Scouting Florida State
Typically, this segment comes the day before Maryland plays a particular opponent, but since the Terrapins' ACC opener isn't until Sunday and we've had somewhat of an extended break since the last time Maryland played, we're going to scout Florida State today. Hope you don't mind. Tomorrow, we'll provide the perspective of a coach whose team already has faced the Seminoles this season. Saturday, we'll have an update from College Park where Coach Gary Williams will meet with reporters.
Florida State is 13-2 (1-0 in ACC play) so far in Year One of Life Without Toney Douglas. Okay, so maybe the loss of Douglas wasn't that dramatic for the Seminoles, but the departure of a third-team all-American guard who won ACC defensive player of the year honors while averaging 21.5 points per game did make a significant impact on the identity of this season's squad.
Without Douglas, who justifiably took a large share of Florida State's shots last season, the Seminoles offer a more balanced approach on offense. That said, one theme has remained constant. Last year, Florida State ranked first in the ACC in scoring defense and last in the ACC in scoring offense. This year, they appear on track for a similar output. The Seminoles currently rank first among conference teams in scoring defense (56.9 points per game allowed) and 10th in scoring offense (73.3 points per game).
Defense is paramount to Florida State's success, eighth-year Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said earlier this week on the ACC coaches' teleconference. Especially when a team no longer has the services of a go-to guard who can score in the clutch.
"Sometimes your offense comes and goes," Hamilton said. "Let's face it, we have not always had tremendous offensive players. We feel that we've developed a defensive system that regardless of your quickness and speed and athleticism, that if we play defense and play a team defense that we will give ourselves a chance, and I think our players have really bought in. Obviously it helps when you have the length that we have on the perimeter and inside with Solomon [Alabi] back in there and Xavier [Gibson] and Chris [Singleton], who have developed some shot-blocking skills. Overall, I think it's just that the kids have bought in and taken pride in realizing that in order for us to be successful while we're developing in a lot of other areas, our defense can be consistent."
Florida State's strength lies in its stable of long front-court players. Sophomore center Solomon Alabi (7 feet 1, 251 pounds) already has tallied 43 blocks this season (that's as many as Virginia's entire team has registered). Alabi is averaging 12.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 57.8 percent. Hamilton said Alabi has not even come close to reaching his full potential.
"He's a tall, slender youngster without a tremendous lower base so he's easy to push off the block, and many times when he's catching the ball, the physicality of the game keeps him off-balance," Hamilton said. "So what he's learned to do now is be a little more patient, not rush things. If he's uncomfortable, he's not putting it on the floor. He's not trying to force things, and he's kicking the ball out. And he's becoming sounder. He's just growing with his understanding of how the game needs to be played with the skills that he has."
Joining Alabi in the front court are senior forward Ryan Reid (6-8, 238 pounds) and sophomore forward Chris Singleton (6-9, 227 pounds). Reid is averaging 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 55.4 percent.
While he is a nice complimentary part, Singleton quickly is becoming the most complete player on Florida State's roster. Singleton is averaging 10.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. He is shooting 44.2 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from three-point range. He has collected 34 steals and 20 blocks. He starts at the small forward position, but can and does play the power forward spot when the Seminoles elect to go with a more perimeter-oriented look.
Providing Florida State some front-court depth off the bench are sophomore forward Xavier Gibson (6-11, 240 pounds) and junior forward Jordan DeMercy (6-7, 215 pounds). Gibson is averaging 7.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 54.8 percent. He also has tallied 15 blocks, making him the third Seminole to average at least one block per game. DeMercy is averaging 4.5 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.
The Seminoles offer some length in the back court, as well. Junior guard Derwin Kitchen (6-4, 204 pounds) runs the point, while sophomore guard Deividas Dulkys (6-5, 196 pounds) mans the 2 position. With Douglas no longer around to dictate Florida State's offense, it's up to Kitchen to distribute the ball. This season, that means getting the ball into the post, where the team's big men can maximize their frequent size advantage. Kitchen is averaging 8.4 points, 4.2 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game. He is shooting 42.4 percent.
Kitchen "is a different kind of player than Toney Douglas," Hamilton said. "Toney was kind of a tweener, a 1-2, a combo guard. Derwin has developed into a pass-first type of guy who's capable of scoring, but he really gets excited about getting his teammates involved and is understanding the importance of the role of the point guard being a distributor on the court. It's almost like we've got to encourage him to be a little more aggressive offensively and he still wants to be more concerned with the assisting. We have the kind of team that really needs to have guys who accept those roles. Maybe we're not the kind of team that creates for themselves very much, and we have to create for each other, and Derwin has given us that from a leadership standpoint."
Dulkys is averaging 10.3 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. He is the team's most dangerous threat from three-point range and is shooting 45.3 percent from beyond the arc thus far this season. He is shooting 47.8 percent from the field.
Florida State's primary back-court reserves are freshman guard Michael Snaer (6-5, 200 pounds) and sophomore guard Luke Loucks (6-5, 196 pounds). Each player provides a different sort of relief. Snaer -- who was the California high school player of the year last season at Rancho Verde High in Moreno Valley, Calif. -- entered the season with a reputation as a deft shooter, though he his percentages (42.9 percent from the field; 36.7 percent from three-point range) are not too eye-catching at the moment. He is averaging 8.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per game.
Loucks spells Kitchen at the point. He is averaging 3.4 points, 3.3 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game. Loucks is shooting 36.7 percent from the field.
Overall, Florida State is shooting 47.9 percent from the field, 36.2 percent from three-point range and 63.6 percent from the free throw line. What's more impressive are the shooting percentages to which they are holding their opponents. Seminoles foes are shooting 33.7 percent from the field and 28.8 percent from beyond the arc this season.
Though Florida State is a good rebounding squad (plus-7.7 rebounding margin), the Seminoles are turnover prone. They are averaging 17.6 turnovers per game, own a minus-0.7 turnover margin and possess a 0.9 assist-to-turnover ratio. So while Maryland might struggle on the boards against the Seminoles, the Terrapins should be able to gain some of that ground back by relying on their knack for forcing turnovers.
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