When FSU opened as 5-point favorite in tonight's game with Georgetown, I assumed that it would drop quickly. But it held for 48 hours, which gave me hope that Ian Miller would be ready. Then, this afternoon, it promptly dropped to -2.5. Well, crap.
The Noles were able to grind out a win over Florida Gulf Coast to open the NIT, but on offense, it was clear that Miller was missed. FSU scored just 58 points in 66 possessions, which was their worst output since the February 1 Clemson game in which Miller got hurt seven minutes in. Now, with Miller officially listed as questionable, the short-handed Noles are going to have to grind out another win, only this time against a significantly better opponent than FGCU.
Coach Hamilton is used to battling Georgetown from his Big East days, but back then he was coaching against Big John Thompson. Now he's coaching against John Thompson III, who runs a significantly different offense than his father ran. There's really no such thing as a Princeton offense anymore, as it has morphed in so many different directions, but that's still the easiest way to describe it. They use misdirection. They play slow. They make you guard the wings and then hit you with back-cuts when you over extend.
Their current version is a two-headed monster led by two guards who were both consensus top 100 recruits: senior Markel Starks and sophomore D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera.
Starks and Smith-Rivera were both top-5 in minutes played in the Big East, and they both average over 17 per game. Starks is 6-2 with a smallish wingspan, so he won't overwhelm anyone with size. But he developed into a deadly catch-and-shoot player as a junior, and made 42% of his 3s. But that has dropped to just 32% this season. He has become better running the pick-and-roll, and now draws 4.8 fouls/40 under the new rules, whereas he drew a pedestrian 2.5 before.
D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera is the more intriguing player, leading the team at 17.4 per game and adding 5.0 rebounds (2nd on the team). He's got a football build, as is just a remarkable player. In their NIT opener vs West Virginia, Smith-Rivera poured in 32 points (4-8 from the arc) with 10 rebounds and 2 steals. For high volume players (24% or greater usage) he had the third highest offensive rating in the Big East behind Doug McDermott and Marquette's Davante Gardner.
If Miller can't play then FSU is in a serious defensive bind. The Noles typically switch on all guard-to-guard action, meaning on screens or baseline cuts the FSU guards simply swap responsibility rather than chasing players all over the court. But Devon Bookert can't guard Smith-Rivera, and with Aaron Thomas likely slated to play all 40 minutes (assuming Miller can't go), you can't afford to have him playing chase all game. FSU could zone Georgetown, but for the most part the zone has been garbage (especially when we ran it in Miller's absence).
It will be interesting to see how Coach Hamilton uses AT, Montay, Bookert, some walk-ons, and a few bandaids to defend Georgetown's high scoring duo.
The good news (hey! there's good news!) is that the Hoyas defensive flaws dovetail nicely with the Noles offensive strengths. They're aren't a good defensive rebounding team, and they're one of the worst in the country at putting players on the line. FSU has to be the aggressor when it comes to getting to the rim and crashing the glass. This will certainly allow the Hoyas some quick hitters, but you have to give up something.
The game tips at 7pm and will be broadcast on ESPN.