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THE BIG PREVIEW: Virginia vs. Florida State

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The Hoos face the Seminoles in ACC tournament semifinal action.

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With its win over NC State yesterday, Virginia basketball reached the ACC semifinals for the fifth time in the last six years. Of the previous four semi final appearances, Virginia won three times and lost once (to North Carolina in 2015). This year, Virginia takes on the No. 4-seeded Florida State Seminoles, who squeaked by Virginia Tech in overtime yesterday afternoon.

In order to win yesterday, FSU first needed this game-tying three pointer from Devin Vassell:

Next, it was this ridiculous shot by Terance Mann that won the game for the Seminoles:

The Seminoles are a veteran team and a deep team. In yesterday’s game, a close one throughout, Hamilton used 10 players, and all of them had at least nine minutes and scored. The starting five is made up of three seniors, a junior, and a sophomore. There’s also a graduate transfer at backup PG and another senior SG. The guy who hit that first shot, freshman Devin Vassell, leads the team in three point percentage and offensive efficiency, but averages less than 10 minutes per game. He led the team with 14 points yesterday, making four threes in 16 minutes. In his previous two games, he totaled 14 minutes and four points.

Hamilton’s rotations change from game to game and matchup to matchup. Senior seven-footer Christ Koumadje, for example, has started every game this year, but averages just 16 minutes per game.

The Hoos and ‘Noles opened ACC play against each other at JPJ back on January 5. The Hoos finished the first half on a 22-8 run over the last seven minutes and took a 19 point halftime lead. The second half was never close. Perhaps the most interesting thing about that game was Virginia led 65-36 with 2:19 remaining and the final score was 65-52. The Seminoles scored the final 16 points of the game, as senior P.J. Savoy, who started the game, had three steals and five points in the final two minutes.

Virginia was led in that game by Kyle Guy and Braxton Key. Guy was 5-for-6 from downtown for 21 points, while Key scored a season-high 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the field. Key has been in double digits just once since that game, so it would certainly be nice to get him going again. Here’s Key hitting a catch-and-shoot three against FSU:

We know this isn’t Key’s strength. He’s under 30% from downtown for his career, but at this point in the game, Key was being guarded by freshman Anthony Polite. Later on, he was guarded by freshman Raiquan Gray, who left Key all alone under the basket (Gray also fell down, but that was 25 feet away from where his man was).

That’s what Kyle Guy does to a defense. Gray switched onto Guy before the screen was even set. With Guy’s man at a full sprint across the court, there was no way he could get back to stop Key underneath the basket. Guy was simply unconscious and that can be unnerving to a defense.

That’s good defense by M.J. Walker, a decent defender who has a good deal of size on Guy. I’m not even sure Guy could see the hoop when he shot it, and it’s nothing but net. Virginia fans, of course, are used to this from Guy. In fact, he was doing it yesterday against NC State:

Those were three first-half threes by Guy, all of which kept Virginia in the game when they were struggling offensively. On all three shots, Guy is barely looking at the rim when he shoots. When he’s on like that, good luck stopping him.

If Guy is shooting like that, it may not matter what the rest of the team is doing, but last time out against FSU, Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter combined to shoot 4-for-19 and scored 12 total points. Virginia is going to need more from the two of them this time out.

Of course, the story of the game yesterday was Jack Salt and his career high 18 points. He didn’t have that kind of output against FSU, scoring two points in 22 minutes. He did have five rebounds and this assist, maybe the best pass he’s ever made:

FSU is very strong inside. They’re 43rd nationally in offensive rebounding, 33rd in block rate and 23rd in two point defense. Virginia has the advantage on the perimeter, so when they’re getting plays like that from Salt and production from Key inside, they’re going to be awfully tough to beat. That’s what it’s going to take tomorrow against an FSU team that has won 13 of it’s past 14 games.

The game will tip off at 7pm and will be aired on ESPN.