The Runner Sports

Round Of 64 Matchup Breakdown: #3 Florida State vs. #14 Florida Gulf Coast

One of the more intriguing first round matchups in this year’s tournament features two schools from the Sunshine State. The Florida State Seminoles are back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012 thanks to a high-powered offense that features one of the most dynamic scoring one-two punch in sophomore Dwayne Bacon and freshman Jonathan Isaac. On the other side of the court, FGCU features one of the best interior scoring attacks thanks to their athletic big men and their guards’ ability to penetrate. Both teams like to get up and down the court and should produce a lot of highlight plays with FSU first in the nation in dunks with 171 on the season and Dunk City sitting in third with 157. This is the second time the Seminoles and Eagles have ever met with FSU taking the first matchup in the first round of the 2014 NIT 58-53.

Make sure to continue to come back all month long to get breakdowns of all your favorite ACC schools as they progress through the NCAA Tournament. So far the ACC is 0-1 with Wake Forest falling to Kansas State in the First Four in a high-scoring affair that saw the Wildcats come out on top 95-88. You will be able to find each breakdown in order below as the tournament continues to progress.

First Four

Wake Forest vs. Kansas State

Round of 64

Virginia vs. UNC Wilmington

Notre Dame vs. Princeton

Offense

Advantage: Florida State

This matchup features two teams that mirror each other’s strengths and weaknesses on offense with both teams looking to get the ball down low for easy baskets. Florida State has the tenth best scoring offense in the NCAA Tournament this year, and a big part of that has been the Seminoles’ ability to get good looks around the rim. With an average height of 79.2 inches per player, the Seminoles have the second tallest team in the nation and use it to their advantage. On two-point shots, FSU shoots 54.1% which is good for 25th in the nation. A big part of their success down low has to do with the Seminoles’ ability to crash the offensive glass. On the season FSU is averaging 10.6 offensive rebounds per game, which puts them at 40th in the nation and 14th in the NCAA Tournament.

While FSU prefers to go down low to score they also have multiple options that can get it done from deep. Four different players have hit at least 30 threes on the season with Dwayne Bacon leading the way with 57. While Bacon has made the most threes this season, that does not make him the best three-point shooter on the team. That title belongs to sophomore P.J. Savory who has made over 40% of his threes on the season. When Savory checks in defenses need to find him and run him off of the three-point line since a whopping 88% of his shots this season have come from behind the arc.

Like the Seminoles, the Eagles like to get the ball into the paint for easy buckets. FGCU leads the nation in points in the paint, averaging 41.5 per game. However, it is the guards that get it done in the paint for the Eagles, led by UCF transfer and A-Sun Newcomer of the Year, Brandon Goodwin. Goodwin is averaging 18.2 PPG and 4 APG while leading a trio of talented guards. The other two are sophomore Zach Johnson (11.8 PPG and 3 APG) and Christian Terrell (10.3 PPG and 2.3 APG). All three are also threats from deep and have each knocked down at least 50 threes on the season.

In the front court, the emergence of Demetris Morant, who is shooting over 75% from the field and averaging 10.7 PPG this season, has given the Eagles a solid contributor at the pivot position. Joining Morant in the frontcourt is the enigma that is Marc-Eddy Norelia. Last season as a junior Norelia averaged 17.1 PPG and 9.3 RPG for the Eagles in route to being named to the A-Sun All-Conference team. However, he has missed ten games this season and has never really found his rhythm with this year’s squad. On the year Norelia is averaging 8.9 PPG and 4.8 RPG, but has shown signs of his former self recently averaging 12 PPG and 11 RPG in the Atlantic Sun Tournament.

Defense

Advantage: Florida State

Florida State does a good job on the defensive side of the ball using their length to make things difficult for their opponents. They are 8th in the tournament in blocks per game and 14th in steals per game. A large part of this is due to freshman star Jonathan Isaac, who is tied for second on the team in steals while also leading the Seminoles in blocked shots. FSU excels at defending the paint, ranking 15th in the NCAA Tournament in defensive two-point shooting percentage. A large part of that has to do with the amount of size in the Seminoles’ frontcourt with five different members of the rotation being listed at our above 6’8. The way to beat Florida State is from the perimeter where opponents shot 34.4% from the field this season.

FGCU is opposite to FSU is this respect as the Eagles excel at defending the perimeter, but struggle to guard closer to the hoop. At 31.4%, the Eagles are 25th in the nation at guarding the three-point shot, however opponents shoot 50.3% from two-point range which is 8th worst of any team that qualified for the Big Dance. While the Eagles struggle as a team to defend the paint, Morant was the Atlantic Sun Defensive Player of the Year after leading the conference with 48 blocks this season.

Coaching

Advantage: Florida State

Leonard Hamilton is one of the more experienced head coaches in the NCAA Tournament this year with this being his 29th season at the helm of a program. Over that time he has won 503 games and is making his eighth appearance in the NCAA Tournament. However, the biggest knock on Hamilton over the course of his career has been his inability to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Only twice in his career has he ever gotten to the Sweet Sixteen, and he has never made it any further.

Joe Dooley is entering his fourth season as the head coach at FGCU, after taking over for Andy Enfield, and eighth overall. This season marks his second trip to the Big Dance after crushing Fairleigh Dickinson 96-65 in a play-in game last season before hanging with North Carolina for a half in the first round. Before taking over at FGCU, Dooley was Bill Self’s right-hand man for a decade at Kansas after he spent four years as the head man at ECU in the late 90s. For his career, Dooley has a record of 148-97 and has never finished below second in the A-Sun while at FGCU.

 

X-Factor

Advantage: Florida State

Whoever controls the paint in this one will be in a very good spot to win this one. The Eagles will try to get their bigs involved early and often, but Florida State’s size may cause trouble for them. With five guys in their rotation over 6’8 the Seminoles definitely have the advantage down low. However, if Marc-Eddy Norelia plays like himself from last season don’t be shocked to see FGCU right there with the Seminoles. If he struggles, so will the Eagles, who are 9-1 on the season when he scores at least 10 points.

Prediction

Florida State 78 FGCU 72

The Seminoles have too much size, depth, and talent for the Eagles and pull away late in this one. However, this Eagles team returns a majority of their roster and could be even more dangerous next season with multiple power five conference transfers gaining eligibility. The winner of this one will go on to face the winner of Maryland and Xavier on Saturday.

Sterling Thomas

Sterling Thomas

Born in Littleton, Colorado, Sterling moved to the heart of ACC country when he was young and developed a deep passion for basketball.

Fast forward to college where Sterling had the opportunity to work with the Florida Gulf Coast University basketball team under Andy Enfield and was apart of the 15-seed Eagles that made a historic run to the Sweet Sixteen and was dubbed Dunk City.
Sterling Thomas