Tag:Florida State
Posted on: March 2, 2011 4:39 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2011 4:41 pm

Can FSU beat UNC without Singleton?

Zeller, Kitchen, Henson and White will do battle down low.

Posted by Eric Angevine

When Florida State hosts UNC tonight, look out for Michael Snaer. No, wait, make that Bernard James. Er, would you go for Deividas Dulkys? No? How about Derwin Kitchen, then?

Yeah, Derwin might do. You might wonder why I mentioned those other three guys, though.

Ever since Chris Singleton went down with a potentially season-ending injury, no one player has taken over to lead the Seminoles in scoring. Snaer put up 16 points and 8 boards in a win over Virginia. James did 14 and 8 to help beat Wake Forest. Kitchen, 16 and 7 in a loss at Maryland, and then, perhaps the most unusual combo of all: Dulkys with 17 points and freshman Okaro White pulling down 7 boards to go with his own 17-point outing to beat Miami.

That rotation is all well and good against that row of non-tournament teams, but how will it fare against North Carolina? Probably not too well. Ty Zeller and John Henson inside would be tough to handle even with Singleton in the lineup, but an improved Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall putting the ball in the hands of the big men, and Dexter Strickland playing tough D, it may be too tall an order.

Then again, Leonard Hamilton should be in good shape tonight if Kitchen and White (above) can become the dynamic duo on the interior.

This year, however, scoring may not be the way to beat UNC. If Boston College has taught us anything, it's that even a mediocre defensive team can hold the Tar Heels to a low scoring output. Florida State is a very good defensive unit, even without Singleton, and they're playing at home.

Don't get comfortable just yet, Heels fans.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 1, 2011 10:41 am

Streaking Heels are doing it with defense

Dexter Strickland is a big part of UNC's defensive game plan.Posted by Eric Angevine

When someone mentions the North Carolina Tar Heels, what image comes to mind?

It might be a specific player: James Worthy, Michael Jordan or Tyler Hansbrough. It might be Dean Smith or Roy Williams.

The image that comes to my mind as a mental placeholder for the team as a whole, however, has three distinct parts: a defensive rebound, outlet pass to a streaking guard, then an easy layup. Transition basketball.

It's tempting to assume that this year's Tar Heels have regained the full-court mojo they lost when Ty Lawson left campus, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Roy Williams has publicly acknowledged that this year's team doesn't have a natural feel for the transition offense, and a look at recent results makes that painfully obvious. In their first three ACC games of the season, the Heels averaged 61 points per contest, good for two wins and one loss.

Since then, they've picked up the pace a bit, even breaking the century mark in points in their first meeting with Boston College. Moving Kendall Marshall into permanent starting position has helped with that, but there's little doubt this team lives and dies on inside play, primarily in the half-court offense. It was nearly enough to do in Duke in Cameron on February 29. Ty Zeller and John Henson scored 34 of UNC's 73 points that evening, and tough defense held Kyle Singler to just 10 points in his own house. The superior outside shooting of the Blue Devil guards turned the tide in the second half.

The perimeter is definitely the area of concern for these Heels, however. Very few teams in the country will be able to exploit UNC's perimeter players the way Nolan Smith and Seth Curry did in February, but plenty of teams will be able to make the Heels one-dimensional by playing zone defense. Witness what BC, victims of the 106-point explosion, did in the rematch. They scurried back on defense to cut off the fast break and played zone. The result was a 48-46 squeaker for the home team. To drive that point home, BC is currently 243rd in defending the two-point shot, and 202nd in the nation at stopping the three. They didn't have to -- and may not be able to -- play lock-down defense. They merely had to make the Heels uncomfortable, and it was nearly enough to win the ballgame.

UNC has a tough final week to play. The team will travel to Florida State tomorrow (Video Preview), then host Duke to finish the season on Saturday. As fate would have it, those are the two dragons the Heels must slay -- both of them -- to show that they have Big Dance moves. We know that the Heels can hang with them defensively (the Heels are nationally No. 2 in defensive efficiency, while Duke is No. 3 and FSU is No. 5), so the question, so unusual for a Roy Williams-coached team, becomes:

Can they score enough?

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: January 25, 2011 9:47 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2011 10:28 pm

Shocker of the season in Syracuse

Posted by MATT JONES

I began suspecting that Syracuse was overrated early in the season. When the Orange became one of the four remaining undefeated teams, some crowned Jim Boeheim's club as a Final Four contender, but I refused to give in.

Yes, the 'Cuse had been in the house with early season wins over Michigan State, Michigan and Georgia Tech, but it had also barely squeaked by in wins over William and Mary and Iona. The undefeated record confirmed that this was a team with talent, but the mediocrity seen often on the court showcased that with no Wesley Johnson on the roster, a legitimate contender it was not.

