Starting a new feature here on Tomahawk Nation. Let us know if you enjoy the basketball roundtable. Today we ask questions of Norcal_Nole and Celtic Pride.
1. After their disappointing (but expected) loss to Duke, the 'Noles pulled out a victory against Boston College. The reasonable goal for this team seems to be a 9-7 finish in conference; a finish that will lock up an NCAA berth and a bye for the ACC tournament. The 1-1 week kept FSU on pace, but did it feel like the team took a step back? Or was it simply a case of "get the road split" and get back home?
NCN: 1-1 was not a step back. The Seminole D got torched in Maryland and at home against NCST and since then have been playing with passion and direction. Facing two very good offenses this week could easily have gone the other way, and had we played poorly on the defensive end - even if we still split the games 1-1 - then that would have been a step back. Finishing with 9 or 10 ACC wins will only be accomplished through exceptional defense and it seems that Ham has got a lot of the help issues worked out.
CP: First off, we're 2-2 in the ACC on the road. No team in the ACC has a winning road record. Only the disappointing home loss to NC St keeps this from being a fabulous season start. Another point is we've never beaten BC in Boston before. So I don't think of this as just another split. Despite losing to Duke by 14, we had it closed down to 4 (with possession) in the fourth quarter before they put us away with a run. Even the announcers were discussing FSU shots that looked like they were going to go in, but didn't. I guess I'm a glass half-full guy about the Noles right now.
2. The two areas in which FSU has always struggled under Leonard Hamilton are turnovers on offense and defensive rebounding. Duke and Boston College are two of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country. FSU held both to right about their season lows in offensive rebounding. This comes on the heels of two horrendous rebounding games against Maryland and NC State. Has FSU turned this around? Is it too early to tell? If they have, what are they doing differently?
NCN: Because of the way our bigs attack the shooter we're always going to have issues with allowing offensive rebounds. We routinely have two guys going for the block (as opposed to staying on the ground, finding their man, and boxing out), and just the shear presence of our bigs mean that teams are going to try and beat us with the 3 or a deep mid-level game which leads to long rebounds off misses. However, we just limited two good teams to bad nights - so how did we do it? First, the Duke game was very physical, and any time the refs allow us to play that physical we can better use our athletic ability to get to the ball. Second, Kitchen is one of the best rebounding guards around and for whatever reason he brought a high level of intensity to both games. Against Duke and BC he simply out-worked their guards for several balls. Third, our perimeter defense showed up, and rather than flying by the shooters and ending up in press row our guys were able to get in their face and then following the shot they were in perfect position to keep the guards from coming in and snagging those long rebounds. And finally, Chris Singleton played like a man.
CP: The defensive rebounding has always been a problem based on the style of man-to-man defense we play. With shot blockers coming off of their men to challenge shots rather than box their own men out. I can live with it b/c we're a tough team to score on. There's no denying that the defense works. It's the best in the country.
3. FSU needed to go 1-1 in the @ Duke, @ BC stretch and the 'Noles have similar stretches coming up. Over the next 14 days FSU hosts Maryland Thursday, Miami on Saturday, travels to Clemson next Wednesday and then hosts BC next Sunday. 2-2 here keeps the Noles on pace for 9-7. They FSU travels @ Virginia and @ UNC. Much like last week, if FSU can split that road double, they'll remain on pace. FSU finishes with Clemson and Wake at home before traveling to face Miami in the season finale, a team that might be quitting on its season. 2-1 in the final 3 along with the 2-2 and 1-1 in the aforementioned stretches puts FSU at 9-7 on the year in conference play. Can FSU pull this off? What stretch will be toughest?
NCN: We can pull it off, and I think we will. At the absolute worst we have to split the the next two (Mary, Miami). No game is a gimme for anyone in the ACC this year but the Maryland game is a toss up, and the Miami game we simply need to win. Following that is the four game stretch that may very well decide our season: @Clem, BC, @UVA, @UNC. Regardless of how those games play out, if we have a winning record after the UNC game then we'll finish with home games against Clem and Wake, and then go on the road against Miami. At this point in the season you certainly hope that our guys understand the level of commitment required to finish these 5 weeks and enter the ACC tourney with only seeding to be decided.
CP: We must defend our house!!! Pomeroy actually has us slated to go 10-6 in conference based on Sunday's standings (9-7 as of Monday). The only games they think we're going to lose are @Clemson and @UNC (and this is a coin-flip game). But it also has vs UMD, @UVA, and @Mia as virtual coin-flip victories.
Seriously, each home game is winnable and if we win them, we go over .500 in the ACC. Our schedule is very favorable b/c we don't have UNC or Duke at home this year.
4. FSU has the best defense in the country. But its offense is outside the top 100 and even worse to watch. Over its last 4 games, FSU has turned the ball over 80 times in only 272 possessions! Quite literally, FSU fails to get a shot off in more than 29% of its possessions. That's like fumbling 3 or 4 snaps per football game. A t 333rd nationally in turnover rate, only 14 teams take worse care of the basketball. They are Mississippi Valley St. (SWAC), Albany (AE), Louisiana Monroe (SB), North Florida (ASun), South Carolina Upstate (ASun), New Orleans Gardner Webb (BSth), Chicago St. (GWC), Bryant (NEC), Winston Salem St. (ind), Texas A&M Corpus Chris (Slnd), North Dakota (GWC), Southern Utah (Sum), Alcorn St. (SWAC). I've never even heard of most of those schools. This must stop. From here on out, FSU needs to turn the ball over less than 25% of the time. That's still a horrible goal, but it's a big improvement. Can they do it? How would you improve FSU's offense?
NCN: The fact that 25% seems a reasonable goal tells you everything you need to know about our offense, but how do we improve? 1. Push the ball after made baskets. UNC routinely gets the ball across the timeline in under three seconds after a made basket, and while we're not going to achieve that level of success we need to stop allowing teams to set up their press while we dally around waiting for a ref to pick up the ball and hand it to our inbounder. 2. Bench Terrance Shannon. He'll be valuable for us down the road, but currently in ACC play he's averaging a turnover or offensive foul every 1.5 minutes. 3. Identify more opportunities where we can utilize a three guard set. Ham has done a great job bringing Snaer along, and now he can be trusted with more minutes. Some ACC teams are too athletic for Loucks and here would be an opportunity for Snaer to steal some minutes. 4. We can drink more, and pray. Every night it seems someone new is willing to step up and be the guy to commit five turnovers. And that simply has to stop, but will it? Will Snaer stop taking two steps before putting the ball on the floor? Will Gibson and Alabi actually take angles when they're showing on a screen rather than just stepping out and ramming into someone? Will Reid stop his once a game Isiah Thomas impersonation? The offensive goal for our team is to not screw everything up, but will we actually achieve that goal?
CP: The offense needs to run through Alabi. He needs to touch the ball at least 2 out of every three times down the floor - even if he passes right back out. But the turnovers come from all over the place. We need to stop the moving picks. We need to stop stepping on the baseline. We need to avoid having Ryan Reid dribble the ball. I'd seriously have the guys run cone-drills. Singleton for all his basketball skills and athletic prowess is not a particularly good dribbler.
Thanks again to Norcal_Nole and Celtic Pride for their answers!