Saturday, January 10, 2009

Meet the Seminoles

This is the first in what will be a series of 11 posts over the course of the season - before Duke's first game against each ACC opponent (or second, in Virginia Tech's case), we'll take a look at what that opponent has done thus far this year and what defines them as a team.

FSU started slowly - they collected wins, yes, but they were largely unimpressive: by 2 over Jacksonville, 4 over La Salle, 2 over Stetson. The low point came during the ACC/Big 10 challenge, when FSU went on the road to, ahem, Northwestern, and lost by 14. That said, the Noles have some very quality wins on the resume - over Cincinnati and Cal in Vegas, over Florida, and comfortably over Western Kentucky on a neutral court.

Everything FSU has accomplished this season is attributable to its defense. The offense is, well, ugly. They're the only team in the ACC not to score a point per possession in pre-conference play, and they've had 5 full games where their offensive rating is less than 90. They're the worst team in the league turning the ball over, and it's not really close. They're also worst in the league at hitting the offensive glass, although their numbers in that regard are respectable. FSU is enormously dependent on Toney Douglas - he's used more possessions than anyone else in the ACC, and his offensive rating is very decent for such a high usage player, at 111.82. The problem for FSU is, that's the highest rating on the team. None of the lower usage players are efficient contributors. Only Singleton is a reliable scoring threat - he and Douglas are the only Seminoles in double figures in more than half of the games. Quite simply, this team should struggle to score 60 against Duke.

Which may be fine by them. FSU has played slugfests this year. The win over Florida was 57-55. The loss to Pittsburgh was 48-56. The win over Cincinnati was 58-47. Etc. FSU has relied on very strong shooting defense, especially inside, to hold their opponents down. The Noles give up just 0.396 shooting on 2s, which is best in the league. This stems largely from shot-blocking - FSU blocks 13.15% of opponents' shots, which is also best in the league (and by a healthy margin). On the perimeter, the 3 point defense isn't great, but FSU has been effective in forcing turnovers, getting opponents to cough it up on 23.45% of possessions.

FSU's goal today will be to play aggressive D on the perimeter and force Duke into the trio of shot blockers that anchor the front line - Alabi (who leads the league in block rate), Reid, and Singleton. On offense, they'll likely try to play slow and keep the score low. It's also not a deep team - primarily 7 deep, with some occasional minutes to Derwin Kitchen and Deivydas Dulkys (who takes one 3 every 4 minutes he's on the court, but makes under 25% of his shots). They think they can win in the 50s, maybe even the 60s, but if Duke has anything with a 7 or higher in the front of it's score, it will be very, very difficult for FSU to pull out a win.

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