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Question and Answer Session with Tomahawk Nation

We are pleased to once again work with one of the best college sports blogs out there, Tomahawk Nation, as the Tigers will do battle with the 'Noles this week.  A special thanks to True Cubbie of the site.  We have discussed doing another of these sessions before the Tigers travel to Tallahassee to face FSU at the end of the month, so if anyone has any questions for this group please send them to one of us and we will try to discuss (with thawknation) before then.

1. Michael Snaer has gotten a lot more attention this season, seeing a lot of minutes for a freshman and even getting a start against Miami. Is his emergence a function of pure young talent or others not playing as well? What do you expect out of Snaer for the balance of the season?

Michael Snaer is an outstanding basketball player and Florida State fans have yet to see his full potential. Leonard Hamiltonhas introduced Snaer to college basketball in a very patient manner, increasing his minutes as the season has gone on. Before the season started, I hoped that Snaer was going to show enough in camp to earn the starting job. He didn't and it was probably for the better as it took a lot of pressure off him, especially given the fact that expectations were very high for him coming into Tallahassee. Earning his first start was a combination of his development and the recent major slump of Deividas Dulkys. Dulkys was the Seminoles three point threat. However, he has had difficulty hitting his shot of late. In fact, he hasn't made a three point shot in four games and has only made six of his last 30 attempts. The hope was that Snaer would earn his minutes by the time that ACC play has started and he has definitely done that. When you first look at his stat lines, it isn't that impressive: 21 minutes, 8.5 points, 1 assist, 2 rebounds. But, his on the ball defense is outstanding and he is aggressive getting to the basket. This is a combination of both Snaer getting better and him taking advantage of others not playing well. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets the start on Wednesday and multiple games the rest of the season. Many thought he would be a one and done, he won't and I wouldn't be surprised if he sticks around until his Junior year. 

2. Teams that have successfully beaten Clemson’s full court pressure have had success against the Tigers. How successful will the ‘Noles be at breaking the press and forcing Clemson into half court sets on both ends of the floor?

Florida State fan should be happy they are playing Clemson now and not earlier in conference play. They were terrible at breaking the press for the majority of out of conference play. It wasn't until Hamilton went with a smaller lineup against Marquette did the Seminoles realize they could beat the trap. It still isn't perfect but it's better. However, Clemson's aggressive trapping press worries me. The Seminoles have the size and athletic ability to work themselves out of a trap, but they don't always make good decisions. This game will likely be a slow paced game. The Seminoles want to force you into a half court set and wear you out with their defense. If the Seminoles can protect the ball, this will be a close game. But, if they fall into a vicious cycleof turnovers and easy baskets for Clemson it could be a rough night. It's odd that despite their athleticism, the Seminoles are more comfortable playing in the half court, especially on defense. The Seminoles are currently the second ranked defense in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy. Let's hope they have the ability to demonstrate those skills and not be watching layups from the other end. 

3. FSU currently sits in the middle of the conference standings at 5-4. Where do you see this team at the end of the regular season? What does this team need to do (better) to distance itself from the ACC pack?

Before conference play started, I predicted the Seminoles to finish third. In retrospect, that is a bit generous. A 4 or 5 seed is very reachable for this team. It helps that we already have two wins over Georgia Tech. The rest of the schedule includes two games against Clemson, one against Wake and one against Virginia. Florida State has to be successful in those games to move up the standings. To move up the standings, the Seminoles need to protect the ball better and continue to improve their efficiency on offense. You can't win every game 58 - 52 in the ACC. When a team is shooting well against the Noles, they don't have the offensive fire power to keep up. 

4. Both Singleton and Alabi average 10+ PPG and over 7 RPG. Which of the two big men would you recommend Clemson focusing on shutting down? If one is struggling, can the other carry the load for the ‘Noles?

Fortunately for the Noles, they  aren't dependent on either having a big game to win night in and night out. And, when either or both or struggling, someone else usually steps up and has a big game. That said, they are both still very raw players and are prone to mistakes. But, getting Alabiout of the game early would likely benefit Clemson as they don't have the height to match up with Alabi. Singelton can have an awful night on the offensive end but make outstanding plays on the defensive end. He is currently leading the ACC in steals. However, if you take Alabi out, Xavier Gibson, another seven footer can step in and his game is totally different than Alabi's. Stopping Singleton is difficult, and I don't mean that he is unstoppable. He is simply unpredictable. He has nights that he'll shoot 80% from the floor and others that he'll shoot 14%. He'll go 4-5 from beyond the arc or 1-6. He has tremendous upside and is a very gifted athlete. His wingspan is huge and he can be a matchup nightmare for most teams. Despite being 6'9, he really is a true wing player as he has the ability to step back and hit a three or drive to the basket. But, Florida State's success is not dependent on Chris Singleton's success on the offensive end. Where you really have to worry about him is on the defensive end where he will give you fits. He'll run players down and make huge blocks in transition. If you take Alabi out, it is a very different Seminoles team and that's where Clemson should focus their energy, given the choice. 

5. Is there a player on this team that we should watch on Wednesday simply for his hustle and "want" to play the game? Also, is there another individual not mentioned in the aforementioned questions that Tiger fans should know more about before the contest this week?

If I had to pick one player, it would be Michael Snaer. Seminoles fans have yet to see his full potential and his complete complement of skills. He can shoot from anywhere on the floor and he has the ability to get to the basket. What is more impressive is his commitment to playing defense. He's not Toney Douglas, but he is really developing nicely for a freshman. But, I would ask Tigers's fans to watch the Seminoles play defense. As a unit, they are committed to playing pressure man to mandefense and will wear you down. In the second half against Miami, you could see when the defensive intensity increased. These guys move well off the ball, make quick switches and recover well from the help side. It's hard to get collegiate players to play defense. Leonard Hamilton gets his team to buy into playing team defense. You will see very little to no zone out of this team, they don't trap a lot in the back court but they will force you to take bad shots and make mistakes. The other players you should know about are Xavier Gibson who is a 6'11 Sophomore and Terrance Shannon a 6'9 Freshman. Gibson only plays about 13 minutes a game, but he is another example of the length that the Seminoles have off their bench. At times, you will see Gibson and Alabi on the court at the same time. He is able to play either on the low post or 10-12 feet out and has the ability to put the ball on the floor. Shannon doesn't get many minutes yet, but is an aggressive player in the paint. He will likely be a major work horse for the Seminoles in the future. After the Miami game, you should also keep an eye on Luke Loucks. He scored 19 points off the bench and seems to have found his shot. The Seminoles don't have that marquee player as of yet. Alabi has a ton of talent and will play at the next level, but there is work to do. Singleton has an amazing ceiling, but is still making sophomore mistakes. Snaer is coming along nicely. And that is what makes the Seminoles interesting to follow. You never know who is going to have the game of their career on any given night. It also makes it very frustrating at times as that 'go to guy' isn't there yet.