Image Credit: FSU Athletics
One of the great things about working with Fifth Quarter is the variety of teams that are covered, especially in a conference like the ACC. In the heat of basketball season, we can put out articles where we pick each others’ brains about the game ahead. For this game, we preview Virginia Tech vs. Florida State. Representing Virginia Tech, we have Michael Yager. Representing Florida State, we have Cory Thorpe.
Questions for Virginia Tech
1. It hasn’t been that long since VaTech was struggling for double-digit wins. What did Buzz Williams do to make the Hokies a respectable program?
Buzz brought name notoriety. He brought the belief that Virginia Tech could put out a winning basketball program. Once the fans, students, recruits, and administration saw that Virginia Tech could win basketball games, everyone bought in. When Buzz started, everyone knew he was not a long term coach. His tenure really couldn’t have gone any better. From the jump, the goal was to make VT a tournament team – which he did -3 years in a row, culminating in a Sweet 16 appearance last year. The program that Mike Young took over after Buzz’ departure is light years ahead of what Buzz inherited.
2. Players to watch out for and why.
Landers Nolley, Jalen Cone sleeper Tyrece Radford.
Landers Nolley is a one-and-done player whose game is what they call “complete”. He can run point, shoot threes, score inside, pass very well, and limits turnovers. He is prone to having a bad night, and sometimes takes questionable shots (see the end of the Syracuse game taking a shot from the logo with 4 seconds left). But he still averages 17.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. He can quietly and quickly take over a game.
Jalen Cone will be, by far, the shortest guy on the court against FSU. Don’t be fooled by his height. He is the backup PG (if he keeps playing like he is, he won’t be the backup long). Cone is shooting over 55% from deep this year on 61 tries. He can change a game quickly.
Tyrece Radford is the guy who benefits the most when the shooters are shooting well. Right now, he is the best dribble-drive guy on the team. When the shooters are shooting well, the defense has to come out and cover the shooters, leaving the middle open for drives. He’s not much of a shooter, so if the rest of the team is cold, it’s hard for him to score inside. But look for him to have a big stat line (points and rebounds) if the shooters are on.
3. What scares you about this Seminole team?
2 things, 2 easy things. Height and Depth.
Their average height is, uh, tall. The shortest ‘Nole that plays regularly is 6-4. VT only has two players taller than 6-4 that play big minutes (Ojiako is 6-10, but is only averaging 11 minutes a game).
So, after the first wave of 6-4 dudes gets tired, FSU has an entire second line waiting on the bench that plays regularly! Year in, year out they go 10-12 deep with capable guys. This is what makes them so dangerous in the ACC’s rigorous schedule. VT’s depth is better this year than in the past, with the top 7 being interchangeable. Once you get to the 8-9 players, there is a big dropoff.
4. Final score and why?
This game could go a lot like the Duke game did for VT. Get out to an early lead by shooting hot at home, but then as the game goes on, the depth and height of FSU will inevitably take over. For VT to win this, they will have to shoot around 45% from three and have to limit any big FSU runs. If FSU builds a 10-15 point lead, I don’t see VT being able to make that up.
Questions for FSU
1. How does Leonard Hamilton keep getting all these trees?
He grows ‘em big, doesn’t he? Quick history lesson: 4-5 years ago, nearly everyone in Tallahassee was ready to send Leonard packing. We hadn’t made the NCAA tournament in a couple years, and the staff had whiffed on a couple big recruits. And then – all of a sudden – it turned around. We had legit NBA talent on the roster, and the length went from being pesky to being talented. Once we got there, it’s a testament to Ham and his coaching staff to bring in guys who are scheme fits while maximizing talent.
2. What is FSU’s biggest weakness?
On a team that does a lot really well, the weakness is the post game. Even before an injury to new 7-1 center Balsa Koprivika, FSU’s post game wasn’t that strong. We watched Virginia take advantage of this – they played a really good pack line defense and we couldn’t run our pick-and-roll game for our slashers. At that point, we couldn’t get the ball down low and couldn’t get separation to shoot. That’s the gameplan, for sure.
3. What is FSU’s ceiling this year?
Barring injury, FSU has a legit chance to be an Elite 8 team or better. The ceiling for this team is definitely somewhat TBD, as we still don’t have our full roster available. A lot depends on how long Williams is out and how our spacing looks once he is.
The bigger point here is one that’s being talked about, at least in Tallahassee. This season marks a big distinction in the program. FSU lost a lot of production last year. Preseason expectations were that making the tournament was the floor. The fact that we’ve come back even better says something programmatically. This staff believes that they can put FSU in the vaunted “Blue Blood” category.
4. The score and whatnot.
70-65 FSU. Tech is a pesky defensive team and has caused FSU trouble in recent years. I think the depth of long bodies does to VT what it does to most other teams. The Hokies play FSU hard, but fall just short.