This initial suspicion has been confirmed over the course of Syracuse's recent three-game losing streak, culminating on Tuesday in a 90-68 loss to Seton Hall in the Carrier Dome that is as shocking a result as we have seen this year in college basketball. Boeheim's team was whipped from the very beginning, falling down by as many as 20 in the first half and never making a run that could even cause Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard to sweat a drop in the second. From the opening tip, Syracuse was unable to put the ball in the basket, but even more shockingly, defended as poorly as any game I can remember in the Boeheim era.

What type of Jim Boeheim team allows an opponent as dreadful as Seton Hall (8-12 overall, 2-6 in the Big East going into the game) to come into the Carrier Dome and shoot 54 percent for the game and 58 percent from the three point line? This Seton Hall team came into the game ranked 293rd in America in field goal percentage, yet the Orange found a way to make them seem as if they were carrying a starting five of Rick Mount, Craig Ehlo, Craig Hodges, J.J. Redick and the college version of Chris Jackson. Anyone can lose a game, but to do so by making a cellar dweller in the Big East look like a Championship contender ... well that takes a special type of atrocious performance.

We have seen some upsets this year that were head-scratchers. Anyone who has had the misfortune of watching an Auburn game is baffled at how the Tigers upset Florida State. And for an Illinois-Chicago team that is 0-8 in the Horizon League to have upset Bruce Weber's Illinois team is also beyond perplexing. But for Seton Hall to take a Syracuse team that just 10 days ago was undefeated, and destroy them in such a thorough, embarassing way, well that is downright shocking.

Boeheim will surely have the Orange playing better before the season is over, but remember this game come March. No team that is a legitimate national player loses a game like this, in a manner this humiliating. Mark Jan. 25 as the date that the 'Cuse was officially eliminated from Final Four contender status.
Posted on: January 13, 2011 2:07 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2011 2:26 pm

Admit it ... watching Duke lose is fun

Posted by MATT JONES

Admit it.  You enjoyed watching Duke lose last night.  I am not talking to you, Mr. Cameron Crazy, who took one night off from your molecular biology homework to go to your study partner’s house, paint your face blue and white, drink a couple of Zimas and watch your boy Mason Plumlee “do work” while discussing when you will find your own “hot girl from 'Big Bang Theory'” who will look past your dorky nature and see the inner Mark Wahlberg inside.

I am talking about the rest of the college basketball world, who either actively despises Duke or, among the more genteel fans, simply enjoys watching the Blue Devils squirm. For those folks, games like Wednesday night’s loss to Florida State are a lot of fun.

In college basketball, Duke is without question the hall monitor. With the exception of Kyrie Irving (who is now hurt), there isn’t a Duke player on the roster who would be considered one of the “cool” kids anywhere outside of New Jersey and some parts of upstate New York. All of Duke’s players have appropriate haircuts, say “yes sir, no sir” and occasionally even help old ladies across the street. They have all the swagger of Mark O’Meara , combined with the street cred of Glenn Beck. Coach K complains to the refs incessantly and the players always seem incredulous at the mere thought they could have committed a foul. When other players engage in any action that is not basketball the “Duke way” (such as oh, I don’t know … being interesting), K and the players go running to the principal, tattling and threatening to tell their NCAA sugar daddies.  It can all be a bit much.

That is of course combined with the continued reality of every announcer, pundit or writer falling all over herself to let us know that Coach K does things “the right way” and that the players put the word “student” into “student-athlete.” To watch a Duke game is to be berated into accepting that you have drifted upon a set of players that are a physical embodiment of a mix between Oscar Robertson and Socrates , with the occasional floor slap mixed in. To those that pontificate on basketball, Duke is what A.J. Leibling’s “Sweet Science” is to books about sports, a dash of exquisite college basketball literature in a world of mediocrity and drivel.

It can all be a bit much. But when Duke loses … well those of us in the unwashed masses have something to celebrate. The “know-it-all” at the back of the classroom asking if more homework is going to be assigned or if the NCAA can crack down on this bully who is trying to recruit my players, gets his comeuppance in the most profound way. And then, when that loss comes from a team that is actually a football school and sees basketball as a hobby instead of a way of life…well that is even more grand.

