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Keys to the season for FSU basketball

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To find success, this is what the Seminoles need to do

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State basketball is here. We’ve already looked at the positionless system that Ham is running these days, and answered a series of roundtable questions. Now it’s time for four keys to a successful season.

Take a lot of 3s, make a lot of 3s

Four years ago Leonard Hamilton began to rebuild his system. His philosophy had been defense-centric, as that is what allowed him to win ACC games. But rule changes went against him. He had to change. So gone were the massive, physical, twin-post front lines and an offense that pounded the post. In its place came a system that required a deep roster of interchangeable parts surrounding 7-footers in the middle. But the roster wasn’t there. With key players like Montay Brandon and Jarquez Smith unable to stretch the defense, the offense limped along at 144th in the nation. Then came Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon, and things improved to 47th (out of 351 D1 teams). Last year that jumped to 31st.

This roster certainly won’t be anywhere near Ham’s most talented, but at least it’s a group of players recruited to play this system. And with five new guys (six, if you count redshirt freshman Mfiondu Kabengele), what we’re going to see is a lot of 3-pointers.

In the last year of the twin-posts (Okaro White’s senior season), 26.8% of FSU’s shots were from beyond the arc (315th nationally). That’s increased incrementally to over 31% in the past couple of years, but has still been significantly below the national average of 36.4%.

This year will be different. They’ll take a lot more, and their impact will be exponential as the %-made goes up. Stay around 34.7% made like last year, and it will look different but won’t really effect the offense that much. But creep up above 38%, and look out.

The whole point of this offense is to create space. And when you have four guys on the perimeter who are all knocking down 3s, then the defense has to expand, and spaces get bigger. This creates space in the post. It creates driving lanes. It makes it more difficult for defenses to help, and recover, and rebound.

Value the ball

As part of FSU’s transition to a positionless system, they’ve gone from one of the most turnover prone teams in the nation (323rd in turnover% in 2014-15), to one that is stingy with the ball (43rd last year). That equates to an extra four+ possessions a game where FSU gets to try and score. Since the ‘Noles average around 1.15 points per possession, that’s an extra 4-5 points per game.

It also puts less pressure on the defense. There are no situations where teams score more effectively than after a live ball turnover. The FSU defense allowed teams to shoot and eFG% of 47.9% last year, but after a live ball turnover that number went up to 65.4%.

Turnovers take points off your score, and add to the other team.

Shut down the paint

Rule changes to how players can defend has altered Coach Hamilton’s recruiting philosophy, and the system he runs. But one thing that hasn’t changed is his commitment for his defense - at its heart - to be all about ball denial.

His nightmare is giving up layups, and so the defense works to deny any outside-in passes, and once the ball gets within 15’ of the rim, the whole defense reacts to help.

There are usually one or two defenses in the nation which hold opponents to 40% shooting or less on 2s. Ham’s teams did it two years in a row back in the day. Last year was the best defense he’s had since 2011-12, and not-so coincidentally, they were good at defending 2s (45%, 38th nationally).

This year they’ll need to be at least as good.

A subset of 2-pt defense is how many shots get blocked. FSU blocked 13.7% of 2s last year, good for 21st nationally. Christ Koumadje and Ike Obiagu will get their share, but who will fill that role of Jon Isaac and Jarquez Smith?

When opponents miss, get the board

If there is a giant red flag warning for this year’s team, this is it. How is the team going to clean the glass?

Last year the team was slightly below average as a defensive rebounding squad. That turned what should have been a top 20 defense into the 31st ranked defense in the nation. And now the best three rebounders (Jonathan Isaac, Jarquez Smith, and Michael Ojo) are gone.

Terance Mann was not particularly good on the defensive glass last year, though he was better as a freshman. This was hopefully due to Jonanthan Isaac’s presence, and the lessened need for Mann to grab rebounds. But where else are they going to come from? Koumadje was okay. Trent Forrest was solid for a guard, but has been injured. It will need to be a team thing, with all of the newcomers stepping up.