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Inside The Chart – Florida State

By Andy Demetra | Voice of the Yellow Jackets

Practically speaking, it filled the last non-conference game on the schedule.

Psychologically speaking, it may have accomplished much more.

Set aside the opponent and 50-point margin of victory.  Georgia Tech needed a “get right” game, even if it came at the expense of a scheduled bye weekend.  The Yellow Jackets found it and then some against Clayton State, pouring in 103 points and a mojo-restoring 15-of-24 three-point shooting.

But to Josh Pastner, those numbers were incidental.  More important is what underpinned them.

“We played the right way,” Pastner said on his radio show.  “We needed to see the ball go through the hoop.  We needed to feel that.”

Tech played with “rhythm, flow and energy” on offense.  They got back to their defensive identity of flying around and making multiple effort plays.  Pastner knows the competition takes a steep climb up this week, beginning with ACC-leading Florida State (13-5, 6-2 ACC) on Wednesday at McCamish Pavilion.

But Pastner also knows how fragile and fickle momentum can be.  After a grueling start to ACC play, Georgia Tech (8-10, 1-6 ACC) may have recaptured some of it following 40 feel-good minutes against Clayton State.  They’ll see how much it carries over against a Florida State team that has won six straight and likely won’t need a reminder of what happened last March in the ACC Tournament championship game.

Enjoy the top five notes from my chart as the Jackets and Seminoles tip off on another late night at McCamish Pavilion (9 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports):

Khalid Moore has improved his free throw accuracy by 15 percent this season. (photo by Danny Karnik)

 

Florida State earned a road win over Miami Saturday, but the Seminoles may have done the unthinkable: age Leonard Hamilton.

The Seminoles’ incomprehensibly youthful head coach watched stoically as his team nearly coughed up a 26-point second-half lead before hanging on to win 61-60.  Ugly or not, it capped off a week that also included an overtime win over No. 9 Duke and re-cast Florida State as an NCAA Tournament contender.  It took a while for their young roster to jell – they lost three players to the NBA Draft last spring – but the Seminoles once again have the look of an NCAA Tournament team.  Among their key players:

  • Newcomer Caleb Mills (13.9 ppg), a transfer from Houston, is a wiry, slashing lead guard who has averaged 17.5 points during FSU’s win streak. The Houston transfer actually played against Georgia Tech at the Diamond Head Classic on Christmas Eve 2019.
  • 6-7 freshman Matthew Cleveland (10.8 ppg), Florida State’s next NBA wing prospect, is elite in transition and has the body control to make tough finishes around the rim.
  • 6-9 senior Malik Osborne (10.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg) has struggled with an ankle injury but gives the Seminoles a versatile presence on both ends.
  • 6-6 Anthony Polite (9.5 ppg) and 6-4 RayQuan Evans (7.1 ppg) are sturdily-built downhill drivers in Florida State’s ball screen continuity offense.

Like usual, FSU has fearsome size and athleticism.  And yet, Georgia Tech may have caused another aging fit from Hamilton last year when they forced 21 and 25 turnovers in their two wins last season.  Tech will once again need to play with good hand activity and deny passes behind its zone.  Hamilton said Florida State struggled with Miami’s switching defenses in the second half Saturday.  The Jackets switch their defensive looks as a matter of course.  Can Tech coax that same tentativeness out of FSU Wednesday?

*****

Deebo Coleman recorded his third ACC game with 3 or more steals against Wake Forest.

That’s as many as Jose Alvarado had during his freshman season.

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There’s no way of knowing the exact number, but statistically there are an estimated 85 to 150 U.S.-born people who are seven feet or taller.

Florida State has four on its roster.

The formula has remained unchanged for Hamilton: load his team with long, athletic players who can switch every ball screen and wither teams with their depth.  The Seminoles use that length to pressure, play up the line, force skittish shots around the rim, and get deflections that lead to fast breaks (FSU leads the ACC in steals per game).  Last year Florida State ranked 12th in the nation in two-point FG percentage defense, allowing 44.5 percent on two-point attempts.

But here’s something that might surprise you.  The Seminoles’ three worst games in two-point defense last year all came against Georgia Tech:

Florida State – Worst 2pt.% allowed ’20-21

  • Georgia Tech (3/13/21):  56.4%
  • Georgia Tech (12/15/20):  54.8%
  • Georgia Tech (1/30/21):  54.5%

It’d be reductive to chalk up that success entirely to Jose Alvarado and Moses Wright.  So what did the Jackets do well to chop down Florida State’s length?  They rotated and played the weak side.  They cut and passed decisively.  Their guards engaged FSU’s help but didn’t get engulfed by it.  They stayed true to their “AASSA” (attack-attack-skip-skip-attack) philosophy of ball movement.

Can the Jackets play through those same principles Wednesday?  Can they be comfortable scoring off scrambles and make the available shots that eluded them against Wake Forest and Notre Dame?  Florida State’s turnover rate (23.1 pct., No. 12 NCAA) is comparable to LSU (No. 6) and Georgia State (No. 35), which shook down Tech for 47 combined turnovers earlier this year.  Tech will need to avoid the casual entries and risky backdoor passes that Florida State’s length can swallow up and turn into jailbreaks.

Deebo Coleman has made 18 of 30 three-point attempts in Tech’s victories this season. (photo by Danny Karnik)

 

Khalid Moore was a 60.5 percent career free throw shooter entering the year.

After making both of his free throws against Clayton State, the senior is averaging 75.9 percent this season (22 of 29).

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In spite of its condor-like length, Florida State has been surprisingly susceptible to three-pointers this year.  The Seminoles rank 14th in the ACC in three-point defense, allowing 35.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

That may be a number worth watching Wednesday.  When Georgia Tech shoots better than 35 percent from three-point range this year, they’re 8-3.  When they shoot below 35 percent, they’re 0-7.

For as much gravity as Michael Devoe and Jordan Usher command in the halfcourt, pay attention to Coleman, a former Florida Mr. Basketball who will be getting his first crack against his home-state school.  In 18 games, the freshman has become a sneaky bellwether of the Yellow Jackets’ success:

Deebo Coleman 3pt.%

  • Wins:  60.0%  (18 of 30)
  • Losses:  29.2%  (7 of 24)

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Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well.  Join us for pregame coverage starting at 8:30 p.m. ET on the Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports.  See you at McCamish.

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