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Virginia Basketball Previews: FSU

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The Seminoles come to Charlottesville on a 2 game winning streak, following a close home loss to Duke. The Noles have been playing better, and their youngsters are a big reason why. They are also one of the biggest teams in the nation. It is an interesting matchup for the Hoos. The Noles don't shoot the ball very well, and that could spell their doom against the Pack Line Defense.

Coach Bennett leads his team into the stretch run of the ACC schedule.
Coach Bennett leads his team into the stretch run of the ACC schedule.
Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Game Information
Opponent: FSU
Date: Sanday, February 22
Time: 6:30 ET
Location: JPJ
TV: ESPNU

On Sunday, they Hoos play the last of their 3 consecutive home games, as they move into the final stretch of conference games. After this game, the Hoos have 4 remaining games, 3 of which are on the road. With the Hoos still maintaining a 2 game lead in the ACC, this game is an important one. The Hoos do not want to enter those 3 road games needing to win out.

Luckily, this game matches the Hoos up with a team they've had a great deal of success against. The Hoos swept 3 meetings against the Noles last year, winning by 12, 12 and 13. That FSU team was better than this year's incarnation.

At home, facing the 106th ranked team (KenPom), the Hoos should be big favorites. But, as we've seen over the past few weeks, the Hoos seem to have a tendency to play down to their competition a bit. The loss of Justin Anderson and his energy is a part of this.

As mentioned, FSU is ranked 106th on KenPom. They are also 114th in RPI and 92nd in BPI. The Noles are 15-12 overall, and 7-7 in the ACC. They've won 5 of their past 7 games though, and played Duke close. Much of the improvement has come from the youngsters, who are getting more comfortable playing college basketball. This includes redshirt freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who has become the team's leader on offense after Aaron Thomas was declared ineligible.

Overall, the Noles are mediocre on offense, and seem to be a good matchup for the Hoos' defense. They do most of their damage on the interior. They shoot less 3s than almost anybody else in the nation, which is a good thing because they do not shoot it very well. Just one player, junior Devon Bookert, is a real threat from outside. Bookert is shooting almost 44% from downtown. Rathan-Mayes has taken more than 1/3 of the team's treys and is shooting under 25%. On 2s, though, they are 35th in the nation at over 52% and they also get to the line a ton, sporting the 21st ranking FT rate of any team in the nation.

They don't rebound the ball particularly well, despite having three 7-footers. The 3 basically split minutes at the center position, with Boris Bojanovsky getting the most minutes of the trio. The Noles best interior player is freshman Phil Cofer. He leads the team in rebound rate and is a good shot blocker as well. Jarquez Smith, Cofers partner at PF, is a very good shot blocker, but not the rebounder his teammate is. Montay Brandon actually leads the team in rebounds, but he's below average in rebound rate. He leads the team in rebounds due mostly to leading the team in minutes.

Defensively, the Noles are mostly a man-to-man team, but don't be surprised to see them play a bit of zone, trying to force the Hoos to shoot 3s. The Noles do not foul, do not force turnovers, but they do contest shots. They basically get by simply by playing a simply, hard-nosed style and not giving up easy baskets.

FSU is the second tallest team in the nation, with 6 regulars over 6'8". This includes the three 7 footers. The two Gs, Bookert and Rathan-Mayes, are each 6'3" or 6'4" and those are the two shortest guys in the rotation.

The teams that tend to give the Hoos trouble have quick guards and good outside shooters. FSU has neither of those things, though they do have some talented wings. If Rathan-Mayes is able to consistently get into the paint, he could cause problems. Bookert will handle the ball a lot, but he could also spot up on the wings and let Rathan-Mayes try to draw in defenders. Malcolm Brogdon will likely guard Rathan-Mayes, leaving London Perrantes to stay with Bookert.

If the Hoos play their game, keep the FSU backcourt duo out of the paint, and manage to make a few shots, they should be able to win this one with relative ease. FSU isn't likely to get a lot of easy looks inside against the Pack Line, and that is how they manage most of their offense. If we force them to shoot 3s, they'll struggle to score.

The way the Hoos have shot the ball recently, every game has been close. But there were signs against Pitt, as both Brogdon and Perrantes made a couple of jumpers. That needs to continue.