Florida State gets set for this midseason tournament this season, playing in the Jacksonville Classic. FSU should be the best team of the bunch, but the way they've been playing to start the season leave some doubts. It's a short little tournament, starting with Loyola Marymount on Sunday at 530pm, then playing the result of SMU/Missouri at either 6 or 830 on Monday.
FSU is 2-0 all time against Loyola Marymount, 3-1 against Missouri, and 1-0 against SMU. All of these games will be played at UNF's arena in Jacksonville, FL, with most games being on the CBS Sports Network.
Jacksonville Classic Breakdown
With three opponents to cover in this article (and me not planning to do a preview article before Monday's games), we'll keep these pretty brief, with mainly just a couple of key players from each team and what each team does well.
Loyola Marymount (79th KenPom) had a bad loss early in the year against Chattanooga, but this is a solid mid-major. They finished third in the West Coast Conference last season (Gonzaga's conference) in their first year under a new head coach, and bring back 83% of their scoring from last year. This is a team that wants to force as many turnovers as possible, having forced 20+ turnovers in each of the last two games. Against Chattanooga, they only forced 6.
They don't really have much size, as they only have one player over 6'6" that sees any kind of playing time, so FSU should be able to dominate the offensive glass like they have all season. Loyola can make some shots though. They've been 40%+ from 3 in each of their last two games against Little Rock and Arizona Christian. Somehow their game against Arizona Christian was a single digit game even if they dominated almost every statistic, but they had their best game of the year so far against Little Rock. They'll be looking to continue that momentum.
Joe Quintana looks like he's taken massive strides, averaging 20 PPG so far this season, but he's also taking 9+ 3s a game compared to only 2.3 2-pointers per game. FSU has to be aware of where he is on the court because he will fire it from anywhere. Eli Scott returns to be a steady contributor, and is back to being his efficient and all-around self as a 4-man. He's shooting above 50% from the floor, and is also leading the team in rebounds and is third in assists. Jalin Anderson has only played in one game this season and scored 12 points off of the bench. The other main player to look for is Keli Leaupepe, another "big" guy like Scott, but he just hasn't been as efficient.
Missouri (116th KenPom) has an even worse early season loss than Loyola, losing at home to Missouri-Kansas City, who is 225th in KenPom. They run a little slower pace than average teams, and like most Cuonzo Martin squads, seem to underwhelm. They have a few talented players like Kobe Brown, who leads the team in scoring at 16.5 PPG, and Ronnie DeGray who can come off of the bench and provide elite shooting, but they just don't "wow" you in any way.
Where they are succeeding so far is the free throw line, as they're getting about 20 free throw attempts per game. For a team that is struggling to score like Missouri, getting to the free throw line is a great way to get some points and some confidence. They're also a fairly tall team, with no one shorter than 6'3" and have their own 7'3" center in Jordan Wilmore.
They just don't really do anything particularly well, and wouldn't scare me much in a matchup.
SMU (60th KenPom) on the other hand has the potential to have a real solid season. We've already seen FSU struggle with one American Conference team in Tulane, and now they might have a chance to play another on Monday night. They have one of the better offenses in the country so far, averaging 80.5 PPG through four games, and an have an above average tempo as well.
So far this season, they've been blown out by Oregon, but then blew out McNeese State, Northwestern State, and Southeastern Louisiana. It's tough to get a real sense of who they are right now. What they've mainly done well is shoot free throws, shooting 76% from the line so far. Even in their loss to Oregon they were 14/15. They shoot a lot of 3s, and have made 7+ on every game. Oregon just dominated them with their length and athleticism, holding SMU to shoot 37.7% from the floor, something FSU would look to do should they play.
