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Carlos on Florida State

Miami |
| N-R | W-S
A week ago, you would
have thought the odds of Florida State Seminoles running off
back-to-back victories over teams ranked in the top 10 would be about
the same as finding Dr. J videos on the same website as Pam Anderson
and Paris Hilton. Turns out you would be right – just not in
the same way you thought you would be. Just one week ago the
Seminