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Game Preview: Emerald Coast Classic Primer

Florida State is competing in the Emerald Coast Classic this Thanksgiving weekend, and it’s going to be a closely contested tournament throughout. This should be a fun one.

All 4 teams in the Emerald Coast Classic are listed in the top 40 of the KenPom rankings: Purdue (10), Florida State (17), Tennessee (21), and VCU (38). Whoever wins it all will be getting two Quadrant 1 wins to help their resume come March.

Florida State will take on Tennessee first, Friday night at 7 pm on CBS. Both teams are in somewhat of a rebuilding phase following a mass exodus of talent, whether it be to graduation or to the NBA. Both teams have started well out of the gate despite their supposed rebuilding phases, with only FSU losing a game so far.

Tennessee Breakdown

Tennessee is scoring 73.8 PPG and only allowing 55.0 PPG, and are 5-0 to start the season, which includes wins over Washington and Murray State. As a team, the Volunteers are phenomenal at three-point shooting: 38.5% from deep on 18 attempts per game. Of the 8 players that receive major minutes, 3 are shooting 50% from distance: Jordan Bowden, Yves Pons, and Olivier Nkamhoua.

While they’re great from 3, they haven’t been great at the free-throw line so far, shooting just 66.7% as a team on 20 attempts per game. So while they’re getting to the line a ton, they’re not making it count. Bowden is also the team’s leading scorer with 16.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, and 1.2 SPG on a 46.2/50.0/71.4 shooting split. After Bowden, three more players are averaging double-digit points: Lamonte Turner, Yves Pons, and John Fulkerson.

Turner is putting up 13.6 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 9.2 APG, 1.8 SPG, and 3.2 TPG on a 30.0/25.0/65.5 shooting split. As you can see, he’s an extremely inefficient player and is likely going to look to create for others more than he’ll look to create for himself. Pons is averaging 13.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.2 APG and 2.8 BPG on a 61.0/50.0/81.8 split. He’s only taking 8 shots a game but is making the most of it when he does shoot. For being a 6’6” guard, almost 3 blocks per game is extremely impressive.

Fulkerson is averaging 11.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, and 1.0 BPG. This is their “big” man in the middle, listed at 6’9”.

Despite all of this scoring, the one name not listed everyone would’ve expected is 5-star freshman Josiah Jordan-James, who is only averaging 4.6 PPG and 7.2 RPG. He’s been turnover and foul-prone to start the season, but he’s going to break out eventually, hopefully, it’s not against FSU.

Florida State Breakdown

FSU is coming off a beat down of one of the worst teams in the country, Chicago State. These last few games have given the ‘Noles a ton of confidence with their shooting stroke, so whether it’ll carry into a big weekend will be what I’m mostly keeping my eye on.

After Patrick Williams’ 16-point outing Monday night, 4 Seminoles are averaging double-figure points: Devin Vassell, Trent Forrest, MJ Walker, and Williams. Some of these mid-major teams have been getting greats looks from 3 against FSU, but just hitting them at 29.8%. This speaks to FSU’s length and athleticism; teams are thinking they’re getting open looks from driving and dishing out to shooters, but Florida State is recovering in time to contest the shots.

Florida State hasn’t played a team like Tennessee so far, though. Tennessee is a much better shooting team than either Pittsburgh or Florida, and Tennessee actually has the size on the wings to match up with the ‘Noles fairly well.

VCU Breakdown

Instead of making two different previews for each game, I’m just going to make one long preview for the whole tournament so people can reference this one article instead of bouncing back and forth depending on the game you’re watching.

VCU is a good basketball team, but haven’t been able to prove it against anybody yet. They beat LSU 84-82, but LSU isn’t the same team they were a season ago. They beat St Francis PA by 14, a team FSU beat by 15, but held them to fewer points than FSU did. The Rams are a squad that thrive on live ball situations; 11th in total steals and 9th in total blocks. They’re also holding teams to just 43.3% inside the arc, which is good to be top-70 nationally. I think they would be a bad matchup for FSU.

Three players are scoring in double digits for VCU: Marcus Evans, Marcus Santos-Silva, and De’Riante Jenkins. Evans is doing the most work, averaging 15.2 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.7 SPG, and 2.8 TPG on a 50.9/51.7/69.2 split. He has the best 3pt% on the team, but two other players are hitting above 40% from deep. Santos-Silva is putting up 11.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG (3.8 ORB), 1.7 APG, 1.7 SPG, and 1.5 BPG. At just 6’7”, he has done an amazing job this season at getting great positions for offensive rebounds. If a team can keep him off of the glass, it would go a long way towards winning. He has yet to take a 3 on the season and is only shooting 55% from the FT line.

Jenkins is averaging 10.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 3.0 SPG on a 42.2/30.4/83.3 shooting split. He’s much more effective inside the arc than outside, so trying to force him into contested jump shots should be the priority for him. The two other shooters hitting 3s above 40% are Issac Vann and Malik Crowfield. Almost 80% of Crowfield’s shot attempts come from distance, so when he checks in the game, expect a little extra pressure from defenses on him. Vann can be a mismatch given his marksmanship as a stretch 4.