They're led in scoring by Kendric Davis, a two-time all AAC player. He's just a great lead guard who can score efficiently or set up his teammates, even if he is on the shorter side at 5'11". Then you have 6th-year senior Marcus Weathers, who transfers in from Duquense, who is a career 12 PPG, and is showing a much more confident outside shot so far. He joins his twin Michael, who is on his 4th team in 6 years and is a career 14.7 PPG himself. Their other players to really keep an eye on is Emmanuel Bandoumel and Zach Nutall, who are both shooting 6+ 3-pointers per game, though Bandoumel has been the more efficient of the two so far.
Florida State Seminoles (2-1) Breakdown
FSU has really struggled on offense each of the last two games, which has been the biggest concern. While the defense has been great at creating havoc, if they're not creating live ball turnovers, it's tough for them to get anything going in the halfcourt. They've averaged than 1.0 points per possession in each of the last two games, which is usually about the benchmark for an average offense.
Here are some of the biggest analytical inefficiencies so far, per Synergy Sports Tech: 0.775 PPP on spot-up chances (bottom 25% nationally), 0.3 PPP in late clock scenarios (bottom 10% nationally), turning it over on 25% of all pick-and-roll situations, and 0.982 PPP in transition offense (bottom 50% nationally; as many athletes as FSU has, their transition numbers should be better than this).
Their 3-point shooting will come back around, particularly for Anthony Polite and Caleb Mills, but some other players have to start being better. Jalen Warley has looked scared the last two games, RayQuan Evans is back to late-last season version of himself, and Wyatt Wilkes' shot has been coming and going. Some of these guys have to start finding a rhythm as soon as possible.
Tanor Ngom played his first game on Wednesday against Tulane, but only played about 7 minutes, and was -10 in those 7 minutes. He won't be needed a ton against Loyola, but at least he's healthy.
Trevon Brazile and Kaleb Brown for Missouri are both questionable with an illness for the weekend.
G: RayQuan Evans
G: Caleb Mills
G: Anthony Polite
F: Wyatt Wilkes
F: Malik Osborne
G: Cameron Shelton
G: Joe Quintana
G: Kwame Marble
F: Eli Scott
F: Keli Leaupepe
G: Amari Davis
G: Javon Pickett
G: Jarron Coleman
F: Kobe Brown
F: Jordan Wilmore
G: Kendric Davis
G: Michael Weathers
G: Emmanuel Bandoumel
F: Marcus Weathers
F: Isiah Jasey
Keys to the Tournament
Depth Step Up
These kinds of tournaments favor teams like Florida State who lean on their depth and use it to their advantage. The fewer minutes their key guys can play, the better. So guys like Wyatt Wilkes will need to step up and hit some shots, the freshmen will have to be key (specifically looking at Jalen Warley, who just looks scared out there), and even guys like Naheem McLeod and Quincy Ballard may get a couple of minutes to spell Malik Osborne and Tanor Ngom. The better minutes those guys can give you, the more success you'll have going into Monday.
Protect the Ball
This will tie in with the next key, but Loyola in particular is really good at forcing turnovers, forcing 16.7 turnovers per game. Florida State has struggled to take care of the ball already this season, and will need to be better in the first game to have their best chance of winning the tournament. If FSU is at 13 turnovers or below against Loyola, they should win. It keeps Loyola from getting easy transition baskets, which is really the only good way to score against this FSU defense.
Wake Up Offense
The offense has struggled to start the season, with less than 1.0 points per possession in each of the last two games, and shooting just 43.4% from the floor while averaging 14+ turnovers per game. We knew it was going to be a struggle early in the season for the offense, but this is a solid tournament that FSU cannot sleep on with some solid defenses. The offense needs to get going in a hurry with Purdue on the horizon.
Florida State opened as 8-point favorites over Loyola Marymount with an over/under of 139.5 (line can be 7.5-point favorites depending on the site you look at).
SMU opened as 6.5-point favorites over Missouri with an over/under of 140.5.
I'd be surprised if FSU wins by as much as 8. I'm expecting a closer game, somewhere around a 69-65 win. FSU matches up better with Missouri, as they can go size for size, I just think SMU is a better overall team than Missouri.
FSU over SMU in the championship on Monday 71-66.