Game preview: Florida State to NC State

The state of Florida is back on the field for the first time in more than two weeks following a COVID-related hiatus, and they now find themselves starting the ACC game with less experience than they do. ‘would have hoped. The games against UCF, UNF and Boston College were all delayed / canceled, and it would have been a good opportunity for this young team to gain confidence after the Lipscomb game.

NC State is currently on a 4-game losing streak, as well as 5 of the last 6. These losses have come to Louisville, Purdue, Richmond, Wright State and Miami. They’ve suffered some tough knocks this season, which we’ll get to in a moment, but they had high hopes that Cam Hayes would improve in his second season which would help them out of the ACC midfield. So far, it just hasn’t been that.

The Wolfpack lead the all-time streak in this game 30-28, but FSU quickly closed the gap winning 6 of the last 7, the latest being a 32-point beating from a shorthanded NC State team at the following a COVID-related break last season (sounds familiar?).

This game will take place at 4 p.m. EST from PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC on the ACC network.

NC State Wolfpack (7-6, 0-2) Breakdown

I don’t think any team sums up what the ACC has been this year better than NC State. They started 6-1, taking a 4OT victory over Nebraska in the process, before an OT loss to Purdue began a 4-game losing streak they have since fallen to Miami and Wright State. Their best analytical win was actually over Louisiana Tech, so you could say they didn’t show much.

Some people will watch the OT game against Purdue and say ‘wait a minute, Purdue demolished the state of Florida, shouldn’t we be worried? ” You can if you want. It was one of the three best shooting displays NC State had all season, while it was the worst shooting display for Purdue all season. NC State was nothing special, Purdue just didn’t hit the shots, especially the ones they hit against Florida State. NC State is really not a good 3 point shooting team as they maybe teased with their 8/21 archery display against Purdue it was one of 3 games so far this season where they shot over 32% of 3. They had as many games shooting 25% or less than they were shooting 32% or better. As long as Florida State doesn’t fall asleep, everything will be fine here.

Where NC State generates an offense is on the offensive glass. They are in the top 70 in terms of offensive rebound rate, and FSU has had some issues with good offensive rebound teams. They’re going to have to be aggressive there, because there’s a chance they won’t have a lot of opportunities with turnovers. NC State is in the Top 10 in percentage turnover, which is a very interesting stat to watch against the ‘Noles, who are in the Top 15 in forced turnover rate.

Defensively, there is nothing spectacular to say. They’re halfway through almost every measure and then start to increase the theft and block rate a bit. The strangest thing is that the teams seem to really be making their free throws against them; a mad 74.1% (the national FT% average is 70.8% for comparison). I know this must be frustrating because it is something that is beyond their control.

It’s a list where we really only have to talk about 4 guys: Dereon Seabron, Jericole Hellems, Cam Hayes and Terquavion Smith. Seabron took a MASSIVE and honestly unexpected step forward from his freshman season last year, where he averaged just 5.2 PPG and 3.5 RPG from his now 18.6 PPG. and 10.2 RPG. He’s averaged as many offensive rebounds this season as he did total rebounds last season. He’s still not a threat from the outside, but can man give you trouble inside the arc.

Hellems has been a prototypical type of development throughout his career, constantly improving his numbers and constantly improving with little little jumps from season to season. He’s the team’s top marksman at 39.1% deep, but he’s a good scorer at 3 levels.

Smith got off to a good start, but I don’t know how durable it is. He’s forcing NC State staff to play him more with his 13.8 PPG and takes more 3s than anyone on the list, hitting them consistently enough at 34.1%. I just think it’s a bit too erratic and can sometimes take unnecessary photos. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to the length of FSU.

There was a lot of hope for Cam Hayes to take a step forward as point guard, and that hasn’t happened yet, and you’d expect him to have over 2.5 APG. He’s not exactly a natural goalscorer, I just think this list is a poor fit for what he wants to do. If it continues like this, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him transfer at the end of the season.

A few other players you’ll see registering: Casey Morsell (UVA transfer they rely on too much), Ebenezer Dowuona (unspectacular big deal who was forced to step in once Manny Bates was lost for the season, an impossible task to do. replace him), Thomas Allen and Jaylon Gibson (who don’t provide much besides corps). This is actually a 6-7 player squad, with Seabron and Hellems playing over 34 minutes per game.

Florida State Seminole Breakdown (6-4, 0-1)

I think everyone is a little curious to see how the state of Florida is reacting to coming out of this COVID hiatus. After coming out of the first one last season, they arguably played their best basketball of the season in the next 5 games. The second dampened their expectations a bit.

It seemed like this team, especially Anthony Polite, had finally found some sort of attacking rhythm against a Lipscomb team, albeit pretty bad. But the team just needed a little confidence, needed to see some shots go through the net. How they react to a break of more than 2 weeks will be an important factor in their progress throughout the season.

FSU had a shot at securing a quality win over UCF had this game not been called off, and then could have used UNF and Boston College to sand rougher edges. Fortunately for FSU, ACC is, to put it mildly, bad. Take the RPI rankings for what they are, but the ACC is currently the 7th ranked conference, sandwiched between Mountain West and West Coast Conference. This is the worst conference this conference has seen as far back as I can remember. There is an argument that Wake Forest are the second best team in the conference right now (that wouldn’t really be an argument, but I would listen to the conversation).

As I’m going to talk about in the injury report, I think I’m just curious about who’s available / healthy and what kind of rust is this team going to show? It’s unreasonable to expect an offensive explosion given the struggles this team has so far this season, although it was a bit of a similar story last season.

Injury report

Greg Gantt is out for NC State until the end of January with an abdominal injury.

Manny Bates, one of college basketball’s top shot blockers, is out for the season with a separated shoulder.

It will be interesting to see what FSU looks like from a health perspective given their COVID hiatus. Matthew Cleveland had missed the Lipscomb game, but you’d think he’d be back on his feet by now. The initial rumor I had heard was of six players and a few staff had COVID when games were first delayed, but nothing was ever confirmed. Coach Hamilton confirmed he also tested positive in an interview earlier in the week.

Tanor Ngom is absent for an indefinite period due to a knee injury.

Planned entries

NC state

G: Cam Hayes

G: Terquavion Smith

G: Dereon Seabron

F: Jericole Hellems

F: Ebenezer Dowuona

Florida State

G: RayQuan Evans

G: Mills of Caleb

G: Anthony Poli

F: John Butler

F: Malik Osborne

The keys to the game

Additional offense

Teams struggling to generate offense in the half court are going to have to find a way to score one way or another. What these two teams do is attack the offensive glass and get second chance points. Florida State will try to force the turnovers live, but NC State has taken great care in basketball so far this season. Chances are this game comes down to who has the best control on the boards.

Hellems and Seaborn

These two seem to be the only ones who can consistently create their own shots and score. Smith has had his moments, and Cam Hayes hasn’t shown the improvements they were hoping for. Seaborn is a horrible shooter, but he’s very skilled inside the arc and a great hustle player, averaging a double-double with 3.5 offensive rebounds to boot. Hellems is a more traditional 3-tier scorer, and these two players combine for 33.8 PPG, or roughly 44% of the team’s total score.

Strengths versus strengths

It’s one of those games where you look across the board and everything lines up, it’s kinda weird to see. NC State is one of the best teams in the country at taking care of the ball, FSU is one of the best at forcing interceptions. Both teams are great at breaking offensive glass, not so good at rebounding defensively. FSU has had their shots blocked at one of the lowest rates in basketball, NC State has one of the best block rates in basketball. It’s just like that systematically at the bottom of the table.

Whichever team is forced to lose most of its strength, this one will get away with it.

Game prediction

Florida State is currently among the 3-point favorites, with an over / under of about 142.5.

I just don’t think NC State is very good right now, they’re really struggling to find some sort of identity, but we also don’t know what to expect from Florida State. Hopefully they have put this time to good use.

NC State’s closest match in their last 4 games has been an 8-point loss. I think it will be a little tighter than that, but Florida State should come away with a win.

Florida State 77-70

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