This week I got in touch with Michael Rogner over at Tomahawk Nation. He heads up FSU's basketball coverage, which is very thoroughly covered over there.
STS: FSU has had very inconsistent results so far this year with losses to South Alabama, Mercer, and Auburn, and impressive wins against BYU, Saint Joe's, and Charlotte. Which team should Clemson expect to see on Saturday?
TN: Until the Auburn game FSU had played their best basketball away from Tallahassee. But now they've proven that they can be maddeningly inconsistent away from home as well. Clemson isn't a good matchup for FSU, so I'd expect a relatively ugly showing from the Noles.
STS: Many people expected Michael Snaer to take his game to another level this year after a very good junior campaign. Has his play met your expectations so far this year?
TN: Yes and no. Defensively, he's on another level. He's developed into a very good rebounder from the guard position. And he's overcome his biggest flaw from last year which was his failure to be consistently aggressive on offense. But with the increased workload there's been a downward trend in his efficiency. His 3-point shot is as good as it's ever been, but he's really struggled getting to the rim, which has been a strength in the past.
He also spends half the game with his "WTF" face on wondering why his teammates weren't where he expected them to be on defense.
STS: FSU had an intimidating front line last year with the size and strength of Xavier Gibson, Bernard James, and Jon Kreft. How has FSU replaced those guys in the middle?
TN: They haven't. It wasn't just the size and athleticism those guys brought, but more importantly it was work ethic and understanding of the defensive schemes. The new guys have size - Kiel Turpin (who starts but doesn't play starter minutes) is 7-0, Boris Bojanovsky is 7-3 but has legs the size of his arms, and Michael Ojo is 7-1 and an absolute freak of nature - Luke Loucks said he's the biggest human he's ever stood next to with the exception of Shaq - but he doesn't know how to play basketball. Entering this year he had played in 17 organized games in his life. What the new guys lack is an understanding of where they need to be on defense. They're consistently missing rotations, and with as much as Ham's defense rotates within sets, five guys not on the same page results in awful lot of layups.
STS: FSU is known for being a defensive juggernaut, but Kenpom currently has FSU's offense ranked 77th and their defense ranked 95th. Is FSU really better offensively than defensively?
TN: Yes! FSU fans have been clamoring for this for years, which is a classic case of 'be careful what you wish for.' Ever since FSU went to a 3-guard lineup (just before last year's Clemson game) they've added the ability to score in bunches. They really like to get out in transition, and NC State is the only ACC teams which makes more of their 3s. They were also the ACCs best free throw shooting team before their debacle against Auburn. They live off of turnovers, and they've been very aggressive about getting to the rim.
STS: Clemson is one of the slowest paced teams in the country (321st) while FSU is surprisingly one of the faster paced teams in the country (45th). Do you think tempo helps dictate the winner of the game? Or is FSU content playing either style?
TN: Whoever controls the tempo wins this game. FSU absolutely has to score in transition, and to do that they'll need to force live ball turnovers and control the defensive glass. They've been great at the former, and terrible at the latter. FSU is 7-2 when the game has at least 67 possessions (the NCAA average), and 1-3 when the game has fewer. Clemson has only played one game all year that has had more than 65.
STS: Clemson shocked FSU last year at Littlejohn. Who do you like this year?
TN: Clemson is a terrible matchup for FSU. They take care of the ball, they force turnovers, and they force teams to execute half court sets. Unless the Tigers have a total derp-fest of turnovers or FSU is unconscious from the arc, I just don't see how the Noles win this one.