Mike Tobey and the Hoos eye a road win at FSU.
Since losing to Virginia 56-36 back on Jan. 19, Florida State has gone 5-7: 4-2 at home and 1-5 on the road. As UVa fans certainly know after losing at Boston College on Sunday, that doesn’t make things any easier for a team that is 2-6 in conference road games so far this season. Can the Hoos win their last ACC trip of the year? Here are 10 things to consider for the rematch.
1. Since losing to Virginia 56-36 back on Jan. 19, Florida State has gone 5-7: 4-2 at home and 1-5 on the road. In its most recent home game, the Seminoles comfortably beat Wake Forest, 76-62, but their 5 previous home games consisted of close wins over Clemson (60-57), Maryland (73-71), and Boston College (69-66) as well as losses to Duke (79-60) and Miami (74-68). On the season, the Noles are a mere 8-7 at home, with some of those losses coming at the hands of South Alabama and Mercer. Florida State is simply not a great team at home this season.
2. Florida State is ranked No. 92 in RPI, which initially makes them appear “better” than some ACC teams like Boston College (No. 117), Georgia Tech (No. 143), and Clemson (No. 177) that have already beaten the Hoos on their home courts. I would argue, however, that FSU is the worst of the four, and my two favorite rating sites back me up. KenPom rates the teams as follows: No. 95 Georgia Tech, No. 102 Boston College, No. 110 Clemson, and No. 121 Florida State. Meanwhile, in 504-C Brandon’s TAPE, it is: No. 90 Georgia Tech, No. 95 Clemson, No. 107 Boston College, and No. 127 Florida State.
3. You might recall Florida State forward Terrance Shannon suffering a scary neck injury in the first game at UVa. Shannon missed the ensuing 11 games before seeing the floor for 3 minutes against UNC this Sunday. I wouldn’t expect to see him on the court for more than a handful of minutes against Virginia, but it is nice to see that he’s feeling well enough to get any minutes at all.
4. Without Shannon and his 21.2 minutes a game, Leonard Hamilton has given additional minutes to back-up centers Boris Bojanovsky and Kiel Turpin. Bojanovsky, who was once on Tony Bennett’s recruiting radar, played just 7 minutes against the Hoos in the first meeting but saw 21 and 15 minutes of action in his most recent 2 games against Wake Forest and UNC. As you might expect from a 7’3″ freshman, the results were mixed. The big man had 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting against the Demon Deacons but only 2 points on 1-4 shooting against the Tar Heels. Meanwhile, the 7’0″ Turpin played only 6 minutes against UVa and merely contributed a foul to the box score. Since then, he’s averaged just less than 20 minutes a game and has started to live up to the offensive promise that he showed coming out of Lincoln Junior College, averaging 7.5 points per game. I hope that Mike Tobey is ready to go on Thursday because I’m not sure that the Hoos can get away with a smaller line-up for extended periods when either of these two are in the game.
5. When Virginia first faced Florida State, the Seminoles were in the middle of the “Montay Brandon as starting point guard” experiment. As it turned out, that first game was the beginning of the end for the 6’7″ freshman. Brandon scored 2 points on 1-4 shooting against the Hoos and had 0 assists and 3 turnovers. Subsequently, after a string on uninspiring performances, Brandon has been relegated to the bench and averaged less than 9 minutes a game over the last 5 games, scoring just 3 points and registering just 2 assists over that stretch.
6. What that means is that another freshman, Devin Bookert, has taken over as the starting “1” after previously sharing minutes at the point with Brandon. Bookert’s not sharing any more. In the past 3 games, the frosh has played 35, 36, and 35 minutes. Again, as with most freshmen, the results have been inconsistent. In his last 4 games, Bookert had good games against Virginia Tech and UNC (14 and 10 points on 5-9 and 4-6 shooting) and bad games against NC State and Wake Forest (6 and 5 points on 1-5 and 2-7 shooting).
7. Fans should also expect to see a new starter at shooting guard for the Noles. In the first Virginia game, sophomore Terry Whisnant III started at the “2” but recorded no points on 0-3 shooting in 26 minutes. In his last 2 games, he has scored no points on 0-7 shooting while playing 11 minutes against NC State and then a mere 3 minutes against UNC. The Cavs probably won’t see much of Whisnant on Thursday.
8. Whisnant’s replacement, however, is not Ian Miller, whose bad year just keeps getting worse. This was expected to be a breakout season for the junior after he averaged 10.3 points per game as a sophomore, but Miller is worse in every statistical category this year except for assists per game. Miller is averaging just 5.8 points per game on the season and only scored a combined 13 points in his last 3 games on 4-21 (19%) shooting from the field and 2-12 (16.7%) (in)accuracy from long range.
9. What this means is that Whisnant’s replacement in the starting line-up has been Aaron Thomas, who played for 17 minutes and scored 2 points against UVa the first time around. As I noted in my first FSU Primer, Thomas is more of a slasher than an outside shooter, and he can be turnover prone. His stats since becoming a starter fit that description. In those 6 games he has 16 turnovers and only 9 assists and has gone 2-8 from 3-point range. I don’t like Thomas’ chances to do much against the Pack Line.
10. The Seminoles looked like a shell of their former selves when they came into JPJ, and things have only gotten worse since then as reflected by Leonard Hamilton’s personnel changes. That FSU squad that couldn’t score against Virginia ranked a solid No. 46 in adjusted offensive efficiency when it came to town. Now, the Noles stand at No. 118. Meanwhile, Hamilton’s normally stout defense has also slipped in the last dozen games. When the two teams first played, Florida State was No. 112 in adjusted defensive efficiency. The team is now No. 152. Unlike the Boston College team that beat UVa on Sunday, this is a broken team. If the Cavaliers put a collective foot on the gas early in the game and continue to apply pressure, this team will give up and die. If Virginia lets them hang around, however, you need look no further than the Georgia Tech and Boston College games to predict the outcome.
Prediction: 504-C Brandon has this one as a 64.3-57.7 Virginia victory, with the Hoos having a 69.4% chance of winning.
Virginia has not been good on the road all year, but allow me to repeat: Florida State is not a good home team, and the Seminoles are trending down as the season progresses. After the hangover at Boston College after beating the Blue Devils at home, I think that the troops will have regrouped. I think that Tony Bennett and the kids take this one, 65-58.