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Baseline Breakdown: FSU Defeats Charleston Southern

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There was a lot to like in FSU’s season opening win, starting with the tremendous depth.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at Florida State Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Rejoice, rejoice! Basketball season has begun. The Seminoles opened up the 2016-17 season with an easy 88-67 win over Charleston Southern. In fact, the game might not have even been that close.

This year we are going to take a bit of a different approach with the Baseline Breakdowns. We’ll start off above the rim and give you some high level observations—think of it as the view from Christ Koumadje’s vantage point. Next we’ll dig a bit deeper with court level analysis. Finally, if anything noteworthy is said post-game, we’ll be sure to pass it along.

Hope you enjoy, and all feedback is welcome (as long as it’s positive).

Above the Rim:

The hustle is improved. To quote Leonard Hamilton, there is no doubt about it. There must have been eight or nine deflections, multiple guys diving on the floor, several come from behind blocks, and just general good effort.

Hamilton discussed throughout the off-season his desire to push the tempo even faster. Well, message received. The guys consistently pushed the ball up the court, even after made baskets. And I was most pleased to see them pushing the ball up court via the pass. That’s how you beat a defense down court, as opposed to dribbling.

The decision making in the half court was quick and decisive. That’s not to say that every play worked, but the ball didn’t stick. Several times I saw great ball reversals or skip passes lead to an easy entry pass or open three.

The crowd was pretty solid considering it was Charleston Southern and a 1pm game. I suspect some of that had to do with the sweet retro jersey-shirt giveaway, but nonetheless it was nice to see.

FSU attacked the zone better than in past. Charleston Southern switched defenses early and often, utilizing both a 2-3 and a 1-3-1. FSU consistently found the open man at the FT line.

At least after game one, it’s Bacon and X’s team...and that’s a good thing.

The length and functional depth on this team is scary. By far the best depth since 2012, and most of the guards almost seem interchangeable. Hamilton’s toughest job this year might just be finding a rotation that allows guys to develop chemistry but still leverage the depth.

Coach Hamilton and Coach Jones have changed the offense this year and I think it’s going to be a great move. The 4 out 1 look, with occasional 3 out 2 in depending on lineups, allows the back court talent to really shine use their creativity. The sign of a great coach is changing what he runs to fit his talent. Well, tip of the cap to Ham for doing just that.

Court Level:

Bacon with 23 points on 14 shots, 4-6 from 3 and 5-6 from FT line. Also added 9 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block and no turnovers in 26 minutes of play. That stat line speaks for itself, but even more impressive was his attitude and leadership. Yes, it was the first game and the team was never really challenged. However, gone were the slumped shoulders, pouting face, and lazy possessions taken off. He looked like he was having fun out there. Oh, and his shot mechanics are much tighter with a better release point and more arc on the shot. Just overall better.

Speaking of improved jumpers, Xavier Rathan-Mayes looked to have better balance in his base on his perimeter jumper. He only made 1 of 4 attempts from deep, but the shots looked better. He also, perhaps for the first time in his career, looked like a guy who could be a complete player. He put pressure on the ball handler, jumped into passing lanes, and rotated on time on defense. Offensively, he got others involved with ease, while still creating his own shots and scoring in transition. 7 assists to 3 turnovers with 12 points in 29 minutes...that’s solid production.

Forrest paced the newcomers with 19 minutes and made the most of them. 7 points (on 3-4 shooting) and 6 boards. He was known for his slashing coming out of high school and he showed off that ability almost immediately in this game.

Mann stuffed the stat sheet as usual. I’m not sure he’ll ever be a great shooter, but he just finds so many ways to impact the game.

Ojo is much more aggressive and comfortable, both with the ball and in his role on this team. On offense he gets to his spot in the post, catches the entry pass cleanly, turns and rips the rim down. On defense he blocks out, alters shots, and just generally clogs things up. He only played 10 minutes but it had much more to do with our depth and the lack of big men for Charleston Southern than it did his lack of conditioning. He looks poised for a nice senior year.

Braian Angola-Rodas is a basketball player. He’s a really nice addition to this team. A long, smooth player, he was in exactly the right spot more often than not. That’s the kind of quality depth that pays dividends in March.

The ‘Noles scored 1.16 points per possession and it could have been MUCH higher. Early in the game there were numerous deflections that easily could have been breakaway dunks, but the ball just didn’t bounce right. Meanwhile, the defense held Charleston Southern to .88 ppp.

FSU only turned it over on 13.2% of their 76 possessions, which is even more impressive when you consider how much the Seminoles are actively trying to push the pace. To put that in perspective, FSU only bettered that mark four times last season—none in a game with more than 71 possessions—and they never had a game with that low of a turnover percentage during the 2014-15 season.

If there was a concern, it was perimeter shooting. The ‘Noles began the game ice cold from deep. And while they finished a respectable 7-21 (33.3%), that’s really thanks to just two guys. Bacon and Isaac combined to shoot 6-10 from deep, while the rest of the team went 1-11. That has to get better in order to compete with the ACC elite.

Post Game:

Charleston Southern head coach Barclay Radebough:

“That was quite a challenge for us. That team is...extremely athletic and very very difficult to play against.”

“Dwayne Bacon is a special player. His ability to drive the ball, get to his spot and elevate is incredible.”

“Xavier is much more experienced. Jonathan is gonna be something now. I mean that’s something to behold out there...you don’t see that too often this side of the NBA. He’s got a chance to be a special guy...so I think their starting five is very good. But I think their depth off the bench is really good. They come with great size, come with athleticism, and some additional length.” —When asked about how FSU has improved from when they faced the ‘Noles last year

“Their guys off the bench were better than they’ve been in the past and that’s gonna bode well for them.”

“Talking with [Seminole Associate Head Coach, Stan Jones] before the game, he’s telling me how much they’ve enjoyed coaching this team and how hard this team works.”

He also spoke about his team’s trip to Canada over the summer and how beneficial it was, not just for their development as players and team bonding, but also as men. He talked about how they spent a day feeding the homeless and participated in other volunteer activities/inner city basketball clinics. I’m not sure why the NCAA limits this to once every four years, but it sure would be nice if they allowed it more often.

Coach Hamilton:

“They kept mixing their defenses and we never could get in a good rhythm (in the first half). We got some stops in the second half and extended the lead.”

“We showed that potentially we could be a pretty good basketball team...the strength of this team will be in the quality of our depth.”

“The challenge for our players will be to have an unselfish spirit and understand that we’re going to have to play a lot of people to take advantage of who we are.”

“The entire team—Dwayne and all of them—have made commitments that they are going to work on the areas of their game that they need to improve on. X gave us good floor leadership tonight...his defense was obviously improved.”

“Phil Cofer, probably, has played as well as anyone on the team coming back from his injury.”

“Dwayne is a guy who has spent many hours in the gym, day and night.”

“CJ’s effort in the first half was infectious. Angola-Rodas, his energy was excellent.”

“I don’t want that to be the norm. I don’t want that to have to be night in and night out. That’s just not healthy. Toney was an exception. He could still give you tremendous effort and play 35 minutes—not very many people can do that...Our team’s have been better when we have been able to have quality depth, where we can play with the level of energy on the defensive end.”—When asked about whether he wants anyone playing extended minutes like some players have in the past.

Also of note, Patrick Savoy has turf toe. He hurt it in the Valdosta State game. Hamilton said he doesn’t know when we will have him back.