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Preview and Game Thread: Florida State Seminoles vs Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, 5:30pm EST

Once again, the Seminoles got the job done and moved to 9-2 on the year with a 76 - 72 victory over the Auburn Tigers. Solmon Alabi had another big night, scoring 22 points for the second game in a row. Michael Snaer contributed 14 points in 24 minutes of play. With 13:34 to go, the Seminoles had a 14 point lead and seemed to be on their way to an easy victory. However, the Tigers stormed back and tied the game with 6:50 to go, resulting in the close finish. The Seminoles have are now 2-1 on the year against the SEC. Tonight, Florida State opens ACC play against Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Take a look inside for more on the Auburn game, a detailed preview including video break down and a must read discussion with the guys at From the Rumble Seat (Georgia Tech's SBnation blog).




Game Time: 5:30pm EST

Television: FSN

As I was unable to watch the Auburn game, I can only comment on what the stats demonstrate. Why Florida State lost a 14 point lead in the second half? I can guess, but I will leave that up to those who saw the game to comment. There were some positives to note. Solmon Alabi had another nice game, scoring 22 points and pulling down 9 rebounds. Michael Snaer contributed 14 points off the bench and it seems that the offense is showing signs of life again. The Seminoles shot an eFG% of 55.3 and limited the Tigers to an eFG% of 45.1%. As stated in the preview, with the exception of one game, Auburn has yet to win when it shoots an eFG% less than 50%. While all of those stats are nice, Auburn generated 10 steals and the Seminoles finished the game with 19 turnovers, with only 15 assists, resulting in a TO% of 26.4. Here are the charts for the game:

Compared to previous performances, the shape of the game flow curve is significantly improved, with limited plateaus. In order to be successful in the ACC, the flat parts of the graph need to be few and far between. Of other notes fro the game, Derwin Kitchen had seven assists and only three turnovers. But, he did go 0-6 from the floor. Terrance Shannon made an appearance and Ryan Reid got the start over Xavier Gibson. Gibson was limited to only nine minutes of game play. Even if the game was close than many expected, a win is a win and this is helps the resume as it is an SEC opponent. Now it is time to see what this team is really made of and get a taste of conference play.

The Intro to the Yellow Jackets:

Florida State heads to Atlanta to take on an 8-1 Georgia Tech team that is coming off a 12 point victory over Arkansas Pine Bluff. Last year, the Yellow Jackets had a difficult run through the ACC, finishing a disappointing 2-14 in conference play. However, Paul Hewitt brought in one of the top recruiting classes in the country, adding five new players to his squad, including the highly ranked Derrick Favors. The Yellow Jackets are currently ranked #22 and #15 in the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls respectively. They are 29th in the Ken Pomeroy rankings with an offensive efficiency of 108.6, 68th nationally, and a defensive efficiency of 88.0, 23rd nationally. The only blemish on the Georgia Tech's record is a 63-59 loss to Dayton. Their victories including the following teams: Florida A&M, George Mason, Boston, Mercer, Siena, Southern Cal, Chattanooga and Arkansas Pine Bluff.

The Conversation with From the Rumble Seat:

Before we get further into the preview, Tomahawk Nation had the opportunity to discuss tonight's match up with the writers of From the Rumble Seat, SB Nation's Georgia Tech Blog. Thanks to Bird and Co for their excellent responses. They run a great site over there so take a few minutes to check out their work, especially with their upcoming matchup with Iowa. Check out their site for our response to their questions. Here are their answers to our questions: (Please visit their site to see our responses to their questions.)

1. Is Derrick Favors the real deal? He entered this season with so much hype. In what aspects of his game has he excelled? In what aspects of his game has he not lived up to expectation?

I think it's hard to talk about Favors without comparing him to Gani. Both players are dominant as individuals and unstoppable as a one-two punch. In our early season schedule, no one's really dealt with both of them effectively. That being said, Gani is the more refined basketball player. He has more low post moves and a smoother shot. He also has the most hustle of any player on our team. Derrick is a little bit more of a raw player and not quite the game changer that some of the most outrageous hype led us to believe. And maybe that's because we've got another great forward to compare him to directly.

