Florida state

Game preview: Florida State vs. Pittsburgh

Florida State is in the middle of a four-game losing streak, during a streak where many of us would have thought they would be 4-0. Injuries completely decimated this team, and now they’re struggling to compete. In those four losses, they average 10.2 PPG, and those four losses have been to Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Pittsburgh. This team’s chances of making it to the tournament are getting slimmer after each game. Luckily, there’s a chance for FSU to regain some momentum and confidence with a game against a really bad Pittsburgh team.

Pitt’s three conference wins this season have all come at home, and all of their conference road losses have averaged 14.7 PPG, and only the top two were in the single digits. In non-conference play, they suffered losses to UMBC, Citadel and Monmouth, to name a few. There’s arguably not a team that’s been hit harder by attrition in the ACC since last season. All the good players are gone and they’ve replaced them with guys who are average at best. It’s hard. They weren’t even a really good team last year. Luckily, this game isn’t in Pitt, a place where FSU had some bad luck.

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Florida State trails the all-time series 6-14, despite having won 3 of the last 4 at home and 2 straight overall in the series.

That game will take place at 9 p.m. on the ACC Network, live from the Donald L Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Florida.

Pittsburgh Panthers (8-16, 3-10) Breakdown

So listen, Pittsburgh is no good. There’s an above-average chance that this will be Jeff Capel’s last season in Western Pennsylvania. It’s also their third game in three different cities in the past five days. It’s not easy for a university team. They played at home against Virginia Tech on Saturday, then played VT in a COVID catch-up game on Monday, and now have to fly to play at Florida State. They’re probably going to be tired, even though the Hokies waxed them off the floor Monday night 74-47.

Pitt is already playing a slow pace, one of the slowest in the nation with around 64 possessions per game. I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to keep this game in the 58 possession range because of how little rest they had. There’s a very good chance it will become an extremely frustrating game to watch.

Offensively, the one thing Pitt does well is hitting the free throw line with a truly impressive 42.4 percent free throw rate. They are currently only making around 69.5% of their free throws. Still, about 24% of their total points this season have come from the free throw line. They’re not shooting 3.32.3% particularly well on the year, although they’ve had some good deep games, including 50% in each of their last two games against Virginia Tech. They’re just as bad inside the arc at 46.1% (the national average is 49.7%) and really struggle against length teams. If only the state of Florida was completely healthy. They can hit the offensive glass pretty hard, which is something to watch out for.

Defensively, they’re kind of right there. Teams shoot 35.8% from 3s against them (and shoot a lot of 3s in general against them), they’re average to defend the 2, and that’s largely down to Mouhamadou Gouye and his rate of 8.9% blockage, which we’ll get to a bit later. They don’t force a ton of turnovers and really get caught on the ball watching a lot. The Panthers are one of the worst teams in the country to give up on assisted goals. They are sometimes too quick to react on a primary ball handler, which is why they give up a lot of 3-pointers and attempts, as a lot of them are wide-open looks.

John Hugley is the team’s biggest threat, but that’s mostly inside the arc and on fouls. He only shoots about 15% on 3, but he takes 7 free throws per game. He’s someone you have to stay disciplined against and stay on the ground with your arms up. Hugley sort of took on that role from Justin Champagnie, he’s just not as good of a shot.

Jamarius Burton is someone I really liked when he was at Wichita State, and someone I wanted FSU to pursue when he entered the transfer portal as a solid combo guard. He instead went to Texas Tech where he…wasn’t good; only 4.3 PPG and 1.1 APG. After a season there, he’s now at Pitt, where he’s had more opportunities and he’s more towards the player than I thought he was at Wichita: 12.9 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 2, 5 APGs. He’s not the most effective goalscorer, but he’s a good size for a keeper.

Femi Odukale reminds me of a bit like a lighter, sophomore version of Anthony Polite: good shooter but can’t hit his free throw, has a knack for the ball on defense and a strong rebounder for his size. He hits about 36% of his 3, so more than respectable, but his shot attempts are more than enough balanced from all over the floor. He is also very capable of reaching the free throw line whenever he wants.

Mouhamadou Gouye is a rare “great” man. At 6’10”, 200 lbs, he’s averaging 2 blocks per game (elite block rate of 8.9%), hitting 37.6% of his 3 of 3.5 attempts per game and making 83, 7% of his free throws There is only one other college basketball player who is a forward/center averaging 2+ blocks per game, shooting 36%+ from 3 and 80%+ from the free-throw line, and that’s Jake Stephens at VMI, a player who will have a good shot at winning SoCon Player of the Year.

