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Preview and Game Thread: Florida State Seminoles vs. Florida Gators, 7:00pm EST

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It's time to see what the Seminoles are made of as they head into Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators. Since 1951, when this series began, the Gators have won 38 of the 60 match ups. However, in the past six years, the Seminoles have taken control winning four out of the six games. With one exception, the Gators have been ranked in the top 25 in every match up, including a #4 ranking in the 2006 match up. The Seminoles have the opportunity, for the first time ever, to beat the Gators in four straight games. That task won't be easy as FSU heads into the hostile swamp at the O'Connell Center in Gainesville.

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Game Time: 7pm EST

Television: Fox Sports South/SUN/NESN Look for online links here and here and ESPN360.com.

Continue Reading for the preview!

The Seminoles are off to one of their best starts in recent history. According to Ken Pomeroy's site, the Seminoles are the second best statistical team in the country so far. Keep in mind, this is based on a limited data set and this should not necessarily be considered a marker for the rest of the season. What it does indicate is that the Seminoles have won the games they are supposed in a way that should be expected, meaning the Seminoles should win these early games by 20+ points. They have done exactly that, winning the first three game by an average of 23 points per game.

Many wondered how far the Seminoles offense would drop without Toney Douglas. Many wondered how far the defense would drop without and outstanding on the ball defender. Compared to last year, there really is no comparison through three games. The Seminoles are holding their opponents to an average of defensive efficiency of 60 for second best in the nation. That means that the Seminoles are holding their opponents to 60 points per 100 possessions or 0.6 points per possession. They are holding teams to an eFG% of 31% and a FG% of 25.7%. They have a block% of 29.4 with double digit blocks in the last two games. Coach Hamilton's squad has also generated double digit steals in the last two games. You might say that this has been against weak opponents. Thus far, the Seminoles' opponents offensive efficiency is ranked 32nd in the nation. Believe it or not, Jacksonville is ranked 22nd in the Pomeroy ratings, granted this only based on one game against FSU and the relative activity of their future opponents. Some may not take much weight in the Pomeroy rankings, but it is the measure that is used for statistical purposes here. To make the defense seem even more impressive, consider this. The Seminoles have not allowed their opponents to score more than 18 points in a half and did not allow Mercer to score a single two point field goal in the first half. Simply put, the Seminoles are taking care of business on the defensive end of the court.

Now, the Seminoles head into the Swamp to take on the Gators. The Gators enter the game 3-0 with wins over Stetson, Georgia Southern and Troy, winning easily in each game. Thus far, the Gators have averaged 74.3 points per game and have only allowed 51. The Seminoles are averaging 85 points per game and only allowing 49.7. Despite averaging 74 points per game, the Gators offense has been relatively lackluster, particularly against relatively weak opponents. Thus far, the average Pomeroy rating for the Gators' opponents is 255. The Seminoles' opponents' average ranking is 148, granted all of their defenses are...not good.

Florida has been successful in limiting their opponents three point shooting ability and is likely a result of their tight man to man defense. They play full court pressure on almost every possession possible. This might give the Seminoles significant trouble to start out the game, likely resulting in a close game during the first half. The Gators' defense ranks 16th overall. They also do a really nice job rebounding the ball, limiting change of possession. Given the choice, would you think the Seminoles or Gators play at a faster pace? Believe it or not, the Seminoles do, despite having such an outstanding OReb%. Offensive rebounds decrease the number of possessions in the method that we calculate possessions; they continue a possession rather than start a new one in the way we approach the game.

While the Gators may excel on defense, their offense has yet to turn heads with an Offensive efficiency of 92.6, or less than one point per possession. They only shoot 24% from behind the three point line and have an excessive amount of their shots blocked. However, the Gators are a very athletic team and are waiting to break out of their early season woes. Despite their youth, they have done a nice job limiting their turnovers.

