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Game Preview: Florida State vs. Mercer

The Seminoles are looking to get into the win column for the first time this season.

I don’t quite know how Florida State will respond after the deflating loss that was the Florida game. Are they going to rise up to the challenge and get right back at it? Or is this a team that’s going to roll over and give up? You’d hope not, but they need to forget the Florida game as soon as possible and focus on this game against Mercer. 

Florida State has not started 0-5 since 1956, a season they started out 0-9, before slightly rebounding to 9-17. Hopefully, this isn’t one of those seasons. 

They’ll try to get back right tonight at 6:30 PM EST at the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, FL, live on ACC Network. 

Mercer Bears Breakdown

Mercer comes into this game at 2-2, with wins over Winthrop and Milligan College, and losses to East Carolina and Georgia State, each loss by 2 points. As a team, they’re averaging 88.3 points per game despite having a slower tempo compared to average, but they’re so efficient scoring the basketball so far: 53.6% field goal shooting (Top 10 nationally), 61.8% on 2s, and 37.6% on 3s, all while having six players that are averaging 10 PPG or more. It’s not a team you can gameplan for certain players, you just have to play solid, sound defense, something FSU hasn’t been the best with so far. 

They are allowing teams to score 73.5 points per game, which is on the higher end so far, but they do a great job of generating turnovers, something Florida State is going to have to be cautious against.

READ MORE: Recruits react to FSU's 49-17 win over Louisiana, four-game winning streak

Kamar Robertson is their leading scorer at 13.8 PPG, despite being 4th on the team in total shot attempts. He’s a hyper-efficient scorer, shooting 63% on 2s, 84% from the FT line, and 55.5% from 3, and he takes more 3s than anyone else on the team. 

Right behind Robertson is forward Jalyn McCreary, averaging 13.0 PPG on about 10 field goal attempts per game. Despite being a starter, he’s only playing about 19 minutes per game, speaking to the depth this team has. He only operates on the interior. 

Luis Hurtado is a big guard at 6’6”, but is also a great playmaker, averaging 6.3 assists per game to 2.5 turnovers. He can be susceptible to ball pressure, but has a good feel for the game and is still averaging 12.5 PPG and is shooting 36% from 3 to start the season, and is also a great rebounder. 

Shawn Walker is averaging 12.3 PPG to start the season, is shooting above 50% from 3 on about 3 attempts per game, though most of his attempts come inside the arc. Has struggled with free throws early (they really have as a team, shooting just 65.1% from the stripe to start). 

Jah Quinones comes off the bench to give them 11 PPG, while 7-footer David Craig is averaging 10 PPG. Craig should see some minutes in this to match with FSU’s size, but he’s also not a good rebounder despite his size. This is a deep team that scores in a variety of ways, so it’ll be interesting to see how FSU plays defensively. 

Florida State Seminoles Breakdown

The Florida loss was… concerning… to say the least. They looked completely lost and confused as Florida continued to pressure them and FSU continued making mental mistake after mental mistake, and unforced error after unforced error. The second half was just downright abysmal, looking like a deer caught in the headlights.

READ MORE: Seminoles rise for third consecutive week in AP Top 25 Poll

There was something very important to note though, some people may have noticed a older gentlemen sitting behind the bench and Coach Hamilton would talk to him occasionally during timeouts, even though he’s not a part of the coaching staff. That gentleman is Dr. Joe Carr, a team sports psychologist that helps teams on all levels. He’s been helping Florida State since I was working for the program from 2016-2019, he helped develop the NBA Rookie Orientation and has done psychology sessions for Akron, Texas AM, Florida Gulf Coast, UCONN, Notre Dame, and plenty of professional teams as well. It’s nothing to really worry about as of now, but it definitely piques the interest a little bit seeing a well known sports psychologist sitting behind the bench and interacting with the team. He’ll usually lead team sessions throughout the week, and occasionally individual sessions as well. It’s going to be interesting to see how the players interact with each other tonight. 

It was good to see some guys come back from injury Friday night, even if they played sparingly. I knew Chandler Jackson was due back soon, so he wasn’t as surprising, but to see Naheem McLeod and De’Ante Green back so soon was a pleasant sight. I’d love to see Jackson and Green play more than the 2 minutes and 1 minute they played, just to give the starters some breathers, but also because they need this depth to play the style of basketball they want to play. Even if it’s just 8-10 minutes, they’re about to be in an invitational where they potentially play 3 games in 4 days and will need to keep guys fresh. Get these guys developed, and they’ll be a better team sooner rather than later. 

Injury Report

Jeremiah Bembry is out indefinitely with a back injury.

Naheem McLeod unexpectedly came back last game against Florida and looked fluid in his 11 minutes.

De’Ante Green saw a minute of floor time against Florida, and it’ll be interesting to see how they handle his minutes as he regains confidence in his knee. 

Chandler Jackson played a few minutes against Florida, though he did have a wrap on his right thumb, his shooting hand. 

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Baba Miller is still suspended until January 11 by the NCAA.

Jaylan Gainey is out for the season with an ACL injury. 

Projected Starters

Florida State

G: Caleb Mills

G: Darin Green Jr

G: Matthew Cleveland

F: Cameron Corhen

Mercer

G: Luis Hurtado

G: Kamar Robertson

G: Shawn Walker

F: Jalyn McCreary

C: David Craig

Keys to the Game

Integrate Guys Coming Back From Injury

It was surprising when Naheem McLeod, Chandler Jackson, and De’Ante Green all saw minutes in the first half against Florida, as some of these guys weren’t expected to be back for a while. They’re going to need to see more minutes in this game, just so the top guys can get a breather. Caleb Mills was huffing and puffing in the last few minutes against Florida, so the sooner these guys can be integrated into the system and play quality minutes, the better. I’m looking for Jackson and De’Ante to each play 8-10 minutes hopefully. 

Defensive Rotations

Mercer currently has 6 players averaging 10 points per game or more, and as a team, they’re shooting 37.6% from deep. Mercer plays a lot of guys, so Florida State can’t aim to take just one player away, they’re going to have to play sound team defense and look to slow a Mercer team down that’s scoring in a bunch of ways.  

Show Some Attitude…in a Good Way

I’m worried the Florida loss is going to have these guys down in the dumps and not wanting to get up for this game. They need any kind of momentum possible before heading to Orlando for the ESPN Invitational, so I want them to show some fight, show some emotion. Act like you need this game because you DO need this game. I noticed the team psychologist behind the bench of the Florida game, so I’m sure there are a lot of things going on behind closed doors as they try to fix this season. 

Game Prediction

Florida State is favored by 7 points with an over/under of 143. 

I’m really not going to predict FSU losing to Mercer, am I? Yes Mercer has lost two games to East Carolina and Georgia State, but they’ve also beaten Winthrop. Surely, Florida State isn’t that kind of caliber team… but they might be. For my own pride’s sake, I’ll still take FSU, even though they’re reaching 2018-2021 FSU Football levels of “prove it before I pick you to win.”

FSU 71 Mercer 67

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