Tonight’s battle between No. 15/16 Virginia Tech (22-6, 11-5) and No. 14/13 Florida State (23-6, 11-5) will be for the No. 4 seed and a double bye in the ACC Tournament. However, tonight might not be the only time the teams meet this year, as the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds are likely to go head-to-head in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament.
The Seminoles were fantastic in non-conference play, with victories over Florida, LSU and Purdue. Their only defeat came at the hands of Villanova 66-60. Once ACC play started, FSU struggled out of the gate, dropping four of their first five league games, including back-to-back road losses to Pitt and BC. They were considered the most disappointing ACC team in the first half of January.
That changed beginning January 20. The ‘Noles knocked off Clemson at home, and have gone on to win 10 of their last 11 games, with their one defeat coming on the road at North Carolina. They are one of the nation’s hottest teams right now.
Florida State is also incredibly good at home. Their only home loss of the season came at the hands of Duke in a very close 80-78 game back in early January. Overall, FSU is 48-3 in their last 51 home games, so coming out of Tallahassee (where Tech has lost 11 in a row and hasn’t won since February 1990) will be very difficult.
FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton throws waves of tall players at the opposition. 11 Seminole players play 9.7 minutes or more per game, and as usual he has a very tall rotation.
Here’s the starting lineup FSU used in their most recent game, a home win over NC State…
G Trent Forrest (6-4, 210, Jr.): 9.1 ppg, 109 assists. Forrest has 57 steals on the season.
G MJ Walker (6-5, 213, So.): 8 ppg, 2 rpg. The former Virginia Tech recruiting target has struggled this season, shooting only 35.2% from the field and committing more turnovers (58) than he has assists (47).
G Terance Mann (6-7, 215, Sr.): 11.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg. Mann is second on the team in scoring. He’s a 46.4% three-point shooter.
F Phil Cofer (6-8, 230, r-Sr.): 7 ppg, 3.6 rpg. Cofer is an experienced veteran who picked FSU over Virginia Tech coming out of high school.
C Christ Koumadje (7-4, 268, Sr.): 6.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg. Koumadje is the biggest player the Hokies will face all season. However, he plays just under 17 minutes per game.
Florida State’s leading scorer is Mfiondu Kabengele (6-10, 250, r-So.), who averages 13.2 points and 5.5 rebounds despite playing just 20.3 minutes per game. He hasn’t started a game all season, which shows what terrific depth Leonard Hamilton has at his disposal.
Only one player in Florida State’s playing rotation is shorter than 6-4, and that’s 6-1 senior guard David Nichols, a transfer from Albany. Besides the three seniors in their starting lineup, the ‘Noles also have seniors such as Nichols and PJ Savoy (6-4, 210) coming off the bench. They are the 93rd most experienced team in the country, according to Ken Pomeroy. As a comparison, the Hokies are No. 96 in the same metric, so this will be a battle of experienced players for the most part.
Here’s how the Seminoles look offensively in ACC games…
Off. Eff. (Pomeroy): No. 6
Eff. FG%: No. 7
Turnover %: No. 9
Off. Rebound %: No. 6
3-Pt.%: No. 9
2-Pt.%: No. 6
FT%: No. 9
The Seminoles middle of the pack, not great at anything offensively, but not bad at anything, either.
Defense has been the strength of Leonard Hamilton’s team, with the exception of one statistic…
Def. Eff. (Pomeroy): No. 5
Eff. FG%: No. 4
Turnover %: No. 8
Opp. Off. Reb. %: No. 4
3-Pt.%: No. 14
2-Pt.%: No. 1
It’s hard to make inside baskets against Florida State’s length. Opponents are shooting just 42.3% from inside the arc. However, it’s another story from outside the arc. Opponents are shooting 36% against the Seminoles from three-point range. The Hokies haven’t been nearly as good shooting the outside jumper without Justin Robinson, but they should have some good opportunities to knock down open three-pointers against the Seminoles.
Virginia Tech could still drop to the No. 6 seed in the ACC Tournament, but that would require a Louisville upset of Virginia this weekend, and Tech losses to both FSU and Miami, which isn’t likely. If the Hokies lose tonight, they will most likely be the No. 5 seed in ACC Tournament, where they would play the winner of the No. 12 vs. No. 13 game next Wednesday (Georgia Tech or Wake Forest, if there are no upsets between now and the end of the regular season). The winner of that game would then take on No. 4 Florida State next Thursday.
If the Hokies pull the upset, they’ll be the No. 4 seed in next week’s tournament, regardless of the outcome against Miami Friday. Virginia Tech’s first game would be next Thursday, probably against Florida State.
Click here for ACC Tournament bracket generator and tie breaker.