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Xavier v. Florida State 2017 NCAA tournament second round preview, matchups, keys to the game

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A Sweet 16 bid is on the line as Xavier takes on Florida State in the state of Florida tonight.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Florida State vs Florida Gulf Coast
This guy might be able to dunk.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Here we go. After taking on an overseeded Maryland team, Xavier has a really tough draw with Florida State in Orlando. Orlando is as far away from FSU as Cleveland is from Xavier, so this is a de facto home game for the Seminoles. The Muskies have won seven games and lost none in Orlando the last two seasons, so the site isn’t entirely hostile to X.

Florida State got here by going 25-8 over the regular season, including 13-7 against ACC teams in regular season and tournament play. They weren’t super impressive against Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday, letting the Eagles hang around despite holding them to less than a point per possession. One game doesn’t a scouting report make though; here’s what’s under the hood of the Seminole machine.

Team fingerprint

Two things jump off the page right away: FSU is young, and they are tall. KenPom has them at 306th in the nation in experience, and - aside from junior guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes - they rely mostly on sophomores and freshmen to get the job done. They’re also the second-tallest team in the nation according to Pomeroy. More importantly, they’re 6th in effective height. Where Xavier usually gets its height advantage by having big guards, Florida State has big people at all five positions.

They like to get up and down on offense, ranking in the top 20 in fastest average possession. They take good care of the ball, get to the offensive glass, and pound it inside. They don’t shoot the three particularly well or particularly often, and their trips to the line are marred by a 68.8% success rate. The ball sticks a ton, too; they’re 236th in assist rate.

Defensively, they really slow teams down. They’re fairly average defending the arc and forcing turnovers, but they defend the middle really well thanks in large part to a monstrous block rate. Two things they don’t do well are defend the glass and keep teams off the line, which just happens to line up with a couple of Xavier’s offensive strengths.

Players:

Starters:

Starting matchups
Xavier Rathan-Mayes Point Guard Quentin Goodin
Junior Class Freshman
6'4", 208 Measurements 6'4", 190
10.4/3.1/4.9 Game line 5.1/2/3.4
0.452/0.328/0.535 Shooting line 0.358/0.25/0.567
Hands down my least favorite Xavier in this matchup, Rathan-Mayes is an incredible finisher who doesn't get to the rim as often as he should. He takes more than 40% of his shots from deep, where he runs hot and cold. He's an extremely effective distributor who takes care of the ball well. The fact that he's miserable at free throws may be something to watch if this one goes close/late.
Terance Mann Shooting Guard J.P. Macura
Sophomore Class Junior
6'6", 204 Measurements 6'5", 203
8.6/4.7/1.7 Game line 14.4/4.4/2.8
0.582/0.333/0.667 Shooting line 0.422/0.337/0.785
Mann is good at the rim and almost relentless in getting there, but he also has solid mid-range game when he needs it. He's not a huge part of Florida State's offense, but he's a really efficient tertiary option. He's also sneaky effective on the offensive glass, which I imagine is irritating to watch.
Dwayne Bacon Small Forward Malcolm Bernard
Sophomore Class Senior
6'7", 221 Measurements 6'6", 202
17.1/4.2/1.7 Game line 6.4/4/1.6
0.45/0.343/0.75 Shooting line 0.408/0.385/0.604
Here we have a problem. Bacon is strong and can really score the ball from inside, but he can be baited into settling for jumpers. He's kind of a ball stopper on offense because he likes working off the dribble so much, but he's averaging 17 a game, so nobody's going to call him on it. He takes almost a third of the team's shots when he's on the floor.
Jonathan Isaac Power Forward Trevon Bluiett
Freshman Class Junior
6'10", 210 Measurements 6'6", 215
12.1/7.7/1.2 Game line 18.2/5.7/2.1
0.506/0.352/0.786 Shooting line 0.437/0.372/0.756
Not a great defensive matchup for Tre. Isaac is long and extremely athletic, and he has the potential to really score them in bunches. He's capable of scoring at all three levels and boards hard at both ends. He's also a really good help defender in both passing lanes and rim protection, as you might expect from a man with his length. My goodness he's skinny though.
Michael Ojo Center Tyrique Jones
Senior Class Freshman
7'1", 304 Measurements 6'9", 237
4.9/3.2/0.2 Game line 4/3.2/0.3
0.564/0/0.794 Shooting line 0.586/0/0.475
Know who's not skinny? Michael Ojo. He lives at the rim, scoring almost all his points on layups and dunks. He is a really good real estate rebounder on both ends. He's a good rim protector, which I imagine Q will test (for good or ill) at some time tonight.

Reserves:

Florida St. is very, very deep. Six different players come off the bench and average more than double digit minutes. PJ Savoy is not one of those guys but he still leads the team in scoring off the bench with 5.4 points in under eight minutes as a 6-4 gunner. CJ Walker is next. He’s a 6-1 slasher who gets five per game. Trent Forrest gets 5.0/2.8/1.6 in his 15 minutes. He’s 6-5, 215 combo guard who rarely ventures out behind the arc. Braian Angola-Rojas is a 6-6 marksman who shot 43% from deep. He won’t come inside much. Jarquez Smith is a 6-9 senior who is excellent on the glass but doesn’t use many possessions. 7-4 Christ Koumadje shouldn’t be too hard to pick out when he enters. As you would expect, his block rate reflects an almost providential ability to know when the shot goes up and he snares more than 12% of opponents shots when he’s on the court. Finally, Phil Cofer rounds out the bench. At 6-8, he does a little bit of everything.

Three questions:

- Can Xavier match FSU’s depth? Only 25 teams in the nation use their bench more than the Seminoles. Conversely, 192 teams use their bench more than the Musketeers. Xavier at the start of the season wasn’t as deep as Florida St, they certainly aren’t now. Whatever is going on with RaShid Gaston needs resolved, and soon.

- How will Xavier combat the Seminoles length? The Musketeers are a very tall team, to be sure, but they aren’t as tall as FSU. At the guard spots it may not be an issue, but the Seminoles two seven footers in rotation give them a huge advantage down low. This translates into shot blocking ability that could give Quentin Goodin fits if he doesn’t pull up.

- What does Coach Mack have cooked up? The coaching advantage here is on Xavier’s sideline. On paper, the Seminoles are a tough matchup, but Coach Mack has had two days to work something up to get his team in position to win. The plan will be there, it will just need to be executed.

Three keys:

- Turn second chances into points: Xavier should get onto the offensive glass effectively. What the likes of Tyrique Jones, Sean O’Mara, and RaShid Gaston need to do is make sure that those rebounds immediately become points. Standard offense isn’t going to be easy, so getting stickbacks will be vital.

- Don’t let it turn into a track meet: If the game speeds up, FSU’s depth and athleticism comes to the floor. X is an athletic team, but they aren’t on the level of the Seminoles. If Florida St can do nothing but run and jump, they will. That’s what they want to do, Xavier can’t let them. Bad early jumpers would be a death knell for the Musketeers today.

- Get to the line and execute: The Seminoles are going to throw some shots, but they are also going to get themselves into trouble trying to do so. If the whistle is tight, Xavier will have the chance to win the game at the line. That means that JP Macura and Trevon Bluiett especially need to convert when they get there. The bigs need to hold their own and hope the guards excel.