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What UVA Basketball fans need to know about Florida State

leonard hamilton fsu
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

Now that Tony Bennett has a national championship, Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton is on the short list of best coaches that don’t yet have one.

Hamilton has 392 wins at FSU, 592 overall at three schools – four years at Oklahoma State, nine at Miami.

He took over the Florida State job in 2002, and it was a rebuild from Day 1.

FSU had two losing seasons in his first three years, and the program wouldn’t make its first NCAA Tournament under Hamilton until Year 7, in 2008-2009.

Then after a four-year run of tournament appearances, the program seemed to have plateaued – with a four-year stretch, from 2012-2016 – that had the ‘Noles in three NITs, and missing one postseason altogether.

Since, FSU has been borderline elite – averaging 26 wins, with a Sweet Sixteen, an Elite Eight, and last year, an ACC regular-season title and #4 ranking in the final AP Top 25.

Unfortunately for everybody, last season ended before the NCAA Tournament.

Florida State was maybe the team – you could throw Dayton into this mix as well – most affected by not having the season play out to a conclusion.

Hamilton’s ‘Noles looked like a title contender, for sure.

This year’s group is still coming around, as Hamilton teams of recent vintage seem to do.

Coming off a two-week COVID-19 pause, FSU had to rally to force overtime before dispatching Wake Forest, 92-85, on Saturday.

As you’d expect with a Hamilton-coached team, the rotation is deep – nine deep this season – meaning you won’t see any Florida State guys among the league leaders, because nobody in the rotation averages even 30 minutes a game.

That’s the thing with playing Florida State: it’s not so much that you have to stop one guy or two guys, but a whole team of guys.

‘Noles to watch

  • 6’5” senior M.J. Walker: 13.7 ppg, 46.4% FG, 2.9 assists/g, 44.4% 3FG
  • 6’8” junior Raiquan Gray: 11.1 ppg, 6.6 rebs/g, 50.9% FG, 25.0% 3FG
  • 6’9” freshman Scottie Barnes: 10.5 ppg, 4.2 assists/g, 46.8% FG, 26.7% 3FG
  • 6’6” junior Anthony Polite: 9.8 ppg, 4.6 rebs/g, 50.0% FG, 51.4% 3FG
  • 7’1” sophomore Balsa Koprivica: 9.2 ppg, 5.8 rebs/g, 59.0% FG, 1.2 blocks/g
  • 6’4” senior Rayquan Evans: 7.0 ppg, 45.7% FG, 47.4% 3FG

Breakdown: Offense

Efficiency numbers from Synergy Sports.

Spot-ups: 25.8 percent of offensive possessions

FSU is third in the ACC and is 20th nationally in three-point shooting. Synergy rates the ‘Noles “excellent” on spot-ups. As a team, Florida State scores 1.057 PPP on spot-ups.

Who to watch for: 6’6” junior Sardaar Calhoun (14-of-31, 45.2%, 1.171 PPP), Walker (16-of-40, 40.0%, 1.13 PPP), Evans (9-of-25, 36.0%, 1.037 PPP)

Transition: 18.8 percent of offensive possessions

FSU does like to push pace. KenPom.com has the Seminoles averaging 69.3 possessions per game, roughly 10 more per game than Virginia. Synergy rates Florida State “very good” – averaging 1.069 PPP in transition.

Who to watch for: Koprivica (8-of-11, 72.7%, 1.571 PPP), 6’5” senior Nathanael Jack (7-of-14, 50.0%, 1.267 PPP), Evans (8-of-13, 61.5%, 1.235 PPP), 6’8” junior Wyatt Wilkes (6-of-12, 50.0%, 1.118 PPP)

Inside game (post-ups, lane cuts and stickbacks): 18.5 percent of the offensive possessions

“Excellent” on lane cuts (1.393 PPP), “below average” on offensive rebounds (1.024 PPP) and post-ups (0.711 PPP).

Who to watch for: Koprivica (11-of-16, 68.8%, 1.4 PPP on offensive rebounds, 10-of-16, 62.5%, 1.25 PPP on lane cuts), Gray (17-of-20, 85.0%, 1.739 PPP on lane cuts)

Pick-and-rolls: 18.6 percent of offensive possessions

“Average” on P&R ballhandler (0.712 PPP). They don’t go to the roller much (4.5%), but when they do, they’re “excellent” (1.154 PPP).

Who to watch for: Walker (38% of FSU’s P&R ballhandler plays, 16-of-37, 43.2%, 0.79 PPP, 25.8% TO rate), Koprivica (11-of-17, 64.7%, 1.35 PPP as the roll guy).

Breakdown: Defense

KenPom.com has FSU 48th in adjusted defensive efficiency, the lowest rating for the program since 2015-2016, which was also the last Florida State team to not get an NCAA bid.

The best defender, per Synergy, is Evans (0.628 PPP).

It’s notable that Walker (0.947 PPP) and Koprivica (0.985 PPP) are rated “below average” defensively.

Analysis

Koprivica, it should be noted, was a game-time scratch for Wake Forest, after turning an ankle in pregame warmups. His status is up in the air at this writing.

This Florida State team is huge – KenPom.com lists the team’s average height on the floor at #1 nationally.

Walker is the point guard at 6’5”, but the best creator is Barnes, at 6’9”.

You’re not likely to see anybody on the floor for FSU Monday night under 6’4”.

In a sense, then, these two teams are mirror images – aside from the presence of 5’9” UVA point guard Kihei Clark, Virginia is physical at the two at guard with Reece Beekman and Casey Morsell, and big across the front line with 6’8” Sam Hauser, 6’9” Trey Murphy III and 7’1” Jay Huff.

Both teams are big, both like to spread the floor with three-point shooters, both clamp down on D.

There’s a reason games between these two have been dogfights the past few years.

The key for Virginia defensively will be closing out on shooters, watching Koprivica on the back end of P&Rs, keeping Gray under wraps on cuts in the lane, and ball pressure on the guards and limiting live-ball turnovers to reduce transition opportunities.

At a glance

Efficiency data from KenPom.com

  • Offense: Florida State 115.7 (15), Virginia 115.9 (13)
  • Defense: Florida State 94.4 (48), Virginia 89.8 (11)
  • Tempo:  Florida State 69.3 (119), Virginia 59.7 (357)

Details

#9 UVA (15-3, 11-1 ACC) at #17 Florida State (11-3, 7-2 ACC)
Monday, 7 p.m., ESPN

  • ESPN BPI: Virginia +3.1, 63.2% win probability
  • KenPom.com: Virginia 66-65, 53% win probability
  • BartTorvik: Florida State 66-65, 55% win probability

Story by Chris Graham


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