved.  Leonard Hamilton brought back a lot of talent, size and experience this year, yet the Noles are only 9-6 on the season.  They lost to Harvard (46-41) in the Bahamas, and they lost to Princeton (75-73) at home.  However, their biggest difficulties have been in true road games.  FSU lost to Michigan State (65-49), Florida (82-64) and Clemson (79-59) all on the road this year, and the Noles have yet to win a true road game.

Those are surprising numbers for a senior laden team that made the NCAA Tournament last season.

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Leonard Hamilton’s philosophy is to recruit tall, lengthy players who can challenge shots.  As a result, Florida State’s defensive field goal percentage last season was 36.3%, the best mark in the ACC since 1960.  So far this year that number is 36.4%.  They have led the NCAA in field goal percentage defense the last two seasons, and it’s easy to see why, with that kind of height.

They also bring height off the bench, with center Jon Kreft (7-0, 262, Sr.) and wing Okaro White (6-8, 204, So.).  White is a tall guy who can play on the wing, similar to Virginia Tech’s Dorian Finney-Smith.  He has started 12 games for FSU this year, although he is not listed as a starter in their game notes this week.

Michael Snaer is a good natural scorer for the Noles, though his average doesn’t reflect it because they are a defensive oriented team.  However, their problems offensively have stemmed from turning the basketball over.

  • Michael Snaer: 24 assists, 38 turnovers
  • Bernard James: 6 assists, 33 turnovers
  • Xavier Gibsonj: 6 assists, 40 turnovers
  • Okaro White: 10 assists, 28 turnovers
  • Deividas Dulkys: 16 assists, 25 turnovers
  • Jon Kreft: 6 assists, 20 turnovers
  • Totals (6 players): 68 assists, 184 turnovers

Those six players have had a lot of trouble on the offensive end this year, with nearly three times as many turnovers as assists.  As a result, the Noles rank dead last in the ACC with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.7.  When FSU manages to hang on to the basketball, they’ve done a decent job of scoring this year, ranking fifth in the ACC at 70.6 points per game.

On paper Florida State should be a better team now that Ian Miller (6-3, 186, So.) has returned to the team for the second semester.  He leads the team in scoring, averaging 13.8 points per game.  However, the Noles have lost three of their last four, which are the four games Miller has played.

Despite the fact that the Noles have struggled with turnovers this year, Virginia Tech has not been particularly good at forcing turnovers.  Also, FSU has a huge size advantage on the Hokies.  Jarell Eddie (6-7, 218) is going to have to guard 6-10 Bernard James at times.  Eddie has struggled on the defensive end this year, and he’ll be facing much bigger Florida State players in this game.  Could Seth Greenberg go more with C.J. Barksdale at the power forward position in an effort to match up better?  Perhaps, but Barksdale is only a freshman, so that’s a tough matchup for him too.

Leonard Hamilton is not afraid to use a lot of players.  Bernard James and Ian Miller got over 30 minutes against Clemson this weekend, but only two other players were in the game for 20 minutes.  Five players got between 13 and 19 minutes.  Though you can argue that Hamilton has good depth, you can also argue that so much substituting hurts the cohesiveness of the team.

On paper, Florida State is the bigger and more experienced – and probably better overall – team.  However, they have been blown out in all three road games so far this season.  They don’t want to lose to Tech, because they would be staring an 0-3 ACC start right in the face, with UNC on the schedule for this weekend.  However, the Hokies played UNC next week as well, and an 0-2 start would be equally as damaging.

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