Florida State has the size and half-court defense to be a factor against any opponent in March.
If the Seminoles don’t improve their point guard play and decision-making offensively, though, those two strengths might not matter. Their glaring weaknesses were highlighted throughout Wednesday’s 65-49 loss to Michigan State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Florida State opened the game by going inside on a consistent basis. Not surprisingly, it worked. Bernard James was getting points inside; Xavier Gibson made plays; Okaro White and Michael Snaer were attacking the basket; and Jeff Peterson was getting into the lane.
Simply put, the Seminoles were having a field day in the lane. Michigan State couldn’t keep them off the glass and were having a ton of trouble guarding drives to the rim and post offense. If not for outstanding play from Spartans guard Brandon Wood, Florida State would have opened up an early lead.
For some reason, the Seminoles just stopped going to the rim – and subsequently went into a six-minute drought. They had six turnovers and three missed jumpers. No one was attacking the rim, and no one was getting the ball on the low block.
The same thing happened during a five-minute drought in the second half. After the Seminoles closed Michigan State’s lead to two, the inside game disappeared again. Florida State took three consecutive 3-pointers and only went to the rim on two occasions.
Everyone knows Florida State isn’t a very good outside shooting team – the Seminoles need to realize their strength is on the inside and then take advantage of it. They had a size and toughness edge on Michigan State, but only used it sporadically.
Moreover, while some of the credit has to go to the Spartans, it’s not like they were forcing Florida State to shoot jumpers. The Seminoles were just settling for perimeter shots instead of working their offense and looking to get attempts inside the paint.
Jeff Peterson and Luke Loucks played well in spurts, but they need to run sets and get the ball to James, Gibson and White around the rim. They need to attack the rim and create open attempts off dump-off passes.
The poor offensive efficiency was not specific to Wednesday's game, either. Against Connecticut, Florida State had 31 points in the paint but also took 19 3-pointers. In the loss to Harvard, the Seminoles had five assists and 16 turnovers.
Part of the problem is not having Ian Miller. The sophomore has the type of talent and quickness to force defenses to collapse on him in the lane and then dish it for easy baskets. He is expected to return in December after the first semester ends. Of course, he turned the ball over far too often last season and didn’t have the type of impact everyone expected. He’ll need to step it up once he becomes eligible.
Look, Florida State is going to make the NCAA tournament because of its defense. The Seminoles are just too tough at the end of the floor.
But if they want to reach the Sweet 16 like they did last year, they need to find a way to replicate what Derwin Kitchen did for them.
Based on tonight, it looks like Leonard Hamilton might actually miss Kitchen more than first-round pick Chris Singleton.
Photo: US Presswire