Derrick's game is all about speed. He gets a ton of blocks and can get up the court with our trademark CPH transition offense. And sometimes his speed hurts him as he's leading the team in fouls/game. He's either too aggressive or the refs have just never seen a big man move to the ball as quick as Derrick can. Playing the refs' game is something Derrick hasn't quite picked up yet. And we're not hatin' on Derrick because FTRS believes this is the best front court since Chris Bosh and Ed Nelson.

2. Georgia Tech had one of the best recruiting classes in the Nation last year. Are they all living up to expectation?

Well, two fifths of our starters are freshmen. Almost all of our three point shots are being shot and made by freshmen. We think the season is a little too early to tell if the great freshmen play will translate into ACC ball but for right now we're very content. When talking about individual play, Mfon Udofia, our freshman point guard, has been the biggest bright spot thus far. He is fearless and an explosive scorer - all necessary attributes of a CPH point guard.

3. Last year was a difficult one for the Yellow Jackets. During the ACC tournament, there were signs of significant improvement. What has been the biggest improvement so far this year?

Last year was the end of the post-2004 recruiting class. I think most Tech fans feel like we had a ton of waste talent from 2005-2009. It was a group of highly recruited high school stars that just never meshed as a team. One night Ra'Sean Dickey would have 30 points and everyone else would suck or one night Anthony Morrow would make 25 three pointers but we'd still lose. There was no team identity. Every player was playing for himself.

I think that 2009 ACC Tournament run was made mostly by Lewis Clinch and Co. realizing it was all finally over. The 2009 ACCT was a final hurrah for an incredibly fruitless stretch of four years under Hewitt. The team had nothing to lose and played incredibly inspired basketball. It took four years of futility for Hewitt's squad to finally mature.

4. The common tie between the Seminoles and the Yellow Jackets is turnovers. Where are the turnovers coming from? Steals? Poor decisions? Is Shumpert a true point?

Let's run down our worst guys concerning T/O's. Iman Shumpert = not a great ball handler but is playing 2nd/3rd team point a lot. Mfon Udofia = freshman point guard finally playing against legit competition. Gani & Derrick = double and triple teams are forcing them into poor decisions. That's really our big issue. We probably should be undefeated right now but on our last real possession against Dayton, Hewitt put the ball in Iman's hands and he bounced it off his foot at half court...

I don't want to blame Iman for the Dayton loss as the whole team struggled in the final 5 minutes (going 1 for 4 from the field and giving up 4 turnovers). It was a collective failure but we've grown a lot since Dayton.

5. Will Georgia Tech live up to the hype? Where do you see the Yellow Jackets finishing the year in the ACC and what post season play will they see?

I think with the talent and depth we've got and the quality of the ACC this season, we should go 0.500 or better in conference. Our goal should be a 3 seed in the ACC Tournament and an at large birth in the NCAA's (in the 5-9 seed range). Needless to say, Hewitt needs to make an ACCT run and an NCAAT run to appease the restless Georgia Tech fans. His leash is the shortest it's ever been with the lack of postseason production he's had and the talent he's brought in over the past 5 years.

6. What is your impression of the ACC this year?

It seems young and talented. Teams are losing to garbage teams yet stepping up and beating big time OOC opponents so it's kind of setting up an exciting season. No one really knows until we really see conference play. Clemson always plays like a big man OOC but plays like a middler/bottom feeder come conference play. I think the only safe assumption is that UVA will be this year's version of last year's Georgia Tech.

7. The last time the Yellow Jackets were over .500 in the ACC was 2004. What are your thoughts on Paul Hewitt's future?

Like we said in question #5, Tech fans are expecting big things THIS season. We're tired of waiting. We feel like Gani and Derrick are gone and that next year could be a struggle if our guard play doesn't pick up. Hewitt needs a good run now and we think a Sweet 16 appearance would prolong his career at Georgia Tech.

