Basketball is a weird sport. Georgia Tech beat North Carolina by 12, Florida State by 22, and lost to Duke by 53. But of course we don’t care about those other teams. We care about the Seminoles. And we need to know if we should be firing somebody.
So how did Florida State - a team that just went 5-1 against ranked opponents - get blown out?
Above the rim:
- I know this is going to come as shocking news, but fans are reactionary. Whenever FSU lays an egg in any sport, the overwhelming response is that the Seminoles effort was terrible. And sometimes it is. Sometimes in sports you get blown out because you don’t try very hard and things steamroll and get out of hand. But this isn’t what happened last night. Several really bad things happened, which I’ll get into, but lack of effort wasn’t one of them. If there is a silver lining it’s that the players played hard the entire game. They got frustrated. They made poor decisions. They lost their poise in the first half. But they played with effort.
- Good teams lay eggs. It happens. As FSU was getting rolled, No. 16 Creighton lost by 20 to a horrible Georgetown team. A few weeks ago UNC lost by 12 to Georgia Tech. Baylor lost by 21 to West Virginia. Butler lost to Indiana State and St. John’s. Boston College lost to Nicholls State and Hartford!! Okay, Boston College isn’t good, but the point stands. The important part is how the team responds.
- FSU’s offense dropped from 22nd nationally, to 30th. The defense fell from 23rd to 25th. Georgia Tech’s offense improved to 205th, and their defense is now 22nd.
- Georgia Tech’s offense isn’t very good, yet they scored 78 points in 74 possessions versus Florida State. That’s not embarrassing, but it’s not good. They played the entire night in a high post, UCLA type offense (named after John Wooden, not the current UCLA team). With Ben Lammers at the foul line they spread FSU out and pulled the ‘Noles center away from the rim. If FSU tried to sag off of Lammers, GT would use him to screen creating an open three. If FSU stayed up on Lammers, they’d feed him the ball and then back-cut, and FSU’s uber aggressive defense in passing lanes got caught looking time and again. If they didn’t get caught, Lammers would turn and drive. It’s a formula which worked to near perfection, but it’s also a formula that not many teams that FSU will face down the stretch are prepared to execute.
- Early on FSU really struggled with the different defensive looks that Georgia Tech was throwing out. Like Louisville, the Jackets were switching the defense from possession to possession. In the game’s first ten minutes, Florida State wasn’t patient, and put up a lot of long 2s. And they obviously weren’t dropping. Things snowballed from there and FSU, who hates to play slow, began to really force things.
- The offense in the 2nd half was a different story. The ‘Noles scored 41 points in 38 possessions against a very good defense despite missing a ton of open 3s. So how did they do it? The short corner. FSU attacked the short corner (the area along the baseline between the block and the sideline) and from there, zone defenses really struggle. They usually scramble to double team which causes the zone to break down. This is something to watch on Saturday versus Syracuse’s zone - how often does FSU get the ball to that short corner? (Against Syracuse Florida State will also attack the middle of the zone at the free throw line, but that’s just a nuts and bolts difference between what GT was doing and what Syracuse will do).
- Georgia Tech attempted 31 free throws compared to just 16 for Florida State. That’s unacceptable. People are saying that the Seminoles weren’t aggressive enough, but it’s hard to attack the rim and draw fouls against a zone. The discrepancy came from Florida State’s defense not getting enough stops. When FSU can get live ball stops, then their fast break offense really gets into gear, and that’s what draws fouls. To get wins, FSU is going to have to have runs fueled by the defense, and that just didn’t happen against Georgia Tech.