As you're well aware, Wednesday's game against Georgia Tech was terrifying and awful to watch, despite the W. Lucky for us, Syracuse plays another game tomorrow that can wash all of those memories away. The Orange host the Florida State Seminoles at the Carrier Dome on Sunday, and each team could do themselves a big favor by grabbing a win -- especially SU, who as we've mentioned before, really need to pick up as many victories as possible before February or so.
Below, Michael Rogner (who you should follow on Twitter) from the always excellent Tomahawk Nation, stops by to chat all about Florida State basketball. Join us below, and swing over there too if you'd like to see our answers.
Florida State has three seven-footers on the roster, yet seems to struggle on the boards. What seems to be going wrong for the FSU big men?
FSU's 7-footers were 0* and 2* recruits, so not that much should be expected from them. Michael Ojo is the largest human being alive but played a total of 16 organized basketball games as a prep. American AAU guys can play that many in a week. 7-3 Boris Bojanovsky is the most skilled of the three, but he weighs 125 pounds. And Kiel Turpin has the tools to be a tough rebounder, but unfortunately his knees are 80 years old. That said, this is FSU's best defensive rebounding team in Coach Ham's 15-year tenure. Typically FSU is really really good on the offensive glass, and terrible on the defensive end. This year that has been flipped.
Obviously the Seminoles had a rough start to the season (started 1-3), but since then they're 8-3 and look to be improved. What changed for this team after those first four games?
Mostly just the schedule. FSU gambled with a tough early schedule, thinking that this team would be deep. Then Xavier Rathan-Mayes was suspended for a game, Devon Bookert had foot surgery, Robbie Berwick broke his nose, and Aaron Thomas went to the hospital at halftime of the UMass game with unexplained dizziness. So we dropped three games right out of the gate. Recently we lost on the road to the worst SEC team, so there hasn't been much improvement except we piled up some wins against overmatched opponents and played one really good game against Florida.
How badly does this team miss Aaron Thomas? Obviously he was the team's leading scorer. Can the 'Noles replace him?
No, FSU cannot replace him. He was the best player on both ends of the court. Florida State was a team of role players and Aaron Thomas. AT was the guy. Now we're left with a bunch of role players and no guy. On the offensive end he could bail FSU out of otherwise terrible, stagnant possessions. And on the defensive end he was the only perimeter player who could consistently stop dribble penetration. With him, Florida State was a bubble team at worst, without him the ceiling is the NIT.
What did FSU do so successfully against Virginia Tech to get their offense going for 86 points, and how does the team replicate that going forward for the rest of the season?
The Noles best chance of replicating that going forward would be if they played the Hokies every game, because they're terrible, especially on the defensive end. Also, Florida State was completely unconscious in the first half of that game, hitting pretty much everything they tossed up. FSU scored 53 points in 33 first half possessions. The biggest thing from that game we can hope to build on is that the three freshmen all played really well. Buzz Williams said after the game that Xavier Rathan-Mayes was the best freshmen he'd seen all season and that it wasn't close. Robbie Berwick, who supposedly can't miss in practice, calmed down enough to actually knock down some 3s in a game, plus he got a number of deflections and hustle plays. And PF Phil Cofer brought serious energy and rebounding to the court.
Soooo what the hell happened in that Florida game? Obviously it's always good to get a win (especially against a rival), but do fans feel a bit lukewarm about the W due to how it occurred? Lukewarm?
Noooooooooo. FSU had the ball in a tie game with 3 seconds left. After a missed three the game should have gone to overtime, but one of the Gators tried to rebound the shot and tipped it in to our basket. It was beautiful. The utter shock and dismay on the faces of Florida fans was priceless. It was my favorite ending to a game since Michael Snaer took the air out of Cameron Indoor, snapping their long home winning streak, with his buzzer beating three.
What do Florida State fans think of their NCAA Tournament chances? Cautious optimism, or a more pessimistic view?
There's no chance. Well, in theory we could get lucky in the ACC Tournament, but the odds are slim. However, after decades of having the administration completely ignore basketball, the school in finally putting some money into the program. There's a long way to go to catch up to the ACC, but the new AD is at least talking the talk and sending some cash that way. It immediately paid off with a top-5 recruiting class for next year, and the Noles are poised for another big 2016 class. So overall there is a lot of optimism, but for this year, we're just hoping they make it to .500 so the team can get some free practices in the NIT.
Predictions: What happens at the Carrier Dome on Sunday?
I'm fairly confident that the Noles will get rolled. A freshman point guard - who has had some decision making issues - on the road against his first good zone defense, and he's leading a team that is 333rd in 3-point%. Couple that with a porous defense and I'm not really sure how FSU could possibly pull the upset. If it happens, I'm assuming that will mean that the Noles got a lot of stops and live ball turnovers that led to fast breaks. FSU is great in transition. But if this is a half court game then it's already over.