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In a season lost to attrition, FSU is still fighting

Also still tall.

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a long year for Florida State, in part because the program’s injury luck has been horrible—the Seminoles haven’t been at full strength for a second, and setbacks led to the team digging itself a huge hole in November and December.

FSU is redshirting one freshman guard because of injury and has a freshman forward (De’Ante Green) working back from an ACL tear in January of 2022. Stud transfer big man Jaylan Gainey tore an ACL in the preseason; starting forward Cam’Ron Fletcher saw his season end at the beginning of December. The Noles’ top recruit, center Baba Miller, was suspended for the first half of the season by the NCAA for dumb NCAA bullshit.

That’s a lot to overcome, and the resultant 1-9 start to the season basically guaranteed that the Seminoles would not be making the NCAAs.

Talkin’ ‘bout the Noles’ calamity collection

... OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
... OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
Offense 106.7 (128) 49.8 (215) 18.1 (140) 25.9 (263) 48.5 (246) 34.8 (129)
Defense 105.9 (200) 51.7 (244) 17.6 (241) 31.8 (300) 50.3 (193) 35.8 (280)

Florida State has played better since the calendar turned (though not exactly a LOT better) and has Baba Miller (6’11, 204) finally in the fold, which will only help the Seminoles down the stretch.

How much higher he can raise the team’s ceiling remains to be seen, but he’s not going to change the fact that FSU lacks shooters. (And Miller is off to a 2-10 start from three; he’s 11-13 on twos, though.)

FSU’s most effective and prolific outside shooter is Darin Green (6’5, 195), who is also second on the team in scoring at 14.1 per game. Green has attempted 166 threes and made 40% of ‘em, but only one other player has more than 50 three-point attempts. The team ranks 283rd in three-point attempt rate; the outside shot is just not something the Noles have been able to lean on.

While Green is primarily a jump shooter, leading scorer Matthew Cleveland (6’7, 200) does the bulk of his work inside. He’s shooting 47.6% on his twos, and given that, really needs to be better than a 69.6% free throw shooter. Still, he has improved significantly in the latter category; he’s also been a good enough occasional outside shooter (17-42 on threes) to force teams to guard him out there.

The other major contributor offensively is Caleb Mills (6’5, 180), who handles the point. Mills has a knack for drawing fouls and he’s at 83% from the stripe this year. If you can keep him off the line, then his production starts to look average: he’s shooting 45.5% on twos and 32.4% on threes. Always easier said than done to keep a guy like this off the line, though. Especially for NC State.

Florida State still has no lack for size, as Leonard Hamilton isn’t playing anyone under 6’5, but although the Seminoles still block plenty of shots, their interior defense has been unremarkable. Opponents are still making half their twos, despite those blocks, and FSU has been terrible on the defensive boards.

The best thing they have going for them is that their size, as usual, discourages opponents from attempting twos in the first place. In theory, that can be helpful. As it is, ACC foes are shooting 38.6% from three. So not that helpful.

They’ve been unlucky there, and also unlucky with free throws. It’s layers and layers of bad luck over there. For the Seminoles’ defense to overcome any of the on-court variety, they really need to defend the paint well, and for the most part that hasn’t happened.

KenPom likes NC State by 13.