The Stats:

This is going to be an interesting matchup as there are a number of major similarities between the two teams. Both teams, are playing outstanding defense. GTech limits its opponents to an eFG% of only 40.4% an is holding them to only 25.4% behind the 3 point arc. They are a long team that gives you a variety of different looks on defense. They are also shutting down the paint, limiting opponents to only 41.9% with a block% of 14.6. Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal own the paint and this will be the key to the match up with the Seminoles. The Yellow Jacket's offense is much better than that of the Noles, particularly due to the success of Favors and Lawal who are averaging 30 points per game combined. They have an offensive efficiency of 108.6 compared to the Seminoles 102.5. This is a difference of 68th nationally versus 142nd nationally, interpret that as you may. The difference is really 1.08 points per possession versus 1.02 points per possession. Given the difference in pace of these two teams this results in Georgia Tech scoring 79 points per game to the Seminoles 69. To illustrate how similar these two teams are statistically, look at the following chart that demonstrates the Four Factors for each team thus far:

If you are not familiar with the Four Factors evaluation, please refer to and Obviously, a simple chart does not reflect the style of play or character of a team, but in our experience, the Four Factors have been a reliable way to evaluate teams.

The Lineup:

Here is the likely starting lineup for Georgia Tech:

F #11 Brian Oliver 6'6 220lbs Fr 7.2 ppg 1 rpg
F #14 Derrick Favors 6'10 245lbs Fr 13.7 ppg 8.8 rpg
F #31 Gani Lawal 6'9 235lbs Jr 16.3 ppg 10.4 rpg
G/F #13 D'Andre Bell 6'6 222lbs Sr 6 ppg 1.6 apg
G #0 Mfon Udofia 6'2 187lbs Fr 12 ppg 3.4 apg

This is a big athletic lineup. Their average height is 6' 6.2" compared to Florida State's 6' 7.2". They are also one of the youngest teams in the nation with an average experience of 1.33 years, compared to Florida State's 1.28. Mfon Udofia has been an an excellent addition to this team and is contributing more than expected. The left handed point guard wasn't predicted to be starting this early, but he has clearly earned his spot in the lineup. His Ortg is 106.2 and has an ARate of 21.7. The Yellow Jackets other guard D'Andre Bell is another south paw and is coming off back surgery during the off season. He is one of the defensive leaders of this team. His production has been quiet so far this year but he is the senior leadership that this team needs. Brian Oliver is statistically the best offensive player on this team; the reason that his number is so high is that he is 15-30 from behind the arc and is currently the Yellow Jackets' best three point shooter.

Fortunately, this will likely be the only year that the Seminoles see the combination of Favors and Lawal as both are likely heading to the NBA next year. Lawal is averaging a double-double thus far and is continuing to demonstrate his success from last year. He is an aggressive player in the low post on both ends of the court. He rebounds extremely well, passes out of the post extremely well and can score on a regular basis. In order for the Noles to have a chance, he needs to be limited. Derrick Favors was one of the top prospects coming out of high school. He chose to stay close to home for his likely one year of collegiate basketball. He is lightening quick and runs the floor as well as any big man out there. Watching tape of him is impressive. He is physical and attacks the basket. He is having a great year so far and is in the top 50 in the country for eFG%, OR% and Blk%.

Video Beak Down:

In preparation for this game, we decided to take a look at Georgia Tech's match up with Chattanooga to get a sense of what Florida State might see this evening.

This was the Yellow Jacket's first offensive set:





This sequence ended in a turnover as Lawal traveled as the double team collapsed down on him. However, this is an important set to understand as the Seminoles will see a lot of it throughout the game. In most of their possessions in the first half, Georgia Tech would set up in a relatively shallow 2-3 set or balanced 1-4 set with the front court players establishing position at the depth of the free throw line. This can be seen in the first image. They run a switch screen at the top of the next image. While the action is at the right wing position in the second image, look at what Lawal is doing on the post. He is driving his defender toward the ball. The ball is then quickly passed round the top of the key to Udofia who then drops the ball into Lawal in the post. In this series, Lawal didn't establish as low as he wanted to or did later in the game. The variation of this play is that as the ball is swinging around the top of the key, Lawal works back toward the middle of the paint and essentially gets the ball deep in the paint directly in front of the basket. Georgia Tech tries to get the defense flowing away from Lawal or Favors who are using that flow to establish themselves on the block on the weak side.

