The first day of the NCAA tournament passed without any major upsets, and FSU hopes to do their part to keep that trend going today. The opponent is St. Bonaventure, a tiny school in the hills of western New York.
Coach Hamilton has been lecturing his team about not taking the Bonnies lightly. They're ranked 49th in the Pomeroys, meaning they would have been in the middle of the pack in the ACC. They have a senior center who's a projected 1st round NBA pick, and they have a lot of complimentary pieces in place.
If you haven't been following the coverage at TN, we've looked at areas where the Bonnies have the advantage, covered their star Andrew Nicholson, and sat down with the ACC Sports Journal to talk a bit about FSU.
Today we'll look at the rest of the St. Bonaventure lineup.
The front line is a good one, and experienced. They've played together for three years, and have all been starters for two. Nicholson is the 5, who they actually use more like a 4. Demetrius Conger is a 6-6 slasher who is 2nd on the team in scoring (12.1 ppg), plays the most minutes, and has an offensive rating higher than all but six ACC players. He makes 57% of his 2s, 79% of his FTs and can step out and hit the three (36%). The other player is 6-8 forward Da'Quan Cook. Cook doesn't get featured often, and does most of his damage around the basket and at the line.
The back court is manned by a couple of combo guards who both have good handles. FSU, as usual, will focus on shutting down the paint, which will leave plenty of opportunities for threes should the Bonnies chose to take them. 6-4 Matthew Wright attempts the most threes, but only makes 32% of them. If he gets hot, the Noles could be in trouble. His running mate is Charlon Kloof, from Suriname, who is a better shooter (38%) but he focuses more on running the team. He did average 12.7 ppg in the A-10 tournament, which was the best 3-game stretch of his career.
The key player off the bench is 5-10 Eric Mosley, a high volume player who can be forced into some bad decisions.
So how is this game likely to play out? When FSU has the ball, the Bonnies primarily play a 2-1-2 zone or a switching man to man. This is designed to take away dribble penetration, and to take away the perimeter screening game that FSU uses to great effect. The counter is for FSU to push the ball off any St. Bonaventure missed shots to get early scoring opportunities before the defense sets. After that, the Noles need to not settle for threes.
When the Bonnies have the ball, don't expect a defense tailored toward stopping Nicholson. That doesn't mean he won't get double-teamed. It's just that the same positioning and switching principles that helped earn FSU a 3-seed is what coach Hamilton will stick with.
If FSU does a reasonable job taking care of the ball and the Bonnies don't start burying every three they look at, this is a game the Noles should win.
The game tips at 2:45 pm from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, and is broadcast on CBS. Vegas has the Noles -6.5, while Pomeroy has a more conservative Noles -4.