Yesterday it was announced that Florida State would be a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament, and as a reward they would get to play a semi-road game against No. 13 Vermont. Much of Seminole nation immediately did a deep dive into whether or not FSU was snubbed, but I chose to leave that to the experts and instead stayed up late watching Vermont games on the interwebs. After all, that’s our opponent. Here is what I learned.
Not so Little Lamb
Get used to hearing Anthony Lamb’s name. The America East conference player of the year (and member of the All Defense team) averages 21.4 ppg and 7.8 rpg, and if he were two inches taller or had the athleticism of Terance Mann, he’d be a 1st round NBA draft pick. As it is, he’s a ridiculously efficient though undersized-4. At 6-6, 227, he has the ability to bully most defenders, but he’s got a lot of savvy in his game as well.
FSU likes to switch most ball screens, and Vermont is a heavy ball screen team. They’ll run Lamb through screens in order to get him favorable matchups. He’s most effective setting screens and then rolling onto the block to catch a post entry pass, or popping for a 3-pointer. In the post he’ll be able to overpower just about anyone on the FSU roster outside of Mfiondu Kabengele and Raiquan Gray. After dropping 24 points at Kansas this year, KU head coach Bill Self said, “[Lamb] just toyed with us all night long. He got the best of everyone who was guarding him.”
When they run (which won’t be often), look for them to try to hit him in the post in the first five seconds of the shot clock.
Lamb takes 35% of the shots when he’s on the floor (12th most nationally). He makes 37% of his 3s, and draws fouls at the same rate as Fi (and knocks down FTs at a 77% clip). He also has the highest assist rate on the team. He isn’t the most creative passer, but he recognizes double teams and finds the open man. He’s very effective driving off of pump fakes, and his spin moves to either side are next level.
Louisville coach Chris Mack said, “Anthony Lamb is gonna hit some shots. He’s going to hit some tough ones. He can really use his body. He scores, he’s a tough mismatch. You just have to make sure he’s earning what he gets. You can’t go for a shot fake, you can’t leave your feet and have him step through, you can’t miss him in transition.”
The Three Brothers
You’ll see a lot Duncans on their roster, and sure enough the trio are brothers from Evansville, Indiana.
- Ernie (6-3): One of two 24-year-old starters on the Catamounts. He’s the best 3-point shooter on the team (42.5%) and 61% of his shots come from beyond the arc. But he’s also their most dangerous shotmaker off the bounce or coming off screens.
- Everett (6-6): A 3-point specialist who comes off the bench and makes 37% of his 3s.
- Robin (6-5): The brother who can’t shoot. A secondary ball handler to help relieve 6-1 sophomore Stef Smith.
What the media will get wrong
They can’t all shoot. They do have the ability to go small, but their guy who jumps center is 6-5 and has attempted one 3-pointer in his career. Freshman Isiaah Moll (6-6) shoots 20% from deep. We already covered brother Robin. Why is this important? This allows FSU to play Christ Koumadje and not be overly concerned about the Catamounts dragging him out to the perimeter. There are guys he can match up with, and he’ll rarely have to step outside the lane. And if Vermont goes with a shooter heavy lineup, then Fi could have a big game. How Coach Becker schemes around FSU’s post players will be his biggest challenge.
Florida State’s defense is peaking at the right time, but so is Vermont’s. Back in November as they were rebuilding following the loss of five seniors, the Catamounts defense was a soft 215th nationally. In March they’re 29th. They primarily play a half court man-to-man, and their undersized post players do a good job denying deep position on the block. Your friends at the bar will be yelling “FSU is so tall!! Why aren’t they going inside on every possession?!! Ham sucks!!” and you can be the smart one pointing out how they’re pushing our guys off the block. And do we really want Christ Koumadje catching the ball 10’ from the basket? They’ll also double-team post catches, and neither Koumadje nor Fi are great passers out of the post.
However, they will be susceptible to lobs. They like to pressure the ball, so this should be a lot like the Virginia Tech game. FSU can’t take the bait and just fire 3s off ball screens all day (which Vermont will likely give them). They need to spread the defense out and attack off the bounce. If they double on the drive, then the lob may be available, or if not a kick out to an open shooter. If they don’t double on the drive, then attack the rim.
Vermont is the 2nd best defensive rebounding team in the nation. Shots at the rim are the most common offensive board, and so FSU needs to figure out a way to be playing downhill.
Vermont takes care of the ball (56th nationally). Their PG Stef Smith is more of a scorer than a playmaker, but he is steady with the ball and has the quickness to beat presses on his own. FSU presses as much as any high major team in the NCAAT, and they’ll need to deny the ball to Smith and force other players to be the primary handler. This is where FSU’s length could give the Catamounts trouble.
FSU isn’t the only team in this game with a deep bench. They can go 10-deep, and 36% of their minutes come from the bench (compared to 38% for FSU). This isn’t a team that Florida State is going to wear out. Anthony Lamb (31.4 mpg) is the only starter who averages over 30 minutes.