In this next set, the Yellow Jackets set up in a 1-4 set and Lawal is established on the lane at the top of the screen. The ball is passed to the forward on the right wing, who then drops the ball into Lawal quickly.




Lawal then simply turns and banks a beautiful shot off the board:


Lawal is likely going to see a steady rotation of Xavier Gibson and Ryan Reid. Singleton may also get a chance to defend him as well. However, Lawal may be too big for Singleton to handle on the low post. Georgia Tech has yet to see a team as big a Florida State. However, despite Georgia Tech's size, they are more than willing to play a full court press. Chattanooga made some early threes to take an early lead. The Yellow Jackets started to press and worked their way back into the game and then cruised to a 95-64 victory. Udofia is an excellent on the ball defender and can cause trouble in the back court.

Florida State will likely start Alabi, Singleton, Reid, Kitchen and Dulkys. Right now, Reid is the more physical defender on the low post and this is probably the right move to make to start the game. Georgia Tech excels at limiting its opponents eFG%. The Noles will have to get the ball inside on a regular basis and challenge the Yellow Jackets big men. Georgia Tech hasn't seen a team this big or athletic this year and their big men really haven't been challenged. Alabi must have a big game on both ends of the court and Singleton needs to play like he did earlier in the year. He defense of late has been excellent, but there needs to be more production on the stat sheet. Seven and seven won't be enough tonight. Chattanooga got a lot of good looks at the basket in transition and the Noles need to do the same. If Dulkys has his shot tonight this should be a great game. He is 9-16 in the last three games from behind the arc and he is shooting 40% on the year.

Keys to the Game:

1. Turnovers. Both teams have been turning the ball over at an extremely high rate. Don't give the Yellow Jackets extra opportunities. They will get out and run and they will punish you for it. Plus, the turnovers limit your flow and kill your confidence.

2. Welcome Derrick Favors to the ACC. This should be an interesting match up in the paint tonight. Solomon needs to stay out of foul trouble and frustrate Favors. Solomon needs to be aggressive on the offensive end and get the easy baskets. In the last couple of games, Solomon has shown improved foot work and some very nice post moves.

3. Clean up the glass. Favors and Lawal are averaging almost 20 rebounds per game combined. Florida State's top rebounders are averaging 13 rebounds combined. Don't let their big men get the easy put backs and allow this game to get out of hand. The statistic with the strongest correlation with Georgia Tech's success is their eFG%. They have an extremely high eFG% because the big guys are getting easy baskets down low.

4. Set the tempo. Florida State's defense and their offense slows things way down. When the pace is slower, Georgia Tech's opponents tend to have a higher offensive efficiency. There is actually a negative correlation with Georgia Tech's defensive efficiency and pace. Florida State must dictate the ton of this game and force Georgia Tech to react. Be proactive not reactive.

This should be a great game and should give Seminoles fans some idea of what the rest of the ACC season will be like. Georgia Tech has yet to see a team as good as Florida State. Conversely, Florida State has played a significantly tougher out of conference schedule. Florida State's OOC ranks 139th in the nation compared to 281st for Georgia Tech. That 'experience' may help Florida State in this game. Plus, the Seminoles have already played a big game on the road this year against Florida and Ohio State. The crowd will likely be smaller than usual as Georgia Tech students are on break and Graduation was last Saturday. Look for this game to be a slow turnover happy first half followed by a physical second half. Whoever establishes the paint will win this game.

Florida State's <a class='sbn-auto-link' href=

Photo from here.

Game Time: 5:30pm EST

Television: FSN

Online Viewing:

Prediction: Georgia Tech 67 Florida State 65