Virginia Tech has a chance to secure a top-50 win on Saturday afternoon when they host the Florida State Seminoles in Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies (13-5, 2-3) need to add quality wins to their resume, and Florida State (13-5, 2-4) presents them with a great opportunity.
There is plenty of incentive for the Seminoles as well. Since beating North Carolina at home on Jan. 3, Florida State has lost three of their last four games. That includes road losses to Boston College and Miami, and a home loss at the hands of Louisville. Head coach Leonard Hamilton’s team does not want to start ACC play with a 2-5 record. They view this as a very winnable road game.
Florida State’s size gave the Hokies trouble last season. Two of Tech’s 11 losses came at the hands of the Seminoles, including their defeat in the ACC Tournament. Tech just didn’t match up well with FSU because the Hokies lacked a quality player over 6-foot-7.
The last time the Hokies defeated Florida State, it happened twice in 2015-16 — once in the regular season and once in the ACC Tournament. Tech won 83-73 in Blacksburg and 96-85 in the ACC Tournament. They were able to overcome FSU’s size advantage by shooting over 52 percent from the field in both games.
Speaking of FSU’s size, here’s a look at their projected starting lineup.
G CJ Walker (6-foot-1, 195 pounds, So.): Averaging 9.4 points per game and 2.9 rebounds per game, and has totaled 55 assists. Walker is shooting less than 40 percent overall from the field.
G Braian Angola (6-foot-6, 195 pounds, Sr.): Averaging 14.3 ppg and 4.7 rpg, and has 61 assists and a team-high 29 steals. Angola is a 41.3 percent three-point shooter.
F Terance Mann (6-foot-6, 215 pounds, Jr.): Averaging 15.5 ppg and 6.4 rpg. Mann is FSU’s best player. Despite the presence of a couple of seven-footers on the roster, Mann is their leading rebounder.
F Phil Cofer (6-foot-8, 218 pounds, Sr.): Averagin 12.7 ppg and 5.9 rpg. Recruited by Virginia Tech out of high school when Buzz Williams was first hired, I was really hoping the Hokies would land Cofer.
C Christ Koumadje (7-foot-4, 233 pounds, Jr.): Averaging 8.4 ppg and 5.7 rpg. Koumadje is an intimidating specimen in the paint, though he only averages 18.7 minutes per game.
That’s a lot of length, particularly on the inside with Koumadje. Leonard Hamilton also has plenty of height coming off his bench, both in the paint and on the wing.
F Mfiondu Kabengele (6-foot-9, 235 pounds, r-Fr.): Averaging 8.3 ppg and 5.1 rpg
G Trent Forrest (6-foot-5, 215 pounds, So.): Averaging 6.2 ppg and 4.8 rpg, and has a team-high 67 assists.
G MJ Walker (6-foot-5, 205, Fr.): Averaging 7.2 ppg and 1.3 rpg.
C Ike Obiagu (7-feet, 240 pounds, Fr.): Averaging 3.1 ppg and 3.0 rpg, and has a team-high 39 blocks.
G PJ Savoy (6-foot-4, 200 pounds, Jr.): Averaging 4.9 ppg and 1.3 rpg.
Leonard Hamilton will always have a roster filled with a lot of height and length, and that roster usually includes at least a pair of guys 7-foot tall or bigger. That’s part of his core philosophy as a coach. Buzz Williams is pretty much the exact opposite, which makes this matchup all the more intriguing.
Here are some key Florida State stats…
Offensive efficiency: No. 50
Effective FG%: No. 76
Rebounding Rate: No. 70
Defensive Efficiency: No. 20
Defensive Effective FG%: No. 13
Turnovers per Possession: No. 140
Opp. Turnovers per Possession: No. 79
The Seminoles make it very difficult for opponents to score, though that hasn’t been the case in recent games. They’ve allowed 80 or more points in four of their last five games.
Let’s compare them with the Hokies in those same categories…
Offensive efficiency: No. 12
Effective FG%: No. 3
Rebounding Rate: No. 93
Defensive Efficiency: No. 77
Defensive Effective FG%: No. 88
Turnovers per Possession: No. 112
Opp. Turnovers per Possession: No. 221
The Hokies have been a great offensive team, outside of a two-game stretch against Syracuse and UVA. They’ve held up pretty well on the boards despite their lack of size, as well. However, turnovers have been a big issue, particularly in losses to Kentucky and Louisville, and Tech doesn’t force enough turnovers defensively to compensate for their turnover issues on the offensive end.
This will be the ultimate battle of size versus speed, and it will be an entertaining matchup between a team that plays very well offensively against a team that plays very well defensively. The winner will take a big step forward toward potentially qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, while the loser will for the time being be on the wrong side of the bubble.