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Other guys you’ll see play are Noah Collier (got his first start of the season on Saturday, mostly just a rebounder), William Jeffress (very good rebounder for the position of a 3), Onyebuchi Ezeakudo (who can really make you calling from deep, shooting 42.5% from 3), and Nate Santos (I’ll be honest, I don’t have much to note about him).

Florida State Seminoles breakdown (13-9, 6-6)

I legitimately couldn’t tell you the last time FSU had such an injury-riddled roster. Up to 5 players could miss the game, and three of them are (probably) out for the season. The closest thing I could think of is at the start of 2019 there were practices I’d be in where Terance Mann, Trent Forrest, Phil Cofer and MJ Walker were all missing practices, but for the most part they were playing all (it was the year Cofer missed the first half of the season with a foot injury and Forrest was hampered all year with a bad case of turf toe).

It really tests the depth of Coach Hamilton. Walk-on Harrison Prieto was forced into action against Wake Forest and, to his credit, played very well. 25 minutes and a double-double is something no Coach Hamilton player sees much, let alone a walk-on, but it also shows how little faith they have in a guy like Quincy Ballard , who only played two minutes. They’re probably going to have to rely on Wyatt Wilkes and Jalen Warley to make major contributions, as well as maybe a guy like Justin Lindner.

Because Pitt is playing such a slow pace, it will benefit Florida State a bit because he won’t get out of control, and the guys can breathe a little bit here and there. Right now you’re looking at a 7 man rotation of RayQuan Evans, Jalen Warley, Caleb Mills, Matthew Cleveland, Wyatt Wilkes, Tanor Ngom and Harrison Prieto, assuming John Butler and Cam’Ron Fletcher can’t go. Safe to say…it’s less than ideal.

FSU may have to shoot well from 3 in this game. Pitt doesn’t shoot the 3 well, nor does he defend the arc well. This might be one of the few games this season where FSU has the 3-point advantage. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see FSU play a little more area due to its limited depth.

injury report

It’s getting almost easier to enumerate who is actually healthy for the state of Florida, but anyway…

Malik Osborne is out for the season after undergoing ankle surgery.

Naheem McLeod is out for the season after undergoing hand surgery.

Anthony Polite is likely out for the season with a wrist injury.

John Butler and Cam’Ron Fletcher are both questionable for this one for ankle adjustments, they’ve been in boots for the past few days.

Tanor Ngom was hit twice with his knee and twice quit, against Wake Forest, but he continued to play. He should still play in this one.

For Pittsburgh…

Ithiel Horton is likely out for the season after being suspended after hitting an officer in December. The charges were dropped two weeks ago, but I don’t see him playing.

Nike Sibande is out for the season with a torn ACL.

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Projected starters

state of florida

G: Ray Quan Evans

G: Caleb Mills

G: Matthew Cleveland

F: Wyatt Wilkes

C: Tanor Ngom

Pittsburgh

G: Onyebuchi Ezeakudo

G: Jamarius Burton

G: Femi Odukale

F: John Hughley

F: Mouhamadou Gueye

The keys to the game

To do. Not. Mistake.

There’s only one thing Pitt is really good at: getting to the free throw line. They’re not that good once they get there, shooting only about 69.5% from the line as a team, but they’re top 5 in the country to get there. This is already going to be a slow paced game, Pitt only averages around 64 possessions in a game, no reason to make him slower than necessary.

bullet pressure

The Panthers are one of the worst teams in the nation to give away the ball, with a turnover rate of around 21.2% on the season. That could get ugly, since FSU spins teams around 22.9%. While FSU may not have the available depth they’re used to, they’re still going to tackle teams defensively, trying to force backcourt 10-second calls and turnovers as much as possible. Most FSU guards are still healthy, at the moment, so it will be interesting to see if or how the pressure changes.

Rebound

Pitt is capable of strong performances on the offensive glass, collecting around 31% of his own misses this season, and FSU hasn’t exactly been the best at finishing defensive possessions with a rebound, allowing an offensive rebound rate of around 28.9%. Especially with most of their big players, FSU is going to have to keep guys like John Hugley out of the glass.

game prediction

Florida State is favored by 10.5, with an over/under of 130.5.

I don’t know where the score will come from either side, and it will be a very slow game. I also have a feeling a young FSU defense is going to foul Pitt too much, which is the only way they can have some success. I’m still fairly certain that FSU pulls this off.

‘Noles 66-59