Here are the likely starters for the Gators:

F #21 Dan Werner 6'8 230lbs Senior Middletown, NJ
F #23 Alex Tyus 6'8 220lbs Junior St Louis, MO
C #32 Vernon Macklin 6'10 240lbs Junior Portsmouth, VA
G #1 Kenny Boynton 6'2 183lbs Freshman Pompano Beach, FL
G #11 Erving Walker 5'8 171lbs Sophomore Brooklyn, NY

Kenny Boynton, the highly recruited guard out of Plantation, Florida has demonstrated his athleticism and has contributed immediately: 19 points per game 2.3 assists per game and 4.3 rebounds per game. He is contributing as expected and is playing significant minutes, averaging 32 minutes per game. He is going to give the Seminoles guards a significant challenge. However, the Seminoles have depth. It's not such a bad thing that Snaer is coming off the bench in this game. Hopefully, the Seminoles will be able to wear him down and get him into foul trouble early. Additionally, the Gators haven't seen a defense like this as of yet, certainly nothing like the Seminoles have in the paint.

Tyus has his moments, but is currently playing with a sprained ankle. He is very active defensively and can be a work horse on the boards. Werner was quiet until the Troy game when he finally broke into double digits. Macklin has two double digit point games and is a big body in the post and has done a nice job so far this year. He transfered from Georgetown, allowing Tyus to move to his more natural power forward position. Erving Walker was quiet until Troy as well. As you can see, Walker is not the largest guard in the country. Our size will give him difficulty. It seems that Florida broke out of its shell against Troy. Therefore, it will be interesting to see which Florida team shows up against the Seminoles.

The Seminoles will again start: Alabi, Singleon, Reid, Kitchen and Dulkys. This has been a very effective line up and poses significant match up problems as Loucks, Snaer and Gibson come off the bench. This is the tallest team that Florida State has seen so far this year, but the same goes for the Gators. The Gators do have a good amount of size on their bench and it will be interesting to see what the match ups are as the game goes on. Don't be surprised if Hamilton continues with his rapid fire substitutions. It allows the Noles to play at a higher pace and apply pressure on both ends of the court.

Keys to the Game:

1. Break the press early. Punish the Gators for being greedy on defense. If the Seminoles can break the press quickly and effectively, getting easy baskets the Gators will have to get back on defense. However, this could cause some trouble for the Noles. However, they have seen a lot of pressure late in games so far this season.

2. Establish the paint. Don't get intimidated by the Gators down low. They play physical defense and will likely get a lot of calls at home. This will be a long battle for our big men. Control the paint and force the Gators to shoot threes, which they are terrible at.

3. Keep the crowd out of it. Don't allow any big runs by the Gators. Use time-outs effectively. Keep the stadium quiet. This is an early road test for the Seminoles, no need to add extra pressure.

4. Be patient. This is going to be a close game for most of the contest. Stay calm and take what they give you. Don't lose focus.

If the Seminoles want to continue to earn respect and gain attention, this is a must win game. This will be a physical battle and there will be a lot of frustrating calls. Yes, the Gators will get calls at home. Just like the Seminoles, be patient as a fan. The depth that the Seminoles possess is remarkable. Multiple players have scored in double digits coming off the bench this year. The defensive pressure of the Seminoles will give the Gators fits.The only game tape I have seen of the Gators is against Stetson. Given the the 2-1-2 defense that Stetson plays, it's not a fair comparison or a great tool to evaluate the Gators. They did well against Mercer's man to man. Where they scored a lot of their early points was in transition off Mercer's mistakes. Simply put, the Noles cannot turn the ball over without getting into serious trouble. Florida wants to get out and run and score the easy buckets. The Seminoles need a TO% of less than 20% to have a shot at winning this game.

Officials: Tony Greene (Referee) Ted Valentin and Michael Kitts (Umpires) Tony Greene is an SEC official. Over his long career, he typically calls a fair game. So far this year, he has given a 4 foul advantage to the home team. The only team for which he has called more games during his career is Kentucky.

Prediction: Seminoles 75 Gators 68

This should be a great game. Enjoy.

Go NOLES!!!

Cheers,

TC