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FSU basketball film study: Can the defensive rebounding issues be fixed?

I rewatched Saturday's game (you're welcome!) in order to diagnose what went wrong on the boards

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

I rewatched that gut punch of a loss to Pitt because that's how much I care about you guys. Sure, I rewatch every game, but this one was just for you.

Like most fans, I take it personally every time FSU gets a stop only to see it wasted by the other team grabbing their own miss. To be fair, that's just part of the game. On the season, Division I teams have grabbed 30.1% of their own missed shots. FSU's defense is a bit better than average (28.8%, which is 7th in the ACC), as is FSU's offense (32.0%, 9th).

But I'm mostly concerned with how Florida State can get better on the defensive end. With the two best rebounders - Michael Ojo and Phil Cofer - sidelined for the season, it has to be a team effort.

Offensive boards can be broadly lumped into three different categories:

A) Good play by the offense

2) Bad play by the defense

D) Luck

A's and D's happen. It's part of the game. But the 2's (bad play by the defense), are correctable.

So I was interested in how many of the Pitt's rebounds were the result of bad defense.

To be fair to the Seminole players I also looked at FSU's offensive rebounds. This would provide a bit of comparison. Pitt gives up offensive boards on 28.7% of misses (28.8% for FSU), and both teams were well above their average in Saturday's game. Pitt grabbed 39% of their misses, while Florida State grabbed 36%.

I also listed the game time of each board, in case anyone has a weird compulsion to argue a verdict.

To the video.

FSU 1 (18:57): Dwayne Bacon just manhandles his guy, burying him under the basket. This gives Malik Beasley room to get in and tip it off the backboard. Bojo then tips it again before a Pitt player gets a hand on the ball with a foot out of bounds. [Verdict: good offense]

Pitt 1 (18:33): Michael Young drives, and Montay Brandon has Rafael Maia blocked out, but loses contact with him as he tries to help on the drive. Malik Beasley and Montay are both in decent position to put a body on Maia after the shot, and neither does. [bad defense]

Pitt 2 and 3 (17:17): Pitt gets a three off of a BLOB play. Beasley and Dwayne Bacon have Rafael Maia on their back shoulders, but both get caught watching the shot and Maia slides between them for the board. Maia puts the shot up and Montay swats it, but the blocked shot goes directly to a Pitt player. [1 bad defense, 1 luck]

FSU 2 (16:34): Montay goes coast to coast, but can't finish. Pitt's Sterling Smith fails to block out Dwayne Bacon, who comes down with it. [bad defense]

Pitt 4 (15:48): Michael Young drives right around Terance Mann, and Jarquez Smith has to rotate over to help on the drive. He causes Young to miss the shot, but Alonzo Nelson-Adodo is now in perfect position for the board. [bad defense, for Terance allowing a 6-9 guy to go right past him]

Pitt 5 (13:49): Jarquez Smith blocks the shot, but it goes right back to the player who shot it. [luck]

FSU 3 (12:37): Terance Mann drives and the Pitt defense has to rotate out to cut off the drive. No one rotates down to box out Bojo, who is there for the putback. [bad defense]

FSU 4 (6:59): XRM takes a desperation three at the end of the clock. It front rims and bounces hard, directly to a cutting Beasley who lays it in. [luck]

Pitt 6 (4:27): The ACC Network gets caught showing highlights and completely misses the play. No idea what happened. [no idea]

Pitt 7 (3:48): Terance Mann has Michael Young buried under the basket. But Young is just too big and strong and is able to get into position to tip it. The ball ping pongs off the fingertips of Beasley and Nelson-Ododa and ends up with a Pitt player. [some luck, but mostly good offense]

Pitt 8 (1:31): [FSU in zone] Beasley, who is locked in the post with Nelson-Ododa, thinks that Sterling Smith is about to drive past Bookert, so Beasley fights to get around Nelson-Ododa. Smith jacks a three and Jarquez Smith and Terance Mann do a good job bracketing Michael Young who is on the opposite side from the shot (the most likely side for a rebound), but the ball takes a weird bounce and ends up in the hands of Nelson-Ododa who is able to box out Beasley. [good offense]

Pitt 9 (0:48): [FSU in zone] Nelson-Ododa is able to slip behind the zone and box out Terance Mann. Bacon does a good job boxing out Michael Young, but the ball goes to Nelson-Ododa. [good offense]


FSU 5 (14:01): Bojo gets blocked at the rim, but gets the ball back and lays it in. [luck]

FSU 6 (11:19): Mann drives and Sterling Smith tries to box out Bacon with one hand. That technique proves to be unsuccessful. [bad defense]

Pitt 10 (7:57): James Robinson drives and puts up a 14' foot jumper from the top of the key. FSU has 5 guys in the paint and not a single one puts a body on anybody. The rebound could have gone to two different Pitt players. [unbelievably bad defense]

Pitt 11 (3:49): Bojo blocks Michael Young but it goes directly to Jamel Artis. [luck]

Pitt 12 and 13 (3:30): On a free throw, Terance Mann - on the right block - fails to block out Ryan Luther, who is able to get leverage inside Mann's shoulder. On the left block, Bojo does a great job clearing out Michael Young, but this unfortunately works against FSU as the rebound goes left and Luther slips into perfect position. A few seconds later Pitt launches a three. Bojo seals his man, Beasley rotates perfectly to the weak side, but the ball bounces at a weird angle where Devon Bookert is wrestling with Michael Young. That's a match Bookert isn't going to win. [1 bad defense, 1 good offense]

FSU 7 (2:58): Mann drives and gets blocked by Luther but the ball goes directly back to Mann. [luck]

FSU 8 (2:54): XRM misses a three, and Bookert flies in from the wing and goes right over James Robinson. [good offense, though you could provide a solid case for bad defense]

Pitt  14 (1:38): Mann and Bojo have Michael Young bracketed, but the ball bounces to a good place for Young who is able to outfight them for the board. [good offense]

Pitt 15 (0:35): Ryan Luther drives completely out of control and bangs the ball off the bottom of the rim, and it ricochets directly back into his hands. [luck]

FSU 9 (0:01): Pitt correctly stops playing defense and XRM is able to coral the rebound and lay it in at the buzzer. [good offense]

Pitt's 15 Rebounds FSU's 9 Rebounds
Good offense Bad defense Luck Good offense Bad defense Luck
5 5 4 3 3 3

Of Pitt's 15 rebounds, 14 could be evaluated on film (thanks ACC Network!), and 9/14 (64%) were either just good plays by Pitt or blind luck. But there were another five where if FSU would have done a better job with the fundamentals, any one of them could have gone FSU's way, and it's possible that the result of the game would have been different.

Had that happened. Pitt would be looking at their three screwups that FSU was able to capitalize on and we'd be a lot happier.

The theme of the bad defensive possessions by Florida State was mostly young guys not boxing out, or guards failing to rotate properly. The upperclassmen certainly aren't blameless, as they were in there as well.

Another lesson was that FSU's bigs are doing a fairly solid job. Dribble penetration allowed by the perimeter players often puts them in bad position, and they have to try and help out in order to save the possession. This puts them in a bad place. But Bojo and Jarquez are almost always making contact with someone.

This team is going to have to play small for rest of the year. If they're going to reach their goals, then this game provides a great illustration of how they need to change their habits in order to reach their goals.

Will they? Who knows.

The next test is tomorrow night at Boston College, a team which just happens to be the worst offensive rebounding team in the conference.