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Preview and Game Thread: Iona Gaels vs Florida State Seminoles, 9pm EST

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After a turnover happy, disappointing loss to the Florida Gators, the Seminoles take on the Iona Gaels in the first round of the Old Spice Tournament at the Milk House in Lake Buena Vista, FL. This will be the Seminoles 5th game in 11 days, allowing little recovery time between games nor time to correct mistakes. Tuesday night's game against the Gators was their worst offensive performance of the year that was riddled with turnovers. It was also the Gator's best offensive performance of the year, however they still scored less than 1 point per possession. Time to move on and get back to winning ways in the opening round of the tournament. This is the first time ever that Florida State and Iona have played each other.

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Game Time: 9pm EST

Television: ESPNU

Despite a frustrating loss to the Gators, the Seminoles only dropped to #16 in the Ken Pomeroy poll, with the 15th best defense in the country and the 93rd best offense. However, the glaring problem on the Seminoles stat sheet, similar to last year, is TO%. So far, the Seminoles have turned the ball over on 23% of their possessions, which ranks 253rd in the nation. With a lack of a reliable elite scorer who can take over the game, it will be tough for the Seminoles to be successful on a regular basis if that percentage persists. However, this is only through 4 games, allowing for big swings in stats on any given night. Clearly, weaknesses were exposed against the Gators and the Seminoles must work on their ability to break a full court press with regularity or they will be seeing a lot of it in the coming months.

These two charts tell the story of the game:

This game wasn't statistically over until 2:04 in the second half. Despite the lack luster performance from the Seminoles back court and the unacceptable turnover percentage and a poor shooting night, this game wasn't (statistically) out of reach. Granted, if you had the opportunity to watch the game, it wasn't going to happen.

Heading into the match up with the Seminoles, the Gaels are 3-0 with wins over Boston University, Hampton and Norfolk State. Last year, Iona finished 12-19 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, stepping out of their conference tournament in the first round to Marist. Last year's team was all about defense, finishing the year with the 86th best defense in the country. That was not enough to make up for their complete lack of offense: they didn't shoot well and they turned the ball over often.

In three games this year, it seems that Iona has found a better balance of the two ends of the court, averaging 76 points per game and giving up 68. The offense has picked up a bit despite the departure of Iona's top scorers: Gary Springer and Devon Clarke.

Here is Iona's likely starting lineup:

F #1 Mike McFadden Freshman 6'8 220lbs Newark, NJ
F/C #30 Jonathan Huffman Senior 7'0 235lbs Montgomery, AL
G #3 Scott Mochado Sophomore 6'1 180lbs, Queens, NY
G #15 Jermel Jenkins Sophomore 5'11 185lbs Union, NJ
G #33 Kyle Smith Freshman 6'4 185lbs River Edge, NJ

The Gaels present an interesting line up with which to match up. Mochado, is their true point and won the MAAC Rookie of the Year. Apparently, he is a pass first type of guard who plays good defense. He also has a knack of drawing fouls and getting to the line, but does not shoot well from the line. In fact, the Gaels in general do not shoot well from the free throw line. As a team, they are only shooting 61% from the FT line. Despite standing seven feet tall, Huffman shot 113 three point shots last year. Solomon Alabi and Xavier Gibson went a combined 0-2 last year on three point shots. Huffman is comfortable playing on the wing and shooting from anywhere on the floor. Not a problem for the Seminoles as Gibson can step out and cover him. Additionally, Huffman is coming off a knee injury and belie it or not has put on 20 lbs in the off season. Jenkins played limited minutes last year, but is content to sit and shoot the three. McFadden is their motor guy around the basket. The Gaels do have some size coming off the bench

It appears that the Seminoles will continue with the same lineup we have seen in every game this year: Alabi, Singleton, Reid, Dulkys and Kitchen. This is a game that the Seminoles need to win and regroup after the loss. Fortunately, with the quick turnaround, the Seminoles don't have time to worry about the loss. However, it hasn't allowed significant time to work on correcting the problem.

The Seminoles need to get back to fundamentals and to their dominant performances of the first three games of the year. Alabi needs to be a focus of the offense. Unfortunately, the Gator's pressure limited the ability of the Seminoles to get the ball inside on a regular basis with good passes to set the big man up. Snaer needs more time the court. He has the athleticism we need in the back court on a regular basis. As the Gaels use a three guard set on a regular basis, it might be the time to let him get more minutes. Defensively, he is playing extremely well. Clearly, there is work to be done, but he has shown promise.

Keys to the Game:

1. Move on. Prove that Florida was an anomaly and not going to be a pattern. Demonstrate resiliency. Being able to recover from a poor outing will be a skill the Seminoles need down the stretch. Make a statement in this game. Move on to the second round in the winners bracket.

2. Get Alabi and Gibson on a roll. For this to occur, the Seminoles will need to break any back court pressure that is applied. I haven't been able to see any game tape of Iona, so I'm not sure how athletic Iona is. Given the fact the pressure was so effective in limiting good possessions by the Seminoles big men, it is likely that Iona will try to disrupt the flow of the Seminoles. Getting into a half court set and establishing the paint will get the Seminoles back to 'old' form.

3. Make smart decisions leading to good shooting opportunities. Shooting 33% will not cut it. This seems simple but it is key. A turnover percentage with poor shooting equals a loss every time.

4. Limit the turnovers. This will likely be listed on every game preview.

The Seminoles will face Alabama or Baylor in the second round, regardless of this game's outcome. It would be a significant blow to the confidence of this young team if they don't move into the winner's bracket.

Officials: Announced at game time.

Prediction: Seminoles 78 Iona 62

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Cheers,

TC