The regular season is upon us--finally. After going 2-0 in the exhibition season, the Seminoles take on the Jacksonville Dolphins in the regular season opener. Expectations are high in Tallahassee this year and Coach Leonard Hamilton's squad is looking to make a repeat appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Images from here.
Game Time: 7pm EST
Television: Sun Sports
**If you are going to the game, bring a canned or non-perishable food item for a free ticket to an upcoming game. All proceeds go to the FSU Dean of Students Food Bank and Second Harvest Food Bank.**
In that game, Toney Douglas led a very young squad to it's first of 25 victories. Douglas scored 16 points, had 5 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocks as the Seminoles beat the Dolphins 59-57. In his college debut, Chris Singleton had 12 points and 17 rebounds. In that game, the Seminoles set the pattern for the remainder of the year: playing shut down defense limiting opponent's eFG%, getting to the free throw line but turning the ball over a lot.
The 27.5% TO% eventually decreased to a 22.7 for the season, ranking 291st in the nation. In the two exhibition games this year, the Seminoles have once again turned the ball over on 20+% of their possessions. However, many of the turnovers in the Delta State game were forced passes on alley-oops in a blow out game.
Last year, the Dolphins finished the year 18-14, with a 15-5 record in conference play earning them the Atlantic Sun Conference title. They lost in the second round of the Atlantic Sun tournament to East Tennessee State 85-68, who went on to win the tournament and earn an NCAA bid. ETSU barely lost to Pittsburgh in the opening round of March Madness. Despite the loss in their conference tournament, the Dolphins earned a bid to the NIT, losing to the Gators in the first round 84-62. The Dolphins finished 197th in the Pomeroy ratings, ranking 91st and 204th in offensive and defensive efficiency respectively. The Dolphins have only lost one starter from the team who lined up against the Seminoles a year ago.
Of the 13 players on the Dolphin's team, there are two seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and five freshman. However, their sophomores and juniors saw a lot of playing time last year and have plenty of experience. The tallest player on the Dolphins is Junior Szymon Lukasiak a 6'10 240lbs Center from Krakow, Poland who played at Monteverde Academy. In 9 minutes against the Seminoles, Lukasiak had one FG attempt, one rebound one turnover and one foul. The remainder of the season demonstrated a relatively similar line: 9.5 minutes, 2.2 rebounds and 2.8 points per game. Though, some say that he demonstrated a significant increase in his productivity through the remainder of the season and will likely be a major contributor this year.
Here are the likely starters for the Dolphins:
1 Travis Cohn SG 6-2 165 Jr. Decatur, Ala. (Austin)
3 Ben Smith PG 5-10 165 Sr. Dublin, Ga. (Dublin)
10 Ayron Hardy SF 6-5 188 Jr. Birmingham, Ala. (Huffman)
41 Lehmon Colbert PF 6-6 205 Sr. Roberta, Ga. (Crawford County)
44 Glenn Powell C 6-5 200 Fr. Deerfield Beach, Fla. (Fork Union Academy)
*Some sources have Lukasiak starting over Powell. Given FSU's height advantage, they will likely make that move.
The star on this team is Ben Smith who was names the preseason Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the year. He played 36.2 minutes per game and averaged 16.9 points per game, had an eFG% of 50.4, an ARate of 22.5 and a TO% of 16.2. He also had a steal% of 3.5 and a FTRate of 43.9. Smith is able to compete with the big boys as well; he put up 29 points against Georgia Tech last year. Jacksonville's back court is the strength of their team and will provide Florida State's guards with an early season challenge.
Something that immediately stands out is that the tallest player in their starting lineup is 6'6. The average height of the Dolphins starters is 6' 3.2". Florida State's starters average 6'8", with the shortest starter standing 6'4". The average could be higher if Xavier Gibson gets the nod over Ryan Reid.
The Seminoles will likely keep the lineup they used in the two exhibition games: Kitchen, Dulkys, Singleton, Reid and Alabi. However, the official release from the Seminoles states that Loucks will get the start. Kitchen's role is hugely different if Loucks or Dulkys starts. Despite the fact that Dulkys got the starts in the exhibition season, look for Loucks to start.
The group as a whole needs to continue to decrease the turnovers and improve its three point shooting. Alabi and Gibson are both off to excellent starts and Singleton has shown his defensive excellence. Despite the fact that the Seminoles had a huge size advantage last year, they were out rebounded by the Dolphins 43-40. This should be considered unacceptable in this year's match up.
Key's To the Game:
1. Limit Turnovers. This team cannot get comfortable with playing sloppy, rushed basketball. The Seminoles are a young team but have lots of experience. With a difficult out of conference schedule, these are must win games that should not be given away because of turnovers.
2. Establish the paint. Alabi should be considered an elite center by the end of the year. Demonstrate that his skills and own the paint against the Dolphins.
3. Shut down Ben Smith. When Ben Smith scores more than 10 points, the Dolphins are 43-23. He is by far their best player and will test Kitchen, Dulkys, Loucks and Snaer early and often. He is relentless and does not come out of the game.
4. Set Snaer and Shannon up for success. In their collegiate debuts, build the confidence of the freshman. Get them good minutes. Put them in positions to succeed and set the town for the rest of the year. They shouldn't feel pressured to create or prove their 'worth' tonight. This is a long season.
The Seminoles are 44-19 against Jacksonville, winning 15 straight. They have not lost at home to the Dolphins since 1986. Hamilton is 8-0 in season openers at Florida State. There is no reason that the Seminoles shouldn't keep either of those streaks alive. This will likely be a low scoring turnover ridden slow paced game. Both teams play tight man to man defense. But given the significant size advantage, there is no reason that the Seminoles can't use that to their advantage.
Prediction: Seminoles 68 Dolphins 60
Officials: Tony Dawkins (Referee), Brent Hampton and Brian Dorsey (Umpires). Dawkins typically calls games in the Colonial Athletic Association and the Atlantic-10. This will be his first Florida State game. He gives the home team a slight advantage, typically a 2 foul per game advantage. Hampton is an Atlantic Sun referee and Dorsey is an ACC referee and both have been in the league since 1996. Dorsey and Hampton typically call relatively fair games with a 1-2 foul differential for the home team. However, Hampton has been very favorable to the home team so far this year.
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