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Game Preview: Chattanooga

Usually, Leonard Hamilton’s teams thrive on generating turnovers and steals, creating fastbreaks and easy points. Part of Florida State’s struggles on offense this year are because they are lacking in forced turnovers and steals. The ‘Noles have forced just 43 turnovers and have 15 steals as a team. Both of those numbers place them in the bottom 75 in the country.

They’ll have a good chance to improve these numbers against a sloppy Chattanooga Moccasins team, who is on a tough two game stretch here, starting with FSU followed by playing at Tennessee at the end of the week.

The game has a weird tip time, so make to note that the game will start at 6:30 pm on FOX.

Chattanooga Breakdown

This is another team that is living and dying by the 3-point line, just like we saw with Western Carolina last week. The Mocs are top 100 in 3-point attempts (100 attempts – 93rd nationally), 3-point makes (37 makes – 57th nationally), and 3-point percentage (37% – 83rd nationally). Running them off the 3-point line is going to be imperative, as they are 310th nationally in 2-point percentage at just 43.5%.

They also have no inside presence at all, with just 4 blocked shots as a team in four games. Teams are shooting 51.0% inside the arc against the Mocs, and they’ve yet to play a team with FSU’s size and athleticism. Florida State should be able to bully them down low.

This is also a team that is committing 17.5 fouls per game, so Florida State should be able to get to the FT line often throughout the game.

For those that have followed the ACC in recent years might recognize one of their leading scorers: Matt Ryan, formerly of Notre Dame. Ryan has bounced around in his college career, spending his first two seasons at Notre Dame, then transferring to Vanderbilt where he sat one, played one, and finally has graduate transferred to Chattanooga to finish his career.

Ryan is averaging 16.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, and 2.8 apg through the first four games, doubling his scoring at Vanderbilt last season, and quadrupling his scoring from his time at Notre Dame. He is also shooting 9.5 threes per game, but is only making them at 31.6% clip.

In four career games against Florida State, Ryan only played more than 3 minutes in two of them, averaging 9.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg, and 0.5 apg. For a 6’8″ forward, he’s a horrible rebounder. His total rebound rate is a measly 6.5% for his career. For comparison, Trent Forrest has a career rebound rate of 9.4%, and Forrest is a point guard.

Only one other player for the Moccasins is averaging double figures in points: David Jean-Baptiste. Jean-Baptiste is averaging 16.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, and 1.5 apg. He is their best shooter, going 50.0% on his 6.0 attempts from distance. Limiting his looks from downtown will be important to winning this game.

Florida State Breakdown

This is technically the first round of the Emerald Coast Classic, the same tournament where FSU will take on Tennessee and Purdue/VCU Thanksgiving weekend.

The ‘Noles are allowing teams to make just 31.0% of their looks from 3-point range, so something will have to give. After Western Carolina shot a blistering 50% from distance in the first half, the second half was rough for the Catamounts as they were 2/9 from behind the arc and finished the game at 39%. They were continually getting great looks throughout the game and that is a concern for Coach Hamilton and his staff, so it’ll be interesting to see what adjustments are made for the Moccasins.

The Moccasins should expect to put up their usual 3s, as FSU is letting teams shoot just under 24 attempts per game, and Chattanooga is putting up 25 attempts from distance per game. Whether they make those attempts will be the difference. FSU is only allowing 7 makes per game, compared to 9 makes per game for Chattanooga.

Injury Report

Florida State

RaiQuan Gray: Turk suffered a sprained ankle against Western Carolina, but all expectations are for him to play against Chattanooga.

MJ Walker: Walker hurt his leg on a lob attempt against Western Carolina, but came back in the game. Nothing has been made of his situation, so I’d say it’s 50/50. No reason to stress him too much.

Dominik Olejniczak: I still expect him to have limited minutes as he gets back to 100%.

Chattanooga

Malachi Smith is suspended indefinitely. Other than that, I can’t find too much about injuries.

Projected Starting Lineups

Florida State

G: Trent Forrest

G: Devin Vassell

F: Patrick Williams

F: RaiQuan Gray

F: Malik Osborne

Chattanooga

G: Maurice Commander

G: David Jean-Baptiste

F: Matt Ryan

F: Rod Johnson

F: Ramon Vila

3 Keys to the Game

Limit David Jean-Baptiste

Jean-Baptiste is the head of the snake. Make every other player beat you, but if he starts getting hot, FSU could be in trouble. Matt Ryan doesn’t concern me at all, he’s only scoring a lot because he’s shooting a lot. Jean-Baptiste is a much more efficient shooter, especially from distance. Chasing him off the line and making him take contested 2s has to be the first priority.

Rotate on Defense

Florida State got burnt a few times against Western Carolina because they were out of sorts with rotations. The drive-and-kick, especially, was getting Florida State in bad spots. There are easy fixes to this already in place in their defensive system, but they have to actually make those rotations. Chattanooga will want to launch from 3, and getting out to those shooters to chase them off the line has to be a focal point.

Bully Ball

Chattanooga doesn’t have much inside presence, as noted earlier. Getting into the paint for easy shots, dominating the boards, and blocking their shots should be gimmes, but until they’re on the stats page you never know. Not settling for contested jump shots has to be the offensive priority. Forrest is big and strong enough where even he should get calls for post-ups.

Game Prediction

Florida State should win handily, but as we saw against Western Carolina, anything is possible. The game against the Catamounts provided the ‘Noles with a learning experience without taking a loss. That wake-up call should serve as a warning to the Mocs. The spread currently sits at 20 1/2 favored towards FSU. I’d take Chattanooga against the spread, but Florida State should still win by 15-18.


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