Georgetown has not been successful in hostile arenas this year but must pull off a road win to keep its season alive Monday, when the Hoyas travel to Florida State to take on the Seminoles.
It's been so long since we last met. Georgetown and Florida State have met just three times, all Hoya losses, the last of which ended Alonzo Mourning's career in 1992. For the past twelve years, the Seminole ship has been captained by Leonard Hamilton. During that time, Florida State has managed a handful of NCAA appearances, including one Sweet Sixteen, but more often has finished in the middle of the ACC and has been relegated to the NIT. This year was pretty typical, as the Seminoles managed a few nice wins over tournament-bound teams (VCU, UMass, and Pitt), but came up empty in a number of higher-profile match-ups (Florida, Duke, Virginia three times, and Syracuse). Without those marquee victories, Florida State's respectable 19-13, 9-9 record was not enough to snag an at-large bid.
Roster rundown. The Seminole depth chart has been limited this past year, first by the ineligibility of star recruit Xavier Rathan-Mayes, then by an injury to starting center Kiel Turpin. Neither has played this season. Starting point guard Ian Miller has played and has been a critical piece for the Seminoles, but missed the NIT opener with turf toe.
Back court. When he plays, Miller (13.7 ppg, 2.9 apg, 2.6 rpg) is the team's second-leading scorer, primary long-distance threat, and leading assist man. Flanking Miller are two other starting guards. Aaron Thomas (14.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.7 stl pg) is the team's leading scorer and most disruptive defender. Montay Brandon (7.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg) is built like a wing but can create off the bounce, albeit inefficiently. Finally, Devon Bookert (7.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.7 apg) will come off the pine or, if Miller sits, will assume the point guard duties.
Front Court. Things get a little thin for Florida State up front. Okaro White (13.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.0 blk pg) is a high-level athlete and effective finisher but at 6'9", 204 lb. is a bit thin to be the team's lone big man. That leaves a pair of very big men, Michael Ojo (2.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 7'1", 290 lb.) and Boris Bojanovsky (6 ppg, 4 rpg, 1.8 blk pg, 7'3"!!, 240 lb.). Ojo starts but plays just 12 minutes per game and is often limited by foul trouble, while Bojanovsky comes off the pine and plays most of the minutes Ojo doesn't.
When Florida State has the ball.
- Seminole to watch: Miller or Thomas. Miller initiates much of the offense for Florida State when he plays. In the three games Miller has missed, Thomas has stepped up, netting 21 points and almost 4 made three-pointers per game.
- Hoya to watch: Aaron Bowen. Florida State's mediocre options at center and horrendous ball handling (more on that later) may mean the Hoyas should go small with Bowen as the nominal power forward and try to outrun the 'Noles.
- Numbers to watch: fouls and three-point shooting. Florida State gets to the line at a very good rate, and readers need no introduction to the fouling machine that is the Hoya front line. Thomas and White get to the line for more than 4 free-throws apiece per game, and the latter is a particular concern against the foul-happy Georgetown bigs. The Seminoles also light it up from outside, shooting nearly 40 percent from 3. They don't shoot terribly often from deep, and the Hoyas need to limit those perimeter looks Monday.
- Feeling delusional because...Georgetown has been semi-effective in extending full-court pressure this year, and Florida State has turned the ball over on a catastrophic 21.2 percent of possessions, the 32nd worst mark in the country. Live-ball turnovers could juice the Hoya offense by leading to easy transition baskets.
- Feeling cynical because...We've seen this one before. Opposing arena, unfavorable whistles, early Hoya foul trouble, home team gets free throws, a few opposing threes....
When Georgetown has the ball.
- Hoya to watch: Markel Starks. The senior guard was critical to the Hoyas' NIT win over West Virginia, pushing the pace in transition to create opportunities for others even when his shot wasn't falling. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera reliably creates his own shots and makes them, while Jabril Trawick gets to the rim and can step out to the perimeter. But Georgetown needs Starks to create for everyone else.
- Seminole to watch: the front line. Having a couple of 7 footers, even offensively inert ones, helps around the rim, as the Seminoles block shots at a top-15 rate nationally. Bojanovsky is the main threat, but Ojo and White can each swat shots as well.
- Number to watch: offensive rebounds. Georgetown has not been much of a force on the offensive glass, preferring to get back in transition rather than hunting second chances. But the Hoyas don't typically face a defense that rebounds as poorly as the Seminoles, who rate 332nd nationally on the defensive glass.
- Feeling delusional because...This isn't the suffocating Seminole defense of a few seasons ago. From 2009 through 2012, Florida State ranked in the top 20 nationally in defensive efficiency, peaking in 2011 as the best defense in the land. This year, they're merely good, effectively contesting shots but not exactly smothering opponents.
- Feeling cynical because...It hasn't taken much to smother the Hoyas away from home this year.
Conclusion. These are a pair of quirky teams, both limited by depth and both battling glaring problems. For the Hoyas, the questions primarily have been front-court foul trouble, scoring, and ability to look like the same time in opposing arenas as at home. For the Seminoles, the issues have been healthy bodies, turnovers, and defensive rebounding. I'd like to believe that the inspiring, electric win over West Virginia will kick off a season-salvaging NIT run, and Florida State figures to amass one of the less imposing home crowds this side of Seton Hall. But color me skeptical that the Hoyas can pick up their third win, rather than 25 to 30 more additional fouls. I hope I'm wrong.