|Who: No. 15 Michigan (3-1) vs. Florida State (4-0)|
|Where: Roberto Clemente Coliseum (San Juan, PR)|
|When: 5:00 p.m., Friday, November 22nd|
|TV: ESPN2 / WatchESPN|
|Radio: MGoBlue, 950 AM, 1050 AM, Sirius/XM 85|
Florida State looked nothing like a team that lost in the first round of the NIT last season and lost its best player. The Seminoles broke VCU’s vaunted ‘Havoc’ full court press time and again and blew out the Rams, 85-67 in an 85 possession track meet on Thursday night.
Michigan set the Puerto Rico Tip-Off record for made threes in the early game but Florida State might have set the record for dunks in the night cap. The box score lists 12 Florida State dunks and the Seminoles had too much size and athleticism for VCU to handle. The Seminoles didn’t necessarily figure out how to avoid falling victim to ‘Havoc’, they are just used to winning when they turn the ball over. Florida State gave the ball away on 30% of its offensive possessions and still won by 18 points.
That is because the Seminole defense is legit. Florida State scored just 1.01 points per possession but held VCU to just 67 points in 84 possessions, .80- points per trip. The Rams shot just 33% inside the arc and mustered just a 33% eFG%. Florida State has yet to allow more than .89 points per possession or better than a 47% effective field goal percentage in early season play.
Florida State turns the ball over a lot and isn’t a great offensive team. The Seminoles have scored over 80 points per game but that speaks more to how fast they play than their offensive talent. Averaging 75 possessions per game, Florida State’s offense is ranked 90th in adjusted efficiency by Ken Pomeroy’s metrics. Excusing a 30% turnover rate against VCU is one thing but the Seminoles gave the ball away on 23% or more of their possessions against Jacksonville, UCF and Tennessee Martin as well. Their shooting numbers are impressive because they get so many layups and dunks but they don’t have much perimeter threat – just 26% of their field goal attempts are threes. Florida State is strong on the offensive glass, rebounding 37% of its misses, and gets to the free throw line often, averaging 59 free throw attempts per 100 field goal attempts.
The Seminoles length is overwhelming defensively. Florida State forces turnovers on 24% of its opponents possessions and allows just a 39% field goal percentage inside the arc and 27.8% from outside. Overall, the FSU eFG% defense ranks 18th nationally at 40%. The weak-point of the FSU defense is actually defensive rebounding, the Seminoles are allowing opponents to grab 32% of their misses on the season.
The Seminoles lost Michael Snaer, who used a quarter of their offensive possessions last season but returned their other four starters.
Ian Miller, Devon Bookert and Aaron Thomas are the primary Seminole guards. Miller and Thomas come off the bench but play starter minutes. All three players use between 21 and 26% of Florida State’s offensive possessions and are fairly efficient players. Miller and Bookert are both shooting better than 40% from three point range and all three players are competent passers. Thomas is one of the best defenders in the country, touting the fourth best steal rate nationally, while Bookert is also a plus defender. Miller and Bookert combined for 40 of Florida State’s 85 points against VCU and were the only FSU players to make a three.
While Bookert, Miller and Thomas make a productive backcourt, the length of Florida State’s frontcourt may be most impressive. Okaro White (6-foot-8, 204 lbs), Montay Brandon (6-foot-7, 216 lbs), Robert Gilchrist (6-foot-9, 220lbs), Boris Bojanovsky (7-foot-3, 235 lbs) and Michael Ojo (7-foot-1, 292 lbs).
White uses 25% of Florida State’s possessions, shoots 71% inside the arc but turns the ball away on 31% of his possessions. He’s the best shot blocker on the Florida State roster and blocked three shots against VCU. White is also the most aggressive Florida State player on the offensive glass.
Brandon is the top defensive rebounder on the roster and had a 14 point, 11 rebound double-double on Thursday. He starts on the wing next to White at 6-foot-7.
Gilchrist is a shot blocker and finisher that starts at the four spot at 6-foot-9. Bojanovsky starts at the five, but usually plays fewer than 15 minutes per game and shouldn’t be Michigan’s top concern. Ojo is enormous but has tallied a ridiculous 46% turnover rate this season, also playing less than 15 minutes per game.
The listed heights on the Florida State lineup card are jaw dropping: 6-foot3, 6-foot-7, 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9 and 7-foot-3.
But looking at minutes played tells a slightly different story. Bookert, Thomas and Miller all played at least 30 minutes against VCU. Brandon and White both played slightly fewer minutes. While Gilchrist, Bojanovsky and Ojo combined for 40 minutes. Against VCU, Florida State had three guards on the floor by the first TV timeout.
Florida State wants to run. Averaging just shy of 80 possessions per game in the early season, the Seminoles have no problem pushing the tempo even if it means an array of turnovers. The standard has been that Michigan excels in a running game but this is a game where it has to be careful by picking its spots and slowing the game down when easy baskets aren’t available. I’m not sure the Wolverines can win an 80 possession game in a back-to-back.
It’s especially important for Michigan to slow down Florida State’s offense. According to Hoop-Math, the Seminoles have only taken seven field goal attempts with less than 5 seconds on the shot clock. 27% of the FSU offense comes in transition, where it has a 69% eFG%. That number is a more modest 54% in half-court sets. Michigan’s transition defense struggled a bit and Florida State will be a difficult test.
This team is huge, ranking 6th in both Ken Pomeroy’s effective height metric and actual average height. Everyone will point to the battle on the glass, and yes that’s extremely important, but the bigger worry is Michigan’s ability to get to the rim and finish. The Wolverines have to be aggressive, get in the paint and either get fouled or find a way to score. Otherwise they better be exceptionally hot from three-point range.
Debate on press row was whether Michigan should employ its two big lineup against the Seminoles. I’m not sure that’s the best decision, unless the rebounding battle gets ugly early. Michigan loses so much offensive firepower with two bigs on the floor that scoring in the halfcourt against the Seminoles will be nearly impossible. The Wolverines should stick with their traditional lineups to carry the offensive load but will need Glenn Robinson III to have a big rebounding game at the four. Perhaps most importantly, Mitch McGary needs to stay out of foul trouble and be able to give Michigan big minutes.
Florida State’s length will also pose a turnover issue, almost equivalent to VCU according to this year’s statistics, but that’s something Michigan has dealt with before. The Wolverines have generally excelled against over-aggressive defenses but this young offense hasn’t quite gelled just yet.
It’s hard to figure out how this Florida State team looks this good early in the season. The Seminoles were still huge last season but they just weren’t very good. The FSU defense was ranked 190th last year, caused a few turnovers, didn’t defend threes and was terrible on the defensive glass. Suddenly, they look like world beaters.
Ken Pomeroy’s system projects a 73-70 Michigan victory, giving the Wolverines a 63% chance of advancing to Sunday’s championship game in San Juan. This wasn’t necessarily the match-up the Wolverines expected and it will give them an entirely different test.