#3 Florida State Seminoles vs #14 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles
TNT, Late Game
Florida State Seminoles
Player to Watch: Jonathan Isaac, (11.1 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.0 RPG)
The 6-10 Isaac, almost a guaranteed lottery pick in this year’s NBA draft, is going to have to take advantage of his size against the Eagles. He’ll be able to space the floor for the ‘Noles and clear out the lane, but he’ll also have to use his big frame to crash the glass on both ends.
X Factor: Size
Florida State very simply has to use their size to clog the lane on defense. FSU is the second tallest team in the country, according to KenPom. When they have Jonathan Isaac (6-10) and Michael Ojo (7-1) in the starting lineup with Jarquez Smith (6-9) and Christ Koumadjie (7-4) coming off the bench, there’s no reason for FGCU to be able to get easy baskets. The Seminoles hold opponents to 45.1% on two-point shots, and the Eagles shoot a nice 55.5%. FSU’s entire team is ridiculously long, and FGCU doesn’t rely a lot on long-range shooting, so if I’m Leonard Hamilton, I’m drilling into my guys’ heads to keep your hands up in the lane and make Dunk City shoot over you. Florida State can be FGCU’s worst nightmare as long as they can consistently get in the Eagles’ faces on defense and force them to shoot from outside.
Florida Gulf Coast Eagles
Player to Watch: Brandon Goodwin, (18.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 4.0 APG)
Goodwin can do it all for the Eagles. He pours in 18.2 PPG, leads the team in assists with 4 APG, and even pulls down 4.6 boards. He’ll get his points, but if the Eagles want to win this game, he’ll have to move the ball around the floor. The Seminoles will collapse on him inside the arc, so he’ll have to divert attention elsewhere. He certainly has the capability to.
X Factor: Tempo
Florida Gulf Coast won’t be able to rely on the dunk this time to pull off the upset. Instead, they’ll have to slow the Seminoles down going up and down the court. FGCU is the 299th fastest team in the country, according to KenPom, and FSU is 52nd. That’s a pretty big difference. FGCU will have to use the game tempo to their advantage defensively. Here’s what I mean by that: FSU doesn’t shoot that well, so a slower pace means fewer opportunities to score, and if FGCU is comfortable playing at that pace, let them play their game. Brandon Goodwin will most likely be the guy for the Eagles to control the speed, so he has to do it effectively.
Match-Up to Watch: Demetris Morant vs. The Florida State Frontcourt
Demetris Morant is a lanky 6-9 forward for the Eagles who will need to play the game of his life defensively for Dunk City to recapture the magic from a few years ago. He’ll be matched up with any number of FSU’s big men across the span of the game. He’ll need to be in their face and force them to take bad shots, while also making sure he doesn’t leave the lane wide open. That’s a tough assignment.
Key Stat: Offensive Rebounding
For as gigantic as Florida State is, they tend to let up on the offensive boards. This is great for a team like FGCU, who grabs their own miss 34.5% of the time (good for 32nd in the country per KenPom). Florida State gives up 30.4% of rebounds on the offensive glass (232nd in KenPom). It’ll start with Demetris Morant, who pulls down 13.4% of all offensive rebounds, good for 47th of all players in KenPom. If the Eagles can capitalize on a third of their misses, they should be in good shape for an upset.
Prediction: Florida State 76, Florida Gulf Coast 64
Orlando is a good mid-point between these two schools, so expect a rowdy crowd for both sides. I love Florida State’s length in this one, and their overall talent on such a deep roster. FGCU will hang in there for a while, but FSU will pull away and escape the upset.
Photo via AP Photo