For the past few days, we've sort of been going through statistical and information overload trying to figure out just what it is that makes the Florida State Seminoles tick. Sometimes all the stats, numbers, and analysis can get overwhelming and the best thing to do is just to go straight to the source. With that being said, we were lucky enough to set up correspondence with the fine folks from Tomahawk Nation, SB Nation's Florida State community. If you haven't been over to TN since the brackets were released, you absolutely must stop by. SB Nation has a number of outstanding sites but there are few that cover a program with as much depth as they do. We would like to express our since thanks to TrueCubbie from Tomahawk Nation for helping us to learn more about what Gonzaga will be going up against come Friday. We hope you enjoy his outstanding insight into the Seminoles program. To return the favor, we answered a few of TN's burning questions about Gonzaga which you can check out here.
The Slipper Still Fits: Our perception of Florida State is an extremely athletic and tough team. At the same time, it's not a stretch to say that we also see them as very raw on the offensive side of the basketball. To someone that has watched them many, many times; is this an accurate description of the Noles or are we selling them short in some regards?
Tomahawk Nation: Florida State is a big, athletic team that plays outstanding defense. Unfortunately, there is a big discrepancy between the defensive skill and the efficiency on the offensive end. One could argue that Florida State is a young team that lacks a leader at the offensive end of the court. The lack of offensive leadership is the key. There are plenty of young teams in the tourney this year, including the likes of Gonzaga and Kentucky, who are able to consistently put points on the board. The Noles' offense leaves much to be desired and this has been the pattern for a few years. Fortunately, Florida State had Toney Douglas last year who could was able to put up significant points. This year, as we will discuss later, there isn't a reliable scorer. Leonard Hamilton is a defensive minded coach and gets his players to buy into 100% effort on the defensive end of the court. The offense is stagnant despite the athletic ability available, which many argue results from poor player management and schemes. The other thing to note about the Noles is that their bench is deep and they will are able to create match-up nightmares on a regular basis. One of the first players off the bench is Xavier Gibson, a very underrated player, who is 6'11. The Noles also bring Luke Loucks and Deividas Dulkys off the bench two big guards at the college level. To summarize, your assessment is 'spot on.'
continue reading after the jump for more with Tomahawk Nation...TSSF: Switching over to a more scary topic for Gonzaga fans: defense. FSU leads the country in defensive field goal percentage. What aspect of Leonard Hamilton's gameplan accounts for this ridiculous statistic and what have teams done to try (and have the succeeded) to blow open this vaunted defense.
TN: The defensive field goal percentage is a combination of variety of factors. As mentioned in the first question, Florida State is a big team and are extremely athletic. In fact, the Seminoles are the tallest team in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy and have the fourth tallest effective height. The front court stands 7'1, 6'9 and 6'9. Their starting guards are 6'4 and 6'5. The Seminoles have the best defensive efficiency in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy and is likely a result of the low eFG% and the pace at which Florida State plays. They wear your down and get you to force shots late in the shot clock. But, if you look carefully at the breakdown of the FG% for 2-point and 3-point shots you will a discrepancy. Florida State is holding opponents to only 39.9% shooting from inside the arc, which is first in the nation. However, the Seminoles' opponents are shooting 32.9% from beyond the arc, which is still a respectable percentage and ranks 105th in the nation. What this highlights is Florida State's defensive strategy. They lock down the paint. They have the third best block% in the nation and will not allow you to have any easy points. But, that commitment to defending the paint results in players over defending on the help side, opening up outside shooters and getting players in bad position to rebound. The teams that have shot lights out from beyond the arc have succeeded against the Noles. Or, any team that is able to shoot an eFG% above 50% will typically beat the Noles. NC State was successful getting outside shots by running multiple screens or running a shooter between two screeners who then collapsed on the chasing defenders, creating a wall to protect those shooters. If Gonzaga can get off quick shots before Florida State can recover around perimeter screens, it could be a long night for the Noles.
TSSF: When teams of contrasting styles meet like this, many fans and members of the media set a point total that they believe teams need to aspire to. For the offensive team, they must reach that total, and for the defensive minded team, they must do whatever they can to hold the game below that total. Do you see this as being the case in this particular game?
TN: Absolutely. Florida State can not keep up on the offensive end. Only 9 teams have scored 68 points or more against the Noles. Florida State only won two of those games: Auburn and Tennessee-Martin. In the games in which Florida State's opponents have scored 67 points or less, Florida State has only lost twice: NC State in the ACC Tournament and Clemson, a night in which the Noles shot 38% from the floor. If you score more than 35 points against the Noles in the first half, you are likely going to win the game. This offense isn't designed or able to recover from significant deficits. They have done it on occasion this year, but if Gonzaga gets up big early it will be hard for the Noles to recover. If you look at the Noles point totals, there isn't a great pattern as to how many points they need to score to win. But, in their past few games, the general sense is the first team to score 50 wins. The Noles are pretty consistent in their point totals against good teams, 60-68 points. Therefore, their success is really dependent on the ability of the defense to limit their opponents point production.
TSSF: Browsing the stat sheet for Florida State, the first thing that jumped out to me was excellent offensive balance. Six Seminoles score 8+ points per game but no one scores above 12 per contest. What player has the best chance to really explode in this game for Florida State or is the balanced stat line accepted truth in Tallahassee?
TN: The two players that can score points in bundles are Chris Singleton and Deividas Dulkys. Will they? Both players are consistently inconsistent. Solomon Alabi is the Noles leading scorer with 11.6 points per game. Singleton is a close second with 10.3. One would think that Alabi, who has the potential to be a lottery pick, would put up more than 11 points a game as a seven footer. He has games where he is a ghost. It is not entirely his fault as the offense isn't designed for his success nor are the Florida State guards the best at getting the ball inside. Given the fact that Florida State scores in the 60 to 70 point range, the balance stat line is the real deal. The player who I think could really surprise people in this tournament is Xavier Gibson. He is a 6'11 sophomore who is very light on his feet for a big man. He's able to step back and hit the jumper or put the ball on the floor and drive to the lane. His focus will determine his success.
TSSF: If you were coaching Gonzaga, what would be your point of emphasis on how to attack this Florida State team. On the other hand, what do you see as the biggest key for Florida State going against the Zags?
TN: Florida State will turn the ball over. Gonzaga needs to make sure those turnovers are not dead ball turnovers, meaning they need to get out and score in transition before Florida State can settle into their defense. Against NC State, Florida State turned the ball over on 31% of their possessions, but NC State only scored 58 points. A large majority of those turnovers resulted from sloppy play: stepping out of bounds, airmailing a pass out of bounds. Those kinds of turnovers did not hurt Florida State as NC State wasn't able to quickly turn and get a lay-up. If the points aren't coming off turnovers, Gonzaga has to have one of their best shooting nights of the year. They won't get many good looks and will have to make them count. Florida State is happy to play slow paced, physical basketball and wear you down. The depth of Florida State's bench could be one of the keys to the game, particularly given the relative inexperience of Gonzaga. The biggest key for Florida State will be making the early jump shots. They need to get some confidence early. If they can avoid the long scoring droughts, preventing the stair case appearance of a scoring log, Florida State will be in this game. This defense is really outstanding and is a given. The offensive production will be the big question mark for the Noles.