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Men's Basketball Preview: Delta State University Statesmen vs. Florida State University Seminoles (Exhibition Game)

Tonight, the Seminoles open the basketball season with an exhibition game against the Delta State University Statesmen.  Looking to build on a 25 win season and their first NCAA tournament appearance in 11 years, the Seminoles will play 2 exhibition games at the Tucker Center against Delta State tonight and then Georgetown College (Kentucky) on November 9th.

While it may seem that playing a NCAA Division II and NAIA Division I school are of limited importance, the Seminoles have a rather busy early out of conference schedule. The Seminoles play seven games in 13 days to start the season, with opponents like Florida, Ohio State, Alabama or Baylor (Old Spice Tournament) and a potential match up with Marquette or Xavier. Due to the limited amount of practice time available during the early season, it is imperative that the Seminoles use these two games to their advantage.

Take a look inside for more information on tonight's match up... 

Tonight, the Seminoles open the exhibition season with a match up against NCAA Division II Delta State University from Cleveland, Mississippi, which is about 3 hours southwest of Memphis, Tennessee. The Statesmen compete in the Gulf South Conference, which includes teams like Valdosta State, University of West Florida and the University of Northern Alabama.

Last year the Statesmen, or the Fighting Okra, finished 21-9, going 15-2 at home, 5-5 on the road and 1-2 at neutral sites. The Statesmen averaged 80 points per game while only giving up 71, shooting 46% from the floor and 35% from beyond the arc. Three players averaged double digit scoring, with Alton Robinson leading the way with 17.7 points per game.The Statesmen forced 8.3 turnovers per game, but turned the ball over 14 times per game.

Out of the 17 players on the roster, 13 are seniors. Many of the players on Delta State's team are transfer students from community colleges, but there are some former Division I players on the team. Not only is this an experienced team, but they are relatively big, with 7 of the players on the team standing 6'6 or taller. They have on seven footer, who is a Junior from the Netherlands. He currently doesn't have a number on their roster page; the significance of that is not clear as he was not on the team last year.

Here is a clip of Delta State play Christian Brother's University. They lose this game 75-65. Here is an other clip. Clearly, this tape is from Christian Brother's and shows Delta State getting absolutely worked on defense. It looks as if they play a relatively loose man to man defense for the majority of this clip. CBU gets great spacing and absolutely eats up the middle of the court with cutters and by dribble penetration. It also appears that they were not able to protect the paint. This is not a good or fair assessment of Delta State, but it is the only clip that was easily available on You Tube. And to be fair, it looks like Delta State had a tough time against CBU the two times they played each other. Delta State put up a 100+ points on a few opponents and held opponents in the 60 point range on a number of occasions.

The reason to pay attention to this game is that the Seminoles need to get their offense in sync as soon as possible. Fortunately, this is not the first competition that this squad has seen since the NCAA tournament. They played four games against good competition while on a ten day trip to Spain. During that trip, the Seminoles scored at will and played at a higher pace than they have previously. However, Michael Snaer and Terrance Shannon were not a part of the trip.

I had the opportunity to ask Head Coach Jason Conner of Delta State a few questions about the upcoming game. Here are my questions and his responses. I want to thank Coach Conner for taking the time out of his schedule to answer our questions. My questions are in bold:

1. As this is an exhibition game, how are you preparing your team to
play Florida State? Are you developing a regular game plan and learning
Florida States' tendencies or are you looking to work on specifics and
disregard what FSU may or may not do? What do you hope to achieve in
this game?

We have tried to prepare as best we can. We know that they are super
talented. We are going to treat this like any other game that we would
play. I hope that our boys fight the whole game. I believe Florida State
has a chance to be special this year.

2. It seems that since you took over the Head Coach position at Delta
State, you have seen an increase in the success at Delta State. What did
you do to make this a better team?

We have a lot of seniors on this team so I believe that these kids are
older and more mature than we are used to seeing. I'm willing to bet
that no team in the country has 13 seniors. I hope to continue the
success that Delta State is used to having.

3. Who will be your likely starters for the game this year? It seems
that your team is loaded with experienced players, who will you look to
to lead your team this year?

Our point guard Chad Akins should be an All-American this year and we
will look to him to lead this bunch. We have a lot of depth and will
probably start a different bunch every night.

4. What are your impressions of Florida State?

HUGE. They might be the biggest team I have ever seen. I thank God that
I don't have to worry about guarding Tony Douglas tomorrow night. I will
leave someone in the league to figure out how to do that. I think the
guys at Florida State are doing a great job with the program. We are
thankful for the opportunity to play them.

Playing a very busy early out of conference schedule, the Seminoles need to use the game to establish the play of Alabi, Snaer, and their guards. While Florida State will likely be much bigger and more athletic than the Statesmen, there is no reason that a focus on fundamentals and continuing to build chemistry should not be priorities. The Seminoles cannot start the season flat footed and lose any of their early games, particularly with a relatively young back court. Snaer needs confidence going into ACC play. Kitchen needs to develop a rhythm at the point. Loucks needs to get comfortable running this offense. Dulkys has to continue his shooting stroke that he found this summer. While this game will likely be a blow out, it needs to be taken seriously.