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FSU Basketball exhibition vs Columbus State: Observations and “takeaways”

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The points don’t matter but the observations do...kind of.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Media Day Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida State Seminoles hit the hard court for their final tuneup before the regular season, squaring off against the Columbus State Cougars. FSU won 84-54, but honestly that doesn’t really matter. Exhibitions like this are typically used to experiment with lineups, work on sets, develop skills, etc. So take this all with a Michael Ojo size grain of salt, but here were some general thoughts.

What Impressed?

  • Devin Vassell. Like last year, the sophomore wing just seems to be around the ball. Deflections, tip-ins, loose balls...he’s just always around it. But unlike last year, his teammates are looking for him as a focal point of the offense. He’s also added muscle and looked more comfortable within Hamilton’s defensive system. If he hits threes at a 40%+ rate again, he could very well be FSU’s second best pro prospect.
  • The team’s intensity. This was an exhibition game against an overmatched opponent coming at the end of what I’m assuming was a tough week of practice. Despite that, FSU came out focused, communicating, and squeaking their shoes on defense. The ACC is a grind (especially with 20 games now) and it’s simply not possible to be “up” for every game at your peak level. But it’s good to see seniors like Trent Forrest set the tone early and the team maintained it throughout the game.
  • Balsa Koprivica’s general aggressiveness/hustle. Most freshmen bigs come in a bit tentative. At least in this game (against a significantly smaller team), Balsa looked aggressive on the glass, attacking the rim when he had the ball, and hustling on defense.
  • Patrick Williams’ athleticism. Let’s be clear: the highly touted freshman is a work in progress. He’s clearly still learning both the offensive and defensive principles and his shot, while not bad, needs reps to build consistency. I’d also like to see him take fewer 16 footers. But his athleticism is real and it’s spectacular. It’s evident on defense when his arms extend into passing lanes seemingly out of nowhere. But it’s most impressive in his Al Thornton-esq second jump. Williams missed a few bunnies and made the put back by just being off the ground before anyone else had even reacted.
  • Anthony Polite’s confidence. We will see if this extends into the season when the opposing players are bigger, stronger, and more skilled. But in this game, Polite—who played next to Forrest in a two-PG set frequently—ran the offense well and looked for his shot at appropriate times. He drilled a couple threes (he’s got a very quick, compact stroke) and got to the line several times.
  • Columbus State’s quickness. Like a standard exhibition opponent, the Cougars lacked size and skill at most positions. But they were dang quick and Bryant Givens, in particular, gave the FSU defense a solid look.
  • Seeing Naheem McLeod in the stands. I’m not exactly sure what his status is with the program (aside from just generally not being eligible at this time), but he was in the public stands engaged and following his “teammates.” Kudos to him.

What Intrigued?

  • Trent Forrest’s perimeter shooting. He hasn’t actually made a three in either exhibition, but he has taken them in rhythm within the offense, and they didn’t look terrible. Hopefully that keeps up and a few start falling.
  • RaiQuan Gray’s ball handling and vision. I’m not saying he’s a point guard, but his vision is that of a point guard and his ball handling is possibly the second best on the team. His biggest area for growth is playing under control.
  • Wyatt’s performance. Similar to Polite, we will see what happens against better opponents. But tonight he displayed nice aggressiveness, solid rebounding, and improved defense. Even getting a solid 5-7 minutes a game from him against low-to-mid level ACC opponents would be nice to save legs for March.
  • Nathanael Jack’s game. Jack was only 1-6 from three, but the misses were good shots. He also flashed better vision and passing ability than I anticipated. The defense isn’t there right now, but he can hopefully become serviceable enough in order to get on the court, because he can certainly help in FSU’s space and pace offensive system.

What Concerned?

  • M.J. Walker’s conditioning. This is 100% expected and understandable after his extended absence due to an injury. Nonetheless, he was clearly still working his way into game shape and I’m not sure he can get fully there by the Pitt game.
  • Malik Osborne finishing in the paint. Now, let me preface this by saying his aggressiveness and hustle was outstanding. And his awareness isn’t bad either. But he was 3-11 from the field and most of the misses were within 2 feet and largely due to just not finishing through contact. As Michael Rogner wrote in the wing preview, Osborne came here to be a wing and he flashed some potential there. But if he’s our 5 when we go small we need a stronger performance around the basket.
  • 20 turnovers. Yes, we played lineups that won’t likely be seen in real games. Yes, it’s just an exhibition. But The ‘Noles aren’t good enough—yet—to give away as many opportunities as they did. I don’t know the exact number of possessions, but it certainly wasn’t 100, so the turnover percentage had to be north of 24%.
  • Dominik Olejniczak didn’t play. Big Dom sat out with a calf strain and I saw him walking a bit gingerly. Hopefully he’s healed up before the Pitt game.