Game Preview: Gophers at Florida State 11/27/12

Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-1) at Florida State Seminoles (4-1)
Tuesday, November 27, 2012 | 6:15pm CT | TV/Online: ESPN2

There is no debating that senior guard Michael Snaer is the leader of Florida State’s basketball team. However, head coach Leonard Hamilton is still trying to determine how the other talented pieces of his roster best fit together.

After a disappointing season opening loss to South Alabama, the Seminoles have won four in a row and at times have shown the potential to be a dangerous team in March. With many new faces in uniform, Hamilton has made frequent substitutions but recognizes that doing so can disrupt the ability of the team to get into a good flow and rhythm.

After beating North Florida, who the Gophers play Saturday afternoon at Williams Arena, Hamilton said, “I might have taken us a little out of sync by our substitution pattern” and added that he may not “be able to sub as liberally as much as we have in the past.”

Minnesota fans have expressed some concerns about Tubby Smith’s substitution patterns, but so far the game results have been good. The Gophers are 6-1 after beating Memphis and Stanford in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. Minnesota’s only loss this year came against Duke in the Bahamas on Thanksgiving Day.

Win or lose Tuesday night, the Gophers are in good shape with regard to their record. They will likely be favorites in the remainder of their nonconference games and in a position where a conference record of 9-9 or better gets them into the NCAA tournament.

Below you’ll find a TEAM section and a PLAYERS section that each preview Florida State in more detail. In case you missed it, updated commentary on individual Minnesota players was included in last week’s Duke game preview. For additional information on the Gophers and Big Ten basketball, go to LateNightHoops.com.

TEAM

For the past several years, the Seminoles have been known for their defense and that will be their primary area of strength again this year. The roster has a good mix of young and old and a tremendous amount of height and length.

SHOOTING
Snaer has the ability to take over games, but overall the shooting of Florida State is not going to beat you. The team’s top two shooters (eFG%) last season were seniors (Bernard James at 60.6% and Deividas Dulkys at 54.9%) and we expect the team will be a weak in this area again in 2012-13.

The Gophers tend to struggle shooting against strong defenses and with the size up front for Florida State, points could be hard to come by unless Minnesota is picking up contract and getting to the line.

Both teams can be fairly mentioned when discussing the top shot blocking squads in the nation and neither roster is filled with 3-point shooters.

REBOUNDING
With field goal shooting being a question mark for both teams in this contest, the ability to get easy second chance points off the glass could be a deciding factor in this one.

Minnesota’s offensive rebounding has been very impressive. While Trevor Mbakwe has been elite (over 15% OR%), almost everyone up front has been at least good or great.

This battle will boil down to heart and should be won the Gophers, but keep an eye on how Florida State utilizes their players against Minnesota, who has not been a great defensive rebounding team. In addition to helping the Seminoles work the offensive glass, more time on the floor for some of the Seminole’s trees should help to mitigate some of the Gophers’ skill at getting their own misses.

TURNOVERS
Slop city. Both teams are known for giving up the ball, although Minnesota’s turnovers tend to be a bit more weighted to steals by the other team while the faster-paced Seminoles are being more creative with their giveaways.

Be prepared to see some high turnover numbers on Tuesday. Florida State has the slight edge here, but both defenses are good at creating steals and scoring in transition. Along with offensive rebounding, a big difference in points off turnovers in transition is a key area to watch.

FREE THROWS
We aren’t going to talk about free throw percentage because it’s not very important.  Getting to the line? That’s a different story (although still not very important in most games).

The Gophers have been great at getting to the line and will want to secure a nice advantage over Florida State in free throw rate. The Seminoles, especially Michael Snaer, have been making frequent trips to the line so far this year, but the team in general isn’t as good at drawing fouls as their current year numbers indicate.

With the ball, Minnesota needs to test Florida State’s big men and consistently be aggressive and physical inside. On defense the Gophers cannot afford to bail out the Seminole’s by giving them attempts at the charity stripe – force them to make shots from the field.

Florida State Seminoles Speed Mini Helmet

PLAYERS

#21 Michael Snaer (14.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 40.4% 3FG in 2011-12) is a 6’5” guard that impacts the game at both ends of the floor and could earn a guaranteed NBA contract next summer. He’s off to a strong start this year, averaging 16.0 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He’s a dangerous spot shooter and an all-around smart player. Ranked #17 in the 2009 RSCI.

Junior forward #10 Okaro White (7.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg) is still slim at 6’8”, 204 pounds, but he’s a lot bigger than he was a few years ago and looks to be ready for a decent jump in offensive production this season. Defensively he’s similar to Rodney Williams for Minnesota in that his size, quickness and athleticism allow him to defend both on the perimeter and inside. White was ranked #43 in the final 2010 RSCI.

He’s got a new number and a repaired shoulder, but the often-injured #2 Terrance Shannon is ready to go. He averaged 8.3 points and 4.4 rebounds in 7 games last year before his season was cut short due to injury, but the 6’8”, 240 pound forward with broad shoulders has looked strong early this year. Shannon is a powerful man inside for the Noles who could overpower Eliason if the Gophers’ center is defending him.

#30 Ian Miller (10.3 ppg, 35.4% 3FG), a 6’3” combo guard, has a bruised bone in his right foot and was kept out of Florida State’s game last Wednesday. It’s believed he could play against Minnesota, but not certain he will. Miller provides offense for a team that can sometimes have trouble scoring, so his game time status will be important to monitor. Miller was #35 in the 2010 RSCI.

Others to Watch:

  • Freshman #5 Montay Brandon can cause problems for Minnesota’s defense as he’s a long 6’7” point guard. Granted, he’s not a typical lead guard at this point, but his size and athleticism is evident and the young man can score. Brandon was ranked #60 in the 2012 RSCI.
  • #31 Terry Whisnant (2.1 ppg, 1.0 rpg) is a 6’3” sophomore guard who didn’t play much as a freshman, but he’s a capable scorer who isn’t afraid to shoot. Has shot 7/15 3FG this season.
  • Originally from Alaska, freshman guard #1 Devon Bookert has been good off the bench and leads the team with 15 assists while averaging 4.8 ppg.
  • Former Brewster Academy guard #25 Aaron Thomas is another guard who, as a freshman, is unproven at this level but was a big time scorer as prep.
  • Florida State has three seven-foot-plus options. JUCO transfer #11 Kiel Turpin will likely get the start and we think he can be good for the Seminoles this year. He spent last season gaining size and weight and now carries 240 pounds on his 7’0”. Still not an especially strong guy, Turpin can score with a decent mid-range jumper.
  • Freshman #15 Boris Bojanovsky weighs 240 pounds, but is a bit thin at a legit 7’3”.
  • Finally, 7’1”, 290 pound freshman #50 Michael Ojo boasts a 7’8” wingspan. He’s very raw, but physically the most imposing of the Seminole seven-footers.

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