Such a game happens every season. Nearly every year, Duke goes into some ACC team’s home arena, usually Florida State or Virginia Tech, puts their arms around each other in a little-too-tight huddle, sprints to Coach K’s every beckon call and looks terrified of the big, bruising bodies that are taking over and rudely beating them at their own game. Then as the minutes wind down, Coach K goes from cursing at the referees to inner acceptance of his fate and the players hit the one great moment where they no longer believe they will win and realize that for the first time, life is truly not fair.  I love that moment every year and if you are honest, so do you.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 12, 2011 11:37 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2011 12:20 am

Undefeated no more: Duke goes down

Posted by Matt Norlander

We've been spared the conversation, thankfully.

That cheap, made-for-talk-radio and easy-fodder-for-columns topic that would've flooded the airwaves and Internet and newspaper pages had Duke made it to February, flawless: Can the Blue Devils go undefeated?

No, they can't. And they never could. Especially after the team's chances dipped significantly in the wake of Kyrie Irving's toe injury, causing the phenomenal freshman point guard to sit out indefinitely. Tonight, his presence was sorely missed.

Tonight — the first evening college basketball really got to itself now that college football season is over — Florida State gave the general public something terrific: an upset over American's most well-known college basketball team. It was terrific. It was an ugly game (just how Florida State wanted it), but Leonard Hamilton's Seminoles ended the Blue Devils' undefeated campaign with 66-61 grinder of a game in Tallahassee.

It's the fourth win over a No. 1-ranked team in FSU history; three of those victories have come against Duke, at home; the 'Noles pulled off upsets in 2002 and 2006.

How'd it happen? Well, in a way, the Blue Devils sort of just showed up and accepted their fate. I'm not saying they didn't try, but they looked off all night. They lacked fire and certainly lacked toughness and hustle (gasp!) at times. There was a lot of sloppy play — 30 total turnovers — and amid that mess Duke tried to shoot the 3 in order to win.

Of course that's a tactic which has become a Duke staple for more than a decade now ... but against FSU, it wasn't the way to go. Mike Krzyzewksi's boys shot 11 for 35 from beyond the arc (accounting for 57 percent of the Devils' shot selection), attempting to win by playing around Florida State's biggest strength: interior defense. Nobody is better at swatting shots than the Seminoles, and few teams are better, all-around, from a defensive standpoint.

Down the stretch Duke kept it close but the Seminoles stood tall, which was refreshing to see from a team that recenty lost to Auburn, the worst BCS team, by a mile, out there. While Duke was heaving 23-footers, Florida State went 5 for 6 from the foul line in the final minute of play. Some issues for Duke have surfaced (Mason Plumlee, pick up that white courtesy phone, please), but those are things for another post. I am ashamed to say I hedged on the possibility of this happening when I wrote this piece on FSU a couple weeks back. But before the game tonight, I almost went there!

Finally, it's time to play "Let's! Get! Obvious!" by stating: Going undefeated is just so hard to do. Harder to do in college basketball than college or pro football. Duke was the latest elite team to show us why.

Now we wait on Ohio State, San Diego State, Kansas and Syracuse to give us their demonstrations as further proof.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 3, 2011 11:54 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2011 12:39 am

Three takeaways from Monday's games

Posted by Matt Jones

A quick scan of what you should care about from Monday's slate of games:

St John’s is for real  

We knew going into the season that St. John’s would be improved.  Steve Lavin’s club had its supporters, including Rick Pitino, whose comment that the Red Storm would win the Big East made one wonder if he lost more than his stamina in his old age.  However an NCAA berth still seemed a stretch to many and early success in the Big East was met with more skepticism than compliments.  With tonight’s 61-58 victory over Georgetown, it has now become clear that St. John’s will be a force for the entire Big East season.  The Red Storm finished strong down the stretch and had the Garden rocking in a manner that doesn’t’ yet hearken back to the days of Mullin, Berry and Jackson, but does at least get the blood flowing.  The next seven games however will give a test unlike any we have seen in college basketball in some time.  St. John’s will play Notre Dame twice, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Louisville, Georgetown and Duke, all teams ranked in this week’s poll.  If Steve Lavin’s team can simply come out of this stretch with a pulse, relevant college basketball in New York City could be back in February and March for the first time in over a decade.

Michigan State is on track

It has been the usual difficult trip for Tom Izzo and the Spartans during the nonconference season.  An ambitious schedule led to more losses than Michigan State had hoped and the start of Big Ten play brought some trepidation about how the team would fare in a much-improved conference with significantly more depth.  Tonight’s 65-62 win at Northwestern helps alleviate some of the initial worries, as Sparty controlled tempo and helped keep the Wildcats’ star John Shurna at bay, holding him to 11 points on 1-11 shooting.  Northwestern fought back from a late deficit with an 12-0 run that put them within one with, as Kalin Lucas went to the line with 13 seconds left.  After a free throw miss, Draymond Green made another big play for Izzo’s team, by getting a key offensive rebound and scoring to solidify the win.  It was a tough loss for Northwestern, who needs a couple of resume building wins for March, while Michigan State showcased that even with the early struggles, it is exactly where we believed it would be in the preseason…atop the Big Ten and grinding out victories on the way to postseason.

