ACC Basketball

Virginia Host the Seminoles

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

HOW THEY GOT HERE:
How Virginia got here is simple…winning. The Cavaliers are 24-1 on the year, 12-1 in the ACC and hold a two-game lead for first in the conference. Remember, this team is coming off a ACC regular season and tournament title from last year and have won 28 of their last 31 conference games.

The Florida State Seminoles flopped out of the gate, losing three of their first four and five of their first nine, before taking down four straight Florida schools (North, South, Stetson and Florida). They also struggled in the beginning of ACC play, dropping three straight at one point. However, they have earned some wins lately, taking six out of their last nine to barely get back into the bubble conversation. Barely.

FIVE NOT-SO-DEEP THOUGHTS

  • Will the Seminoles front line be able to do anything against Virginia’s pack-line defense? Despite having a trio of seven footers (Michael Ojo, Boris Bojanovsky and Kiel Turpin), FSU does not rely on their big guys for points. In fact, if one hits double figures, celebrate. In their last three games, those trees have scored a total of 8 points. Jarquez Smith plays the four and shoots the ball at a high rate, but he’s an opportunistic scorer at best and the Cavaliers don’t give a lot of opportunities in the paint.
  • Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Devon Bookert were a little slow to get going this season (Bookert was backing up Aaron Thomas, then out for a while), but lately both have grown up. Bookert has scored in double figures in nine of his last 11 games, shooting at a consistent clip from deep, hitting at least three treys in 10 of his last 15 games, including 4-5 from deep against Boston College on Wednesday. Rathan-Mayes is starting to get aggressive, taking less threes (hitting at a higher rate in the process) and attacking the paint. He’s taken 31 shots in his last two games, but 22 of them were from two and he’s done a much better job of drawing contact, whereas earlier in the season he shied away from it.
  • Of course Virginia has some pretty good guards too, who have had to pick up their game with Justin Anderson out. London Perrantes has scored in double figures the last two games, while Malcolm Brogdon finally got his groove back from deep, hitting a pair of threes against Pittsburgh. While his overall shooting percentage is down, it’s expected since he’s always responsible for guarding the opponents best player.
  • Of course, players like Brogdon and Rathan-Mayes get the headlines, the difference makers in a game like this will be the wings. The Seminoles have Phil Cofer, who has really delivered lately and Montay Brandon. Both are long, athletic and create massive mismatch headaches. Brandon scores on 57% of his shots from two (usually on fantastic dunks), while Cofer is a solid rebounder on offense and shot blocker on defense, also capable of making a highlight reel or two.
  • With no Justin Anderson and Mike Tobey coming off the bench, Virginia starts Darion Atkins at the five, Anthony Gill at the four, with Evan Nolte replacing Anderson. One of the reason why the Cavaliers have struggled is that Nolte isn’t a offensive threat. He is suppose to be a deep threat, but he has just five threes in his last 13 games, hitting 2-9 since becoming a starter. Luckily Anthony Gill is a do-everything guy (a Ken Pom wet dream). He rebounds on both ends, he shares the rock, doesn’t turn it over and draws plenty of fouls. While he can’t do what Justin Anderson does (hit threes), he’s really picked up his scoring production, delivering 31 points in the Cavaliers last two games.

FINAL THOUGHT:
Virginia is the nation’s top scoring defense at 50.8 and while Florida State has played better and I expect Cofer and Montay to have their moments Sunday night, I also expect one or two five-minute stretches without scoring from the Seminoles. The fact is, Virginia will give nothing away (first in the ACC in turnovers, while FSU will (last in the ACC in turnovers).

WORTHLESS PREDICTION: Virginia, 65-50

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