This may just be the defining moment of the 2019-2020 UVA men’s basketball season. A win, and the ‘Hoos are very much in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament bid. But with a loss, the outlook turns another shade murkier.
In nineteen games this season, FSU is 17-2 including a signature thirteen-point win on the road at Louisville. Other notable results have come in wins over Florida, Purdue, and Tennessee, with their only losses coming on opening night at Pitt, and on the road versus Indiana. They’re currently on a ten-game win streak, and haven’t loss since December third. That said, the ‘Noles are coming off a three-game stretch (versus Virginia, Miami, and Notre Dame) where their total winning margin was a mere nine points, so they’re certainly vulnerable.
Typically, Leonard Hamilton plays an eleven-man rotation which allows his starters to stay fresh. In fact, only point guard Trent Forrest plays more than 70% of the team’s total minutes, at 78.6%. Ratings wise, Florida State is 41st most efficient offense and the 23rd rated defense (via KenPom). They’re fairly balanced, and can find numerous ways to win a basketball game.
On the offensive end, the Seminoles are led in scoring by sophomore wing Devin Vassell (13.1 PPG), senior Trent Forrest (11.8 PPG), and junior guard M.J. Walker (11.4 PPG). As the lead guard, Forrest acts as the primary distributor dishing out 4.3 assists per contest. While only shooting 31.2% from three himself, Forrest is adept at finding his shooters on the outside. As a group, Vassell, Walker, and Polite shoot 38.3% on a combined eleven attempts per game. Safe to say, those three can get hot, and when they do FSU is near impossible to beat.
Defensively, the Seminoles boast ridiculous size, with nobody in the rotation shorter than 6’4”. Their length is terribly disruptive and they utilize their athleticism defensively as they’re fourth nationwide at forcing turnovers at a 24.2% clip. More specifically they’re second and fourth in the country in block and steal rate, at 17.3% and 13.9%. FSU wants to cause turnovers, and uses their length to frustrate their opponent by pressuring adjacent passing lanes. It’ll be crucial for the Wahoos to be confident in their handles and penetrate the FSU defense to keep the Seminoles honest.
Virginia will win if: They can keep their wits about them and not let FSU’s length get to them. The Cavs would welcome some more successful long range shooting from Tomas Woldetensae, but they’ll need to get to work in the paint with guys like Key, Huff, and Diakite. On defense, they’ll have to keep the Seminoles in front of them and force FSU to settle on the outside.
Florida State will win if: They can prevent Virginia from excelling in the paint and make the UVA backcourt beat them. We’re unlikely to see another twenty-one-point performance from Tomas Woldetensae, so FSU will be confident that they can contain the Virginia guards. Offensively, look for FSU to drive into the paint with Forrest and then look to kick outside for open looks for their shooters.
Score Prediction: Florida State 59 – Virginia 51
Coming off such a hard-earned win on Sunday, I don’t see the Wahoos bouncing back quick enough to upset the superior talent of FSU. It’ll likely still be a relatively close game throughout, but I see Florida State building themselves a comfortable-enough lead in the second half and then sustaining a Virginia run to hold on for the win.