For the second time in two years, Xavier meets the Florida State Seminoles with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line. This time, it’s the Musketeers who are the prohibitive favorite before the tip and Florida State who comes in with a puncher’s chance of flipping the seed lines. For Xavier to advance to a meeting with the winner of Gonzaga/Ohio State, they’ll have to avoid becoming a mark on someone else’s revenge tour.
Florida State got here by waxing a Missouri team that had gained Michael Porter Jr (and good for him for giving it a go) back for the tournament, but was racked by injury and finished the game with six functional players. The Seminoles were unimpressive on offense, scoring less than a point per possession and shooting a less than inspiring .429/.467/.581. Their defense, however, was absolutely stifling, holding Missouri to 32.7% from the floor.
Florida State’s offense has actually been pretty efficient this year, because they stick with what they are good at. The Seminoles shoot 35.4% from behind the arc, so they don’t shoot from back there terribly often. They are very good inside the arc and grabbing offensive rebounds though, so they’ll pound the ball inside and get what they can in there. Because of that, they get to the line fairly frequently, and they also turn it over fairly frequently. The Seminoles are horrendous at the line.
On defense Florida State blocks a lot of shots and defends in side the arc better than all but 21 other teams in the nation. That’s their strength. Beyond that, the defense is pretty mediocre. The Seminoles are slightly better than average in not sending opponents to the line and slightly above average in turning teams over. They can be absolutely gashed from behind the arc; a dozen times this year teams have gotten 25 or more threes off against them.
- First off, let’s talk about Terance Mann. He’s one of Florida State’s most important players - averaging 12.8/5.6/2.7 on .559/.245/.664 shooting - and the Orlando Sentinel is reporting that he’s not going to play against Xavier. He has been battling injuries down the stretch, and it appeared that he dorked his groin against Missouri. If he’s out, that’s a big hole for FSU to fill
- This is a really deep FSU team, getting more than 34% of its minutes off the bench. That should help blunt the loss of Mann.
- The Noles are also super tall, ranking 12th in the nation with an average height of 6’6.5”.
|CJ Walker||Point Guard||Quentin Goodin|
|6'1", 195||Measurements||6'4", 190|
|Walker starts at the point as something of a placeholder. He's not a dynamic scorer, and he's only a little bit above average as a ball distributor. He also has minor ball security problems, with a TO% of 20.6%. He'll stick a three if left open but isn't a threat that you have to run off the line. He is a reasonable defender but has problems with foul trouble.|
|Braian Angola||Shooting Guard||J.P. Macura|
|6'6", 195||Measurements||6'5", 203|
|This dude is a slasher who can get his own shot at all three levels; he flat out knows how to score the ball. He also gets to the line well and converts from there at a high rate. He has been FSU's highest usage-rate player in conference games. He's a decent rebounder and ball handler, but his stock comes from scoring. He's also a good defender on the perimeter.|
|M.J. Walker||Small Forward||Trevon Bluiett|
|6'6", 205||Measurements||6'6", 202|
|Not related to the point guard dude. After shooting over 40% in non-conference games, he's only 30% from three since conference season began. Sometimes, as we're aware, that happens. He's not much for rebounding or ball distribution and he has had some trouble with fouls. He's the guy I'm tabbing to take Terance Mann's starting spot.|
|Phil Cofer||Power Forward||Naji Marshall|
|6'8", 218||Measurements||6'7", 218|
|He has had a couple of quiet outings in March, but Phil Cofer has grown-man game in him. He's a threat from all three levels and a guy you can throw the ball to and let him work. For a dude his size, he's not much of a force on the glass. Even aside from Naji's back bothering him, Phil Cofer could be the catalyst for a lot of minutes and maybe even a start for Kaiser Gates.|
|Christ Koumadje||Center||Kerem Kanter|
|7'4", 233||Measurements||6'10", 240|
|Our Lord and Savior doesn't get big minutes, but he's a load in the paint when he's out there. He's an efficient scorer, rebounds well at both ends, and blocks a lot of shots. When he's out there, it would probably behoove Xavier to use Kerem to stretch the floor and move Christ out of the paint.|
Lotta depth. Trent Forrest is a 6’5”, 215-pound reserve guard who averages 7.7/4.9/4.1 and leads the team in assist rate. He’s also a good defender and a pretty solid rebounder. Dude can’t shoot threes but can get his at the rim and in the mid-range.
The reason FSU can afford to get Christ out of the game from time to time is Mfiondu Kabengele. In addition to being Dikembe Mutumbo’s nephew, he’s a 6’8” freshman center who rebounds like a monster at both ends. He’s a reliable scorer on the post and can catch and shoot from beyond the arc enough to need accounted for.
PJ Savoy and Ike Obiagu round out the bench for the Noles. Savoy is a a 6’4” shooting guard whose entire role is to chuck threes; he has made 42 of them and is shooting at a 37% clip from deep. He gets over 6 PPG in just 12 minutes. Obiagu is a true seven-footer. He boards well, especially on the offensive end, and has a block rate of over 20%, which is almost comically high. He shoots 32% from the free throw line.
Obviously, if Terance Mann is able to go, just slot him in at the SF, move M.J. Walker to this section, and bump everyone down a line on the depth chart.
Where is Kaiser Gates? Xavier is not going deep without the young man from Alpharetta. It was in this game last NCAA tournament where he went off, going 4-5 from behind the arc and scoring 14. Against Texas Southern he went for two points in 12 minutes and shot the ball one time. That won’t do it. [Joel’s note: Brad wrote this part and is absolutely on point, but I also wanted to add that Kaiser’s defensive prowess is likely to be necessary against FSU, and if he’s an offensive black hole all the while, that bodes ill for Xavier.]
Can Xavier adjust? No matter what happened against Texas Southern, Xavier was likely to win. The offense was good, the defensive was at least solid and the Musketeers moved on. That won’t be the case against the Seminoles. This year’s Florida State team isn’t significantly worse than last year’s. Mistakes will be punished if they are made.
How much will coaching impact the game? There is no question that Coach Mack is the (far) superior coach in this matchup. Last year he took a less talented team and boat raced a trendy Final Four pick. Regardless of how the teams match up on the court, Mack v. Hamilton is not likely to be close. If Coach Mack can bring his tactical nous to bear, X should once more be playing in the second weekend.
Win the cheapie war- Florida State will turn the ball over and they don’t force a ton. Xavier isn’t set up to force turnovers, but they have to be careful not to hand a potent offense easy opportunities. FSU gets roughly 30% of their shots in transition. Hand in hand with that comes Xavier needing to dominate on the defensive glass. The Seminoles get roughly 15% of their shots on putbacks. The Musketeers cannot allow that number to climb. Outside of putbacks and runouts, offense becomes much more difficult for Florida St.
Get to the line- This could fit under the last point as well. Xavier is excellent at getting to the line, Florida State is very good at blocking shots. What tends to go along with blocking shots are fouls. The Seminoles fit neatly into that stereotype as well. Xavier can get to the line if they drive the ball and draw fouls. They won’t get to the line, though, if they are content to settle for jumpers.
Capitalize from outside- While Xavier can’t just stand around and jack threes all day, they need to be aware the opportunities will be there. Teams shoot 36.3% from deep against FSU this year and take a slightly above average 37.9% of their shots from there. The Seminoles can be tough to crack inside, but if that pressure is relieved with a couple of three pointers (hey, Kaiser Gates) the opportunities for Kanter and O’Mara will open up.