Florida State Has Returned To Its Old Ways DefensivelyPosted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 23rd, 2013
After missing the NCAA Tournament in 2012-13, this season Florida State has the look of the Seminole squads that made four straight trips to the Big Dance in the previous four seasons. That means a return to the kind of defense that Leonard Hamilton‘s prior teams have been known for. This was confirmed in Saturday’s 60-55 win over previously unbeaten and #22 ranked Massachusetts in the Orange Bowl Classic. The Minutemen were held well under their season scoring average of 84 coming into the game and the win improved Florida State’s record to 8-3.
A look at the numbers confirms the fact that this Florida State team is performing almost identically to those during the four-year stretch (2008-09 through 2011-12) that made the NCAA Tournament. The statistics also reveal just how different the Seminoles were in 2012-13 and why that team ended the NCAA Tournament streak with a subpar 18-16 record.
This year’s FSU team is currently ranked #27 in Ken Pomeroy’s overall rankings, which is right in line with their NCAA Period average final ranking of 29.5 and much better than last season’s #121. The improvement is entirely on the defensive end of the court. Last year, Florida State’s #82 finish in Pomeroy’s offensive efficiency was actually better than their NCAA Period average of #126. But after a Pomeroy average of #6 in defensive efficiency during their NCAA Period, the Seminoles dropped all the way down to #190 last season. This year’s team has brought that back to where Hamilton is used to seeing it, currently at #7 in the nation.
Drilling down even further, we can see the two areas of defense that make the difference in the numbers. The biggest change is in effective FG% allowed – FSU ranks #5 this year which is right in line with the #9 average during their NCAA Period. Last year’s squad was an abysmal #217. The other change is in forcing turnovers, an area where this year’s squad is actually better than it was during their NCAA Period and dramatically better than last year’s team (#37 vs #136).
So how did Florida State make such a defensive turnaround in just one year? The answer is probably a combination of Hamilton’s expertise as a defensive specialist among college coaches, and the change in experience level for so many players returning from last year’s youthful squad. Hamilton is known for assembling personnel that match his preferred style of play, namely tall shot blockers on the interior along with long athletic perimeter players. He had those elements last year but his team was just too young to apply them. Now, with six rotation players in their second year in the system, things are definitely clicking for the Seminoles’ team defense. Just ask the two ranked teams that FSU has knocked off this season. Back in November, Florida State pounded #10 (at the time) VCU by a 85-67 score, holding the Rams to a season-low 29% FG shooting. On Saturday, Massachusetts managed only 33% FG shooting, also their worst offensive showing of the season.
Those kinds of performances were basically absent last year, but they were the norm during the previous four years. All indications are that this year’s Seminole squad is going to achieve like those earlier teams, which would mean an upper level finish in the ACC and a return to the NCAA Tournament.