Maryland plays Florida State tonight, and we were able to catch up with Matt Minnick of Tomahawk Nation to ask some questions about the Seminoles.
1) Basketball, I'd imagine, has taken something of a backseat in Tallahassee of late. But what's your general feeling on the 2014 Seminoles hoops team at the moment?
Like the football team, this year's Noles have been a pleasant surprise. There was definitely uncertainly over the offseason after we lost Mr. Clutch Michael Snaer, missed out on Andrew Wiggins, had top 50 recruit Xavier Rathan-Mayes not qualify, and lost multiple upperclassman to transfer. But the OOC went about as good as could be hoped for. In what seems like the first time in a long time, there were zero bad losses, and we nabbed a couple solid neutral court wins on top of that (VCU and UMass). The loss to UVA was ugly, but they are a talented, well-coached team so it isn't too worrisome, as long as it doesn't start a trend. All in all, it looks like a top 6 finish in the ACC is possible, and with it a return to the Big Dance.
2) What is Florida State's identity under head coach Leonard Hamilton?
Defense and discipline. If you don't commit yourself to playing intense, man-to-man defense for every second you're on the court, you won't see the court very much under Leonard Hamilton. Last year--with 6 newcomers--the defense was abnormally porous, but the Hamilton calling card has returned in a big way this year. In fact, FSU's defense is currently #4 in the country on Ken Pom's efficiency rankings. However, the last few years Hamilton has started to add some players with moderate offensive skill to go along with his tenacious defense. The Noles still lack consistent outside shooters, but this is one of the better passing teams in the Hamilton era and it has resulted in a team that is much more comfortable playing an uptempo, transition game.
3) Maryland's big men have largely struggled this season. Does FSU have the inside presences to make hay inside?
Yes. FSU does not have a single dominant big man like Bernard James, however they do have waves of 7 footers to throw at opponents. And their skills compliment each other nicely. 7'3 Boris Bojanovsky starts and though he doesn't factor into many possessions he is actually FSU's highest rated offensive player. He also blocks 11.8% of opponents two-point attempts, good for 24th in the country. 7'1 Michael Ojo comes off the bench and though not nearly the offensive weapon that Bojo is, he is simply a massive human being who clogs the paint, gobbles up rebounds, and just generally intimidates opposing guards from going to the basket. 6'8 Okaro White has played more wing this year, but he can dominant in the paint at times (like in College Park last season), 6'9 Robert Gilchrist is a high flyer who makes a living off ally oops, and 6'9 freshman Jarquez Smith has been seeing a significant bump in minutes the last 5 games thanks to better understanding on both ends of the floor.
4) What's Florida State's greatest strength?
Their athleticism. There are certainly more skilled teams, but there may not be a more athletic team in the country. The guards are all big and long, the bigs are even longer, and everyone can jump. This team is at its best when it's playing a fast, wide open game, pushing the ball after missed shots and turnovers.
It's been up and down lately, with FSU going cold from long distance the last few games. But the defense has been consistently getting stops, and that's big for a streaky shooting team. Maryland is a solid team, but I think they struggle with the length and overall size of FSU. It's not a pretty game, but FSU protects its home court and gets a hard fought win. 73-65 FSU.Thanks to Matthew and Tomahawk Nation for their help!