Purdue Breakdown

Purdue lost Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline, two players who tore Florida State up last season. This is still a good roster, just not a top ten team like KenPom suggests. Offensively, the only thing they’re good at is taking care of the ball, with just under 10 turnovers per game as a team. When they lose, it’s because of too many turnovers or getting into foul trouble.

Defensively is where they win games. The Boilermakers are top-20 in points allowed per game at just 58.0, opponent field goal percentage is 37.7%, opponent 3pt% is 31.8%, and teams have only gotten 19 total steals all season.

Jahaad Proctor is their leading scorer at 15.6 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.2 APG, and 1.0 SPG on a 50.8/27.8/72.2 split. He’s nowhere near the same player as Edwards who would launch from anywhere at any time. Proctor is looking to attack the rim more than anything. Matt Haarms is holding it down in the middle, averaging 12.0 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.2 APG, and 3.4 BPG. He has by far the best defensive box +/- on the team at 8.6, and has a block rate of 18%. Getting him into foul trouble is going to be a priority. He has shown the ability to stretch out to 3, but will only do it once or twice a game.

Eric Hunter Jr is their last scorer in double figures, putting up 10.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG, and 4.2 APG on a 41.3/31.6/75.0 split. His FG% is really anchored down by shooting almost four 3s per game, and not really sinking many of them.

Their best shooter in Sasha Stefanovic, who is shooting 6.0 attempts per game from distance, and making them at a 41.7% rate. As a team, they’re horrible from the FT line, hitting just 63.0%, which is bottom-55 nationally.

Injury Report

Florida State

MJ Walker was seen wearing a heavy knee brace at a practice in Destin, but he should be playing. This will be the healthiest FSU has been all season.

Tennessee

Lamonte Turner has been playing through a shoulder injury, and the expectation is for him to continue to do so.

Tennessee dealt with a lot of injuries in the preseason but seems to be mostly healthy now.

VCU

Couldn’t find anything injury-wise about them from this season.

Purdue

Mason Gillis is out for the year with a knee injury.

Brandon Newman is out for the year with an ankle injury.

Projected Starting Lineups

Florida State

G: Trent Forrest

G: MJ Walker

G: Devin Vassell

F: Malik Osborne

C: Dominik Olejniczak

Tennessee

G: Lamonte Turner

G: Jordan Bowden

G: Yves Pons

G: Josiah Jordan-James

F: John Fulkerson

VCU

G: Marcus Evans

G: Mike’L Simms

G: De’Riante Jenkins

F: Isaac Vann

F: Marcus Santos-Silva

Purdue

G: Nojel Eastern

G: Jahaad Proctor

G: Eric Hunter Jr

F: Aaron Wheeler

C: Matt Haarms

Keys to the Tournament

Again, since this situation is a little different, I’ll list one key for the whole tournament, then two keys for Tennessee, then one each for Purdue and VCU for if we play them.

Play Your Game

These types of tournaments aren’t going to allow for in-depth gameplans that will catch the opponent off guard. Maybe for the first game, but definitely not the second. The FSU/Villanova game last year is a great example of this: the staff had a great game plan, but just not enough time to practice and perfect it. Focus on what you do best as a team, and let the other teams overthink themselves.

For Tennessee: Limit the 3-Pointers

Tennessee is going to do most of their damage from outside, a place where FSU has been a little susceptible to get blazed from so far this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if the help defense was a little more attached to shooters than normal. Still expect stunts towards driving ball-handlers, but getting back to shooters faster than normal.

For Tennessee: Use the Bench

So far this season, the bench hasn’t quite been as good as we would’ve hoped. They’re going to need to be productive against Tennessee, as the Volunteers only have 8 players getting consistent minutes. Tire them out, while also staying refreshed enough for the next day, win or lose.

For Purdue: Get Haarms in Foul Trouble

This team runs through Haarms, especially on defense. He does such a great job of anchoring the middle and contesting shots that it can make scoring around the basket difficult. You get him in foul trouble, you’re opening up so much for the offense, and making the defense have to focus on one less person.

For VCU: Take Care of the Ball

FSU has had some games where they’ve been lax with taking care of the ball. VCU has been exceptional at forcing turnovers which is going to create better chances for them to score. If Florida State could limit their turnovers, that’d help their chances a lot.

Tournament Prediction

I think FSU is going to be ready to go for Tennessee. They don’t scare me that much, but it’s going to be a great game. FSU will win in a 65-62sh type game.

I’d rather play Purdue over VCU on Saturday. VCU just seems like a bad matchup, whereas FSU beat Purdue last season when they were a much better team. I think VCU will win against Purdue though.

That would set up an FSU/VCU championship, and I’ll say FSU gets their revenge from the 2011 NCAA Tournament, again with the final scores being in the low 60s.


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