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3 posts from November 5, 2012

November 05, 2012

Florida State Struggles with St. Leo's 65-56


A few days after saying that they needed to make progress on defense, Florida State showed some progress Monday night against St. Leo's, but this time the offense lagged  as the Seminoles held off the Lions 65-56.

Okaro White led the way with 16 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals. Montay Brandon and Michael Snaer each had 11 and Ian Miller added seven of his own.

But the story, once again, were Florida State's deficiencies.

"Our defense is better, but we're still not there," said Okaro White. "Even though they beat Miami and they're a good team, we're still not there. It's tough, I would probably say we need more attention to detail. We brought our defense up, but you can't have one up and one down."

At around the nine minute point in the second half St. Leo's had Florida State up against the ropes, cutting the Seminoles' lead to just five points and beginning to push the tempo on the court. Florida State fought back, but they never really got on the kind of run in the second half to put St. Leo's away.

Inside is where the Seminoles are struggling the most right now. Michael Ojo, Boris Bojanovsky and Kiel Turpin do not have a lot of experience under the basket in college and until they get to see more playing time and get used to the speed and pace of the college game, they may continue to struggle. They'll get there, it's just a matter of how quickly.

Turpin at least got a chance to cut his teeth agaisnt last season's team and guys like Jon Kreft, Bernard James and Xavier Gibson in practice. That experience should lend itself to him picking things up more quickly, and it was Turpin who started at center for the 'Noles on Monday night. But nobody is where Leonard Hamilton wants them to be yet underneath the hoop.

The final minute was also more exciting than the Seminole faithful would have preferred. Though it was using a smaller rotation at one point the Seminoles couldn't get a defensive rebound for around 25 seconds as St. Leo's continued to attack the Florida State hoop with little success. Finally a Trent Thomas three-pointer put St. Leo's within seven with 47 seconds left on the clock.

Montay Brandon knocked down a couple of free throws to push the Seminole lead back to nine with under 30 seconds remaining, but St. Leo's made another late charge and took four shots in the final seconds. FSU was unable to come up with a single defensive rebound (once again) but time expired before St. Leo's could sink anything else. The 'Noles ended up pulling out the nine-point win 65-56.

Hamilton attributed that more to the players on the floor than an inability to get rebounds on the team as whole.

"There are a lot of areas of our game where we need to improve, I could nitpick four of five other areas too," said Leonard Hamilton. "But I don't expect rebounding to be an issue."

On the offensive end of the court, Florida State was solid but never hit its stride. Part of that just comes from the rotation (or lack thereof) and Coach Hamilton's stated intention to get as many guys in to the game as he could. They got solid performance from their starters, and got lots of younger guys minutes, but they never fired on all cylinders.

"The important thing is to keep winning while we develop," said Hamilton after the game. "We're not there yet, but I'm still confident that by the time we get to conference play we'll be defending our crown."

Hoops: Seminoles Looking for Improvement Against Formidable Exhibition Foe


The Florida State men's team will play in its second of two exhibitions tonight, ahead of the season opener against South Alabama on the 9th. 

In Florida State's first exhibition they won 83-65 over Lincoln Memorial, but in spite of the scoring, most of the guys in the locker-room were unhappy with the team's performance. 

“What I’m really looking for from the second exhibition game is- not even just from the freshmen- is our defense, they’ve got to get better," said Okaro White. "It was embarrassing last Tuesday so I’m really looking for our defense to get better in general and in rebounding, defensive rebounding. I don’t really care too much about the offense right now. I know we’ve got a lot of talented new guys and older guys back, so I’m just really focused on the defense.”

Florida State knows they have very few chances to get some of their more elementary mistakes corrected before the games start to get difficult at the end of the week. Their first exhibition was also somewhat eye-opening for head coach Leonard Hamilton:

“In talking with some of the players, the first thing Boris [Bojanovsky] says is 'I need to practice a little harder.' Kiel Turpin said coach, 'three minutes seemed like 20 minutes.' [Michael] Ojo’s comment was, 'I was a little nervous,' Montay [Brandon's] comment was 'I’ll get used to it but I expired myself because my adrenaline was flowing a little bit.'”

Tonight the Seminoles face a Division II school in St. Leo's that upset the University of Miami 69-67 over the weekend. FSU should handle their business tonight, but Miami is picked to finish ahead of the 'Noles in the ACC this year and couldn't, so Florida State should probably also be on the look out. Regardless of outcome though, tonight's game is invaluable to a young Florida State team.

“As far as I’m concerned this is preseason and we have to take advantage of it because we’ve got to get ready for the conference and playing time and being on the floor will help you gain confidence and improve but then at the same time we’re trying to win basketball games, so there’s a fine line we’ve got to operate here," said Hamilton.

"Michael Ojo played 15 games in his life, this is a new tempo, a new pace for Boris, I thought Robert played a lot better in the game than he has in practice, I thought Ian had 8 assists and only two turnovers was a good sign that he’s trying to learn to be a distributor, but I was not very pleased with his defense. And I think he’s playing better defense than he has been but we need him to be a little sharper in those areas.. Terry was solid, we asked him to pick up the ball a little bit so we can allow ourselves to have other guys who can pick up the ball and put it on the other end of the court...”

