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FSU Q/A with Tomahawk Nation and Tip Off Open Thread

We e-mailed True Cubbie of Tomahawk Nation to get some perspective on this year's FSU Seminole hoops squad. Here is TN's preview of GT including a back and forth Q/A with FTRS. FSU just lost the guy who put a dagger in the heart of GT fans' dreams last season, Toney Douglas, so I focused questions around the team's handling of his loss and changing on-the-court dynamics:

1. How has the team dealt with the departure of Toney Douglas and Uche Echefu? In the relatively young basketball season, does this exceed or fall short of preseason expectations?
With such a young team, losing senior leadership is always difficult. Toney was 'the team' last year, particularly with regard to scoring. Toney scored 751 points last year. The next three highest scorers on the team combined for 844 points. Toney was also the defensive leader of the team, regularly limiting the production of some of the top guards in the country. Echefu was a relatively quiet player who would have productive games with little notice or production about it. He did struggle at times and lost his starting job for parts of the year. Last season, Echefu saw a dip in his production compared to the previous year, but he was playing injured at times.

Filling the production of those two players, was no easy task. There were two key things that occurred in the off season: Michael Snaer and Spain. Snaer was one of the top guards in the country coming out of high school and is the guard of the future at FSU. While Snaer is not putting up the offensive numbers of Toney Douglas, yet, he has probably been our best on the ball defender. This summer, the Noles had the opportunity to play 4 games in Spain and had an additional 10 practices as a result of it. When camp started, Coach Hamilton was no longer coaching about where to stand on the court and where to move, but working on game flow and subtleties.

Expectations about the Noles were mixed this year. Big questions surrounded Toney's departure, but with the core group returning, many had high expectations. However, it seems that the consensus has the Seminoles finishing 7th in the ACC. As this point in the year, the Noles are still playing like a young team. Stretches of great basketball and stretches of poor basketball. They are about where I expected them to be. Statistically, they are almost identical to where they were last year, meaning thus far, the void of Toney Douglas has been filled. This really has been a group effort with everyone upping their offensive production, rather than one player taking over.

2. Who is matching up with the double-double-duo of Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors (combining for 30 PPG and 19 Rebs/Game)? What is the FSU game plan for our front court presence?
In general, the ACC is huge this year. Last year it was about guard play; this year it is about the big men. The Noles certainly fit that mold. In fact, the Seminoles are the tallest team in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy. The starting front court is the following: Solomon Alabi 7'1 Xavier Gibson 7'0 Chris Singleton 6'9. The first guy off the bench is Ryan Reid who is 6'8. Jordan DeMercy has also been playing well off the bench this year and he is 6'7 but has great leaping ability and plays bigger than he actually is.

Does any combination of those players add up to 30 and 19? No. Alabi has finally started to put up points with 20+ in his last two outings. He is only averaging 6 rebounds a game. This is certainly an element of his game that needs improvement, though that is not unique to Alabi but a theme for the team. Singleton is an excellent defender, but isn't quite the physical low post presence that Lawal is/can be. Gibson is big and takes up space, but he is stronger on the offensive end. I wouldn't be surprised if Lawal has a big game.

Solomon Alabi has been an outstanding defender so far this year, closing the paint for most of our opponents. He blocks 2.6 shots per game, but this doesn't reflect the way he forces opponents to adjust shots in the paint. However, he has yet to see a center that has the talent of Derrick Favors. Conversely, has Derrick Favors seen a center like Solomon Alabi? Heading into the season, Alabi was projected on a few sites to be an NBA lottery pick. His play this far has not lived up to those expectations as his offense is still lagging behind his defense, but there has been a big improvement in the last two games.

The Seminoles play physical man to man defense. Lawal and Favors will likely see a steady rotation of all of the players mentioned above. The Seminoles have also seen success using a smaller three guard lineup. They have been forced to do so this year as the majority of their opponents have been relatively small and used full court press to limit the effectiveness of the Seminoles' height. When the Seminoles go small, they typically play Snaer, Dulkys/Loucks, Kitchen, Singleton and Gibson/Alabi. I don't see that lineup chasing Favors or Lawal out of the game. Getting Lawal and Favors into foul trouble early will certainly be to the Seminole's advantage. This may be the game that Miller and Sheehan come off the bench and prevent a significant decrease in height.

I have been looking forward to the match up between Alabi and Favors since Favors committed to GTech. It will be a great first test for both big men.

3. FSU has played a good number of major conference squads early in the season? Do you enjoy the scheduling of SEC/Big East games over cup cakes in the early Winter schedule?
Florida State is a football school first, meaning that the Seminoles basketball history/reputation will not get them into the NCAA tournament. They need a good out of conference resume. Fortunately, they have been successful against the schedule thus far, with the two exceptions being Florida and Ohio State. Granted, those are two road losses to two very good basketball teams. Given the quality of the ACC, the Seminoles need to be comfortable playing against quality opponents in tough games. Plus, as a basketball fan, it's fun to watch good teams and interesting matchups. However, if you look at the Seminoles stats, they play close games against the cupcakes as well. In the stats world. that is apparently called consistency. In reality, it's a reflection of their youth. The scheduling of the 'Big Conferences' is high risk high reward for the Seminoles. It adds to their tournament resume and is an essential lesson for our young players.

4. Where do you see GT and FSU seeded in the ACC Tournament come Spring?
I see FSU as a five or six seed. Georgia Tech as a four or five seed. I thought the Noles would finish 6 or 7th in the conference last year, and they finished a surprising 4th. The lack of offense makes it hard to predict what they will do. The Noles can play defense with the best of them so they will be in most games this year, just hard to know if they will close any of them out.

5. Feeding off of #4, what are FSU's post season expectations?
This team should make it to the NCAA tournament, likely as a 10 seed or lower and will likely be the last ACC team in. There is a lot of work and improvement that needs to occur in order for that to happen.

6. One on one. Tim Pickett vs. Toney Douglas. Who wins a game of 21? Who wins a game of H-O-R-S-E?
21: Toney Douglas. H-O-R-S-E: Tim Pickett Two very different styles of play. It would certainly be a great match up to watch.

Thanks to True Cubbie at TN. Always good quality stuff over there. If you don't read Tomahawk Nation, you should. There's always lots of good ACC and FSU information especially with the recently deposed King of Tallahassee. Feel free to comment on the game in the comments section. Game is on FSN with a 5:30PM Tipoff. Go Tech!