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Visual Observations from The Tuck

Rogner gave you a great statistical breakdown of the Noles blowout win over Embry-Riddle, but radio can only tell you so much about how the Noles looked as they prepare for the season opener in 12 days. Fortunately, I was there (along with Dustin and Ariya--TN upping its coverage of roundball this season!) and was able to see the guys up close and personal. So let's get to it.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

First, keep in mind that this was an EXHIBITION. The most important things were ending the night with no noticeable injuries and displaying much more depth than last season. Having said that, here were some team and individual observations:

FSU on Offense:

  • The skill level seems to increase every year. Gone are the days where we had a bunch of athletes with little offensive skills or basketball IQ
  • Some spurts of very good ball movement. Ball was in the air a lot more than last season, when it seemed like at times we were intent on seeing how long the ball could be dribbled before going flat
  • 63.9% eFG%--that's good
  • We rebounded 46.9% of the available offensive rebounds--that's even better
  • Still too many turnovers, but many were from the big men on travels or offensive fouls. Dead ball turnovers lead to a lot fewer easy buckets (see Rogner's article on stopping easy buckets) than live ball turnovers
  • 6-16 from three-land is solid and Aaron Thomas (0-3) had several that rimmed in and out

FSU on Defense:

  • Ehhh. There was about a 10 minute stretch at the end of the first half through the beginning of the second where the intensity was high, but overall it looked like "don't get hurt" defense to me
  • The big guys had a number of blocks, but Embry-Riddle's tallest player was 6'8, so...
  • Lots of guys seemed slow in rotating out to the shooter on the wing or in the corner
  • Transition defense was not impressive
  • I will say there were some active hands. Lots of deflections, altered shots, and near steals
  • Grabbed 81.1% of available defensive rebounds, but again, the height advantage. Still, nice to see that it was an actual advantage


  • Aaron Thomas - Looked like what an All-ACC player should look like against an NAIA team. Calmly led the team in scoring and led them on the court as well.
  • Devon Bookert - Nothing spectacular, nothing bad. He didn't get hurt, which was the most important thing for him. Got the game started with a silky smooth three from the top of the key.
  • Montay Brandon - Little bit of everything, getting 8, 3, 3, and a block. Most impressive thing to me was his continued improvement with his shooting mechanics. FT shot was much tighter and lacked the hitch from last year. He went 2-3 from the line.
  • Jarquez Smith - Some very impressive plays with a little bit of youthful mistakes mixed in. Started the game with a great baby hook. Also nailed a three early in the game. But took an ill-advised three later in the game and also lost his man on the perimeter several times...though he won't likely be guarding a 6'5 guy very often. Would like to see him more aggressive on the boards, but his shot is terrific for a big guy.
  • Kiel Turpin - Much better than I expected coming off an injury. Great stroke, better awareness than two years ago, and aggressive on the glass. Less explosive than pre-injury, but my guess is that will improve as the year goes on. 12 points and 8 boards--3 offensive--in 16 minutes...nice work, son.

Off the Bench:

  • Phil Cofer - Extremely impressive for his first action. Cuonzo Martin leaving Tennessee might end up being a huge blessing for FSU's 2014-15 season. Cofer was active on the glass, displayed great awareness on both ends of the floor, has a nice touch out to 16 feet, and brings a physical presence we lacked without Terrance Shannon last year.
  • Xavier Rathan-Mayes (pronounced Zavier Ratahn-Mayes) - Exactly what we have been missing at guard. High basketball IQ, adept at penetrating gaps in a zone or man D, fantastic court vision, sets up teammates well with dribble penetration and kicking out, and an array of shots in his arsenal. 9/5/5 in 21 minutes of play, the offense looked the most smooth with him running point. He also looked much more tone than when I last saw him on the court for Huntington Prep, and his lateral quickness on defense was noticeably improved. He plays last year and I feel confident that we make the four-letter tourney.
  • Boris Bojanovsky -- Honestly...about the same. Went up soft a couple times, leading to two travels. Solid touch on his shot. Four blocks, several that he kept in bounds. Struggled at times with rebounding. He did look like he gained some good weight in his legs and chest.
  • Michael Ojo -- Honestly...about the same. I will say his conditioning was noticeably better. But lots of fouls, a couple big swats that got the crowd on its feet, a nice offensive rebound and slam dunk, and 0-5 from the free throw line. Though his stroke did look better.
  • Dayshawn Watkins -- Very quick. The quickest guy on the team. Had a sick cross-over, pull-up three. But also forced the issue on offense a bit. Will be a great asset on defense to start the season and should come along on offense as the season progresses.
  • Robbie Berwick -- High basketball IQ and more athletic than he looks. Drained two threes from the corner off nice XRM passes (those two formed a nice duo at guard) but I was even more impressed with his off-ball movement. He slides to the open spot with ease making it very easy to kick it out for an open three. Needs to work on his "Team-man" defense, but that will come.
  • Brandon Allen -- Looked better than last year. Actually looked like a basketball player. He could definitely contribute in some OOC games, but not sure we will need him in ACC play...which speaks more to our significantly improved depth than it does his level of play.

The Renovations:

  • HUGE difference! The seats were plush leather, the video screens were fantastic, and the lighting was much improved. My only complaints are: 1) Make our ACC Title and NCAA Runner-Up banners bigger; 2) Show more stats than just the points, fouls, and rebounds for the players. Can a guy get some assists?

Ariya's Thoughts:

Matt did a really great job with giving you all a thorough break down of each player so I'll just add a little bit of my thoughts on what stood out.

-Really thought FSU made it a point to push the ball more in this game and that could be due to the better depth the Noles have at the guard position this season. Defensively I saw FSU mix in some zone and at one point saw a match-up zone I really liked. I think Hamilton is getting more comfortable mixing defenses up with his guys.

-XRM is just so smooth offensively, basketball IQ is through the roof, gets his teammates involved and really does a nice job in transition. Showed a little bit of everything with a nice and-1 drive to the hoop as well as a smooth three point shot. I think FSU fans are really going to like this guy and he should get a significant amount of minutes.

-Montay Brandon really looks to have found his comfort zone. He only attempted one shot from the outside and made a point to attack the basket and play around the rim more. He's realizing he's 6'8 and is a big mismatch for opposing defenders. Also defended very well.

-Jarquez Smith had a nice game with 13 points and seems to be more comfortable this season as well. Love his jumper for a big guy and still oozes athleticism to spare. As he continues to grasp the defense and mental side of the game he will turn into a star for FSU.

-Aaron Thomas will have a big year, bank on it.

-Phil Cofer will be a big asset to this team. He plays the game at 200% and relishes rebounding the ball. He was everywhere around the rim getting tip-ins and cleaning up the boards on the defensive end.

-Lastly, I really was impressed with Kiel Turpin. He seemed to play an all around complete game. Showed nice offensive skill with the vintage Turpin jumper he flashed two seasons ago. Attacked both the offensive and defensive glass and he didn't seem to be lost after a year off the court.

-Again as Matt mentioned this is an exhibition and you can't take much from it. Still I'm interested to see the next game and pick up trends and also see if there's any consistency from these players.

Let's hear from other folks who attended the game. Thoughts on the team, players, or stadium?