Essentially it all comes down to defense after the young guys get used to the new pace. Florida State is a program that predicates itself on defense and if the young guys can't pick it up, they won't play early on.

“The biggest thing now is we’ve got to get back to our defensive principles and just start locking back up,” said Michael Snaer.

“We’re hoping to be one of those teams this year that can really lock down on people and also score a lot. That’s what we’re hoping to do, be that type of team.”

Jimbo Fisher Talks About the Coaching Carousel


When you have a defense as talented as Florida State's it's inevitable that eventually another school will come calling about your coordinator.

The writing has been on the wall since almost before the summer that if the Seminole defense had another year like it did in 2011 (when it was a top 10 unit), that Mark Stoops would likely have his own head coaching gig by the following season.

Currently Florida State leads the nation in total defense and ranks in the top five in five statistical categories (rush D, scoring D, pass D and pass efficiency D in addition to be first in total). The unit is also significantly ahead of any other defense in forcing three-and-outs. 

Jimbo Fisher has a surprising take.

All Aboard the Coaching Carousel

“When they come calling it will be a great thing," said Fisher. "[I think Mark's ready] and I think he’d do a great job. He has the background, a lot to fall back on with his brothers, a lot of the programs he’s been in, and then the history of where he’s at and what’s going on now and then he’s a heck of a coach on his own. Yeah I think he’s ready.”

It's not that Fisher doesn't want to keep Stoops, it's just that he understands the process of coming up the coaching ranks and the inevitablity of talented coaches moving on.

"I hope he stays here forever. As long as I’m here I want him as defensive coordinator," Fisher added. "But I also want him to reach his dreams and goals and become what he wants to be as a head football coach if that’s what he wants to do and if there’s an opportunity out there.

"I think that’s why you do well. I hope that for him and his family. And he’s earned that right, I’m sure somebody will [give him a job] eventually– maybe this year, next year, whatever.”

Fisher understands what it's like to be and assistant with ambition. He was on staffs at Auburn and LSU where he had to earn his promotions and take his chances when they came. He doesn't begrudge his own assistants for wanting the same things as he did.

And he doesn't think Stoops is the only assistant ready for the call.

“I think there’s quite a few guys on our staff who could be head coaches," said Fisher. "We have a great staff. That’s exciting to me, I like that. I was on a staff like that at LSU. It’s very productive and you know you go find other guys [when coaches get hired away].

"Let’s hope that the system we’re in and what we do helps develop head coaches, I want that. I want to be known as that because it means other top assistants want to come and people want to be here. It means you have good players, you have a good system, you organize well and you understand the big picture of what you want.”

I asked Fisher how he balances a coach's ability on the field with his ability to recruit. In the college game, they are both of great importance.

“It depends where our staff needs are, the strengths and weaknesses of our staff," said Fisher. "There’s some things I think you need to have but I have a list of every position out there– I have a list of five, six, seven guys, their strengths, weaknesses.

"And we’re constantly changing that and adding to that. Because in this business change is inevitable, because of the money everything is different. I mean it’s not like guys go somewhere and set and stay forever anymore. I mean those days are [over].”

Fisher Could Jump on Too

That could also include Fisher, himself, moving on. Before Seminoles fans get themselves in a tizzy, think about it it. 

It's no secret Fisher is an SEC coach at heart. He runs a program like it's in the SEC, he recruits like he's in the SEC and he was brought up through the coaching ranks in the SEC. Right now he's saddled with a 50-million dollar buy-out option to leave a conference that is so weak it could potentially field an undefeated champion and still not have a legitimate shot of getting that team in the title bout.

Currently Kentucky is the only SEC opening, but in the coming weeks I expect Auburn and Tennessee to potentially open up and both could mount serious campaigns to hire away Fisher.

Fisher has ties to Auburn, he was their quarterbacks coach from 1993-98 under Terry Bowden. He would have a chance to go toe-to-toe with the man he coached under at LSU (whom many contend he shares a personal rivalry with) in and in-state battle that is as big as any rivalry in America.

When asked about how he would handle potential offers, Fisher responded:

"I don’t want to leave or talk to anybody, I’m happy here now and we’re not talking to anybody. We wouldn’t even think about doing that until the season’s over and we don’t have any plans on doing that."

Quickly, and you can't hold this against Fisher but it is worth pointing out: he takes much of his head coaching style from Nick Saban, on who's staff he served at LSU (as I just mentioned). Go back and listen to Saban field those same questions at both LSU and then in Miami as the coach of the Dolphins...

He left both jobs but sound bites are eerily similar.

Later on, Fisher admitted he'd likely listen to offers.

"There’s always, if somebody calls it’s like [any other] job opportunity if they called you and asked you," added Fisher. "They would have to go through the proper channels to call your AD or president or whoever it would be to say ‘can we have permission to talk?' And they’d have to give it and then ask me the thing ‘are you interested or not interested,’

"I mean just like you would [any time]. But that’s the proper way, that’s the way you’ve got to do it. I would always do that though. Straight up.”



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