Butler and Florida State are Fraudulent

Two weeks ago in Hawaii, Butler and Florida State faced each other in a well-played game that suggested both teams were ready to make real noise going into conference play.  Butler had seemed to overcome its horrendous star, while the Seminoles seemed poised to overcome their traditional underachieving and become a real contender for the title of second best team in the ACC.  In fact, the game was so engrossing that I almost forgot that I was watching it two days before Christmas and risking the wrath of my entire family.  Now tonight it was proven once again that both teams are the frauds that we thought before their Hawaiian adventure.  Butler was embarrassed in a conference game, losing 76-52 to Milwaukee in a game that will cripple the Bulldogs’ at-large berth potential come March.  Even worse, Florida State lost 65-60 to the worst college basketball team in a BCS conference, Auburn.  Previously the Tigers had fallen to UNC-Asheville, Campbell, Presbyterian and Samford, but luckily for Tony Barbee’s team, the schedule brought the disappointment juggernaut that is Florida State into its arena and with it, a much-needed victory.  For both Butler and Florida State, the promise of two weeks ago has diminished and reality has since set in.  Each is the same team   that we saw before they met in Hawaii, meaning neither is yet worth our full attention.

Posted on: December 28, 2010 5:50 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2010 6:00 pm

Chris Singleton vital to FSU's ACC, Tourney hopes

Posted by Matt Norlander

As we prepare to swing into 2011, second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference is considered to be up for grabs.

Because of Chris Singleton, Florida State has as good a chance as any team to be the beta to Duke's alpha.

What's special about Singleton? He's tremendous around the rim and in the paint. He's experienced and has gotten better in his role with each season he's played for the 'Noles. He's abnormally adept to swiping the ball for players his height. Most of all, he's a lot of fun to watch, even on a team that has stretches of really bad offensive hoop. There's a certain distinguishable-only-by-the-eye quality to some players at the college level. Singleton embodies it. (For comparison, David Lighty at Ohio State and Chris Wright at Georgetown also apply.)

FSU's games can be a grind at times, but the 11-3 Seminoles are the best team in Division I at guarding the 2-point shot (which is why they'll likely struggle to keep pace with 3-point-efficient Duke). They are the second-most efficient team at blocking the basketball. This has been FSU's identity for awhile now, yes, but Singleton wasn't always the reason. In fact, this is a little astonishing, considering 7-1 Solomon Alabi left the program to pursue the NBA after last season (when FSU was second-best at guarding the 2 and fourth-best in blocks).

One more tempo-free stat you must know: FSU is third-best squad in effective field goal percentage defense (often shortened to eFG%). When a space-eater and shot-swatter like Alabi abandons you, it's not the easiest thing to replace his production/keep other teams from producing. But Leonard Hamilton has coached his team efficiently in this regard. No. 31's drive and uptick in his game should be just as applauded.

Singleton, a 2008 McDonald's All-American, isn't the only reason for this (we'll name-drop the others in a sec), but he's clearly the most critical. The 21-year-old is in the top 12 percent (approximately) in 10 of the 15 tempo-free categories listed at KenPom.com. I don't have the time to track down how many other players are elite in 66 percent of the trackable categories, but I'm guessing it's less than a full bench's worth.

Last season, when playing under Alabi's massive wingspan, Singleton was elite in only four categories, though two of them were block and steal percentage. His offensive efficiency could afford to go up, but his rebounding, blocking and steal rates are all strong for a player who is a skinny-built 6-9 tweener of a forward.

Here's a look at how Singleton's block percentage has pathed itself out the past three seasons, along with his possession percentage (a big jump) and eFG% , which needs to trend up instead of down to get FSU a better chance at not only vying for second in the ACC, but earning a good seed in The Tournament.

Xavier Gibson, a 6-11 junior, and Terrance Shannon, a 6-8 sophomore, have helped FSU and Singleton in the colored part of the court this season, but he's going to need a little more help to get and keep this team in the top three of the conference, which is weak all around yet again. And FSU only has to play Duke once, and it's a home game on Jan. 12, so who knows?

Because Hamilton's team plays such suffocating defense, it's going to have a chance in most conference games. But Singleton's play and potential is what really will give this team a shot at playing above the team's expectations, even if in doing so he reaches his.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
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