Indiana will face a high major opponent for the first time this season when it hosts Florida State tonight in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
The Seminoles are 7-1 and ranked No. 17 in the latest Associated Press top 25 poll. Indiana and Florida State have not played since 1992 and the Hoosiers lead the all-time series 4-0.
The game will tip at approximately 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2 with Dave Flemming and Jordan Cornette on the call:
Is Indiana’s 7-0 start legitimate or simply a product of advantageous scheduling? The Hoosiers, who have played just one team ranked in the top 175 of the KenPom ratings, will get a stern test tonight on Branch McCracken Court.
Florida State, which already owns wins over Florida (road), Tennessee (neutral floor) and Purdue (neutral floor), comes to Bloomington on a roll. The Seminoles lost their season opener in Pittsburgh, but have since ripped off seven straight wins.
Most recently, Florida State won the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Florida, by knocking off then No. 17 Tennessee, 60-57, on Friday and Purdue, 63-60, in overtime on Saturday. The Seminoles, led by 71-year old Leonard Hamilton, have finished in the top 27 of the KenPom ratings the last three seasons and currently own the nation’s No. 3 defense.
MEET THE SEMINOLES
Florida State lost significant production from last season’s Sweet Sixteen team, including a pair of NBA draft picks in Mfiondu Kabengele and Terance Mann.
Still, Hamilton returns a solid nucleus of experienced pieces from last year’s team in senior guard Trent Forrest and junior guard M.J. Walker and also has an underclassmen who has successfully stepped into a bigger role in sophomore forward Devin Vassell.
Forrest is a battle tested point guard who already ranks in the top 10 in program history in assists and steals. At 6-foot-4, he’s the shortest regular in the Florida State rotation and through eight games, he’s the only player on the roster who has recorded more than nine assists. A poor perimeter shooter (23.5 percent on 3s for his career), Forrest is currently second on the roster in scoring at 12.4 points per game, but is best suited as a facilitator.
Walker, a 2017 McDonald’s All-American, missed three games earlier in the season and has been a low efficiency offensive player throughout his time in Tallahassee. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard is shooting just 37.8 percent for his career on 2s and 33.2 percent on 3s.
The 6-foot-7 Vassell has taken his game to another level after playing a limited role as a freshman. His 12.5 points per game lead the team and he’s shooting an efficient 56 percent on 2s and 40 percent on 3s. His size on the wing is a major reason Florida State is ranked first nationally in KenPom’s average height metric.
Anthony Polite, a 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore, started in place of Walker when he missed three games. His seven made 3s are second on the team, but he’s connected on just 30.4 percent of his attempts.
The frontcourt rotation is comprised primarily of 6-foot-9 sophomore Malik Osborne, 6-foot-8 freshman Patrick Williams, 7-foot-1 freshman Balsa Koprivica and 7-foot senior Dominik Olejniczak.
Williams, a five-star recruit from Charlotte, is fourth on the team in scoring at 9.6 points per game, but has come off of the bench in all eight games. His usage rate (22 percent) is second highest on the team and he’s shooting 60 percent on 2s.
Osborne, who sat out last season after transferring from Rice, is the team’s best rebounder (5.8 per game). He can also step out and splash in the occasional 3-pointer (5-for-12 this season) and has a team-high seven blocked shots.
Koprivica, a top 100 recruit, is averaging 6.4 points in eight games and is shooting 83.3 percent from the field. Olejniczak, a grad transfer from Ole Miss, is a limited offensive player, but gives Hamilton another 7-footer in the rotation.
RaiQuan Gray, a 6-foot-8, 260 pound sophomore, played 25 minutes in the win over Purdue and had seven rebounds and four steals. Gray missed a pair of games earlier in the season due to a minor injury.
Florida State’s length at every position is impressive and its strength as a team is its defense. Only one team has managed to score more than a point per possession against the Seminoles this season (Western Carolina on Nov. 15).
Purdue (.81 PPP) and Tennessee (.80) both had season lows in terms of efficiency against Florida State last weekend in the Emerald Coast Classic. The Seminoles are turning opponents over on 26 percent of their possessions and given Indiana’s shaky decision making the last two games, taking care of the ball is the top priority.
Florida State is a good, but not great, offensive rebounding team and has been poor on the defensive boards through seven games. Given that Indiana is unlikely to shoot a high percentage in the game, finding ways to get second chance points is crucial.
Free throws should also play a significant factor in determining tonight’s outcome. Both teams rank in the top 42 nationally in free throw rate (FTA/FGA) and both have had issues keeping their opponents off of the line.
WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO
The Vegas line opened with Indiana as a 2.5-point favorite, the KenPom line is Indiana by 1 and the Sagarin numbers like Florida State by a half point when you adjust for the Hoosiers being at home.
Florida State has already been on the road twice and also has two neutral court games under its belt, so the Seminoles are road and battle tested. Crowds haven’t been great thus far in Bloomington, but that is expected to change tonight with a top 20 team coming to town. As we’ve seen in the past at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, the atmosphere can be a legitimate difference maker.
For Indiana to prevail, it will have to take care of the ball, splash in the occasional 3-point shot and get above average performances from Al Durham Jr. and Devonte Green. Based on Archie Miller’s comments on Monday, it would be surprising if the Hoosiers had Rob Phinisee available tonight. Florida State’s size and length at every position is imposing and the Seminoles could make things tough at the rim on Trayce Jackson-Davis, Justin Smith and Joey Brunk.
(Photo credit: Seminoles.com)
Filed to: Florida State Seminoles