FSU vs Minnesota preview and game thread

Michael Heiman

When FSU and Minnesota matched up on December 3rd the game was brutal. The refs were still figuring out the new rules, and they completely destroyed this game. Here's a part of what I wrote in the aftermath:

To be clear, what made this unwatchable had nothing to do with the score. FSU lost. FSU deserved to lose. They were sloppy when they needed to have poise. They were soft when they needed to be strong. Minnesota won this game 71-61. There is that. That's a fact. Look it up.

The game began with five relatively clean minutes. Minnesota hit a couple threes to get the game going, and FSU battled back. It was 9-8 good guys with 14:26 to play in the half when Minnesota was whistled for a cheap foul. And for whatever reason, that became contagious. Over the next ~35 minutes there were 50 fouls called. 50. You do the math.

The players got so frustrated that the entire team on both sides typically exploded after every foul. There were phantom calls 40' from the basket, chased by players getting hammered at the rim with no call. These things came seconds apart and the came with regularity. At one point Coach Hamilton just buried his face in his hands. Minnesota's coach threw his jacket into the stands. Later on he threw his tie as well. With nothing left to throw he simply strangled himself. Okaro White got whistled for committing a foul against Ian Miller.

I wish I was making this up.

Now, almost four months later, the refs still haven't completely figured it out, though it's a lot better than it was. The new rules still result in far too many touch fouls 40' feet from the basket, and in an effort not to call too many fouls the refs still ignore muggings in the paint. But it is what it is.

All we can do is hope the refs don't ruin another Seminoles-Gophers matchup, and that they let the players decide the game.

The Gophers spread out their scoring, and have three guys in double-digits. 6-2 junior Andre Hollins (13.6 ppg) and 6-4 senior Austin Hollins (12.1) lead the way, while 5-9 junior Deandre Mathieu scores 11.8 per game. Minnesota has a small starting lineup, and the starters up front in December were 6-8 Otto Osenieks and 6-11 Eliott Eliason, neither of whom carried much of the scoring load. Now, Osenieks (knee, cleared to play tonight) has been replaced by 6-9 sophomore Joey King who has averaged 15.8 over the past four games. And Eliott Eliason is likely to miss tonight's game with an ankle injury. This means 6-10 junior Mo Walker will need to have another game like he did on Tuesday when he went for 12 and 9 in their win over Southern Miss.

They take 38% of their shots from beyond the arc (only making a pedestrian 35.4%) and may take even more tonight due to limited depth up front. High volume 3-pt shooting teams are always an issue, as a hot shooting night means you're done.

Defensively, they run a full court matchup press. They'll drop back into either zone or man.

FSU stops will negate the press, but Minnesota will then immediately try and slow FSU down. The key to beating FSU isn't exactly a secret. Richard Pitino summed it up before December's game: "We must rebound the ball and keep them out of transition." Aaron Thomas has been particularly deadly in transition, and in the NIT is averaging 23 points per game.

When Minnesota is able to press, FSU has to be able to attack before they can fall into a half court defense. FSU is 321st in the nation in 3-pt attempts, but have been absolutely on fire in the NIT making 22-37 (59%). If the Noles can break the press they should get plenty of good looks at 3s. But against a team like Minnesota which launches a ton of 3s within their offense, it's important not to get pulled into a shootout. FSU's strength is getting to the rim and they need to be in attack mode from the tip, regardless of how the refs call this game.

The official tip is at 9 on ESPN2, though it is likely to be around 930. FSU is a 1-point favorite.

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