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Basketball Observations: FSU Leaves its Defense in Tallahassee

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When all you can see on a wide-shot is the defender’s hand...yeah, that’s not good.

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

*Full disclosure, I watched the majority of the first half on a phone (and not one of the new “phones” that’s the size of a small computer), meaning my observations may have been limited...thanks for nothing, West Virginia.

Above the Rim:

  • The first half defense was...well, there wasn’t any. FSU showcased slow rotations in man-to-man, looked completely lost in a 1-3-1 zone, wasn’t getting deflections or creating indecision for Pitt, and allowed easy dribble penetration to the hoop. The ‘Noles gave up 1.36 points per possession and created one turnover in a 30 possession half. That simply isn’t acceptable for a team with this much depth and length. The Seminoles did better in the second half, “holding” Pitt to 1.14 points per possession, but even that isn’t a great effort.
  • Sloppy passes for the Seminoles in the first half led to FSU turning the ball over on 19.5% possessions. Against a Pitt team that really doesn’t play much D. Not good. This sloppiness not only negated 60% first half shooting by the Garnet and Gold, it also allowed Pitt to get easy buckets and gain confidence.
  • After sitting at or near the top of the ACC standings for much of the year, the loss puts some pressure on FSU if they intend to earn a coveted double-bye in the ACC Tournament. As of this writing, the loss took FSU from the 2 seed to the 5 seed—meaning FSU would have to win 4 games in 4 days to win the ACC Championship. And if the Seminoles can’t win two of their final four games, they may not even end up earning a single bye. That would be devastating after putting themselves in such a strong position after the first 12 ACC games.

Court Level:

  • Michael Ojo still may not be a dominant offensive post presence, but he’s made so much improvement in his time at FSU that the ‘Noles can count on him to use his size to make a smaller team pay. He displayed this early in the game, scoring 8 quick points on an array of dunks and post moves. Unfortunately, as FSU got down double digits, the ‘Noles needed stops. And Ojo’s inability to stay in front of smaller, quicker Pitt post players meant he couldn’t be on the court. Unfortunately, it’s hard to dictate tempo and style when you’re playing from behind.
  • Dwayne Bacon looked as bad as he has all season on defense. A guy who really has transformed himself in his sophomore year from a volume shooter to a Wooden Award finalist, he seemed to revert back to every single bad habit he had on defense last season. Lazy rotations. Slow back in transition. Gambling for steals that leave his teammates playing 4 on 5. All this resulted in Bacon not seeing the court for most of the second half, as he was simply a liability for a team needing stops (it also resulted in Bake’s 35 game streak of scoring in double-figures coming to a screeching halt, as he was held scoreless for the first time in his college career).

Florida State is an improved team this year, in large part because their defense is improved. They are at their best when getting stops and turnovers that allow for a high-paced, transition game. If FSU’s most gifted scorer isn’t going to play even average defense, Florida State can’t afford to have him on the court. And that makes FSU much less dangerous.

  • With five minutes left in the first half, Pitt’s Jamel Artis picked up his second foul and joined his teammate, Sheldon Jeter, on the bench. To this point in the game, Artis and Jeter had been Pitt’s offense. With FSU tailing by just one, 30-29, this was their moment. This is when the ‘Noles could use one of the explosive runs we’ve seen so many times this year to blow the game wide open. Instead, FSU missed 5 of their final 8 shots of the half, didn’t turn Pitt over once, gave up multiple layups and several offensive rebounds. Pitt, a team with limited depth, was able to extend their lead with two of their best players on the bench. That statement right there is a microcosm of the game.

Waiting at the Scorer’s Table:

The Seminoles face a quick turnaround, as they come home to play Boston College on Monday night. While FSU’s place in the NCAAT is essentially locked up, if FSU has any designs on earning a double bye in the ACCT or a protected seed (1-4 seeds) in the Big Dance, this is basically a must win. Boston College is a better team than last season and feature a couple of big time scorers. But FSU will still be heavily favored against the Eagles, who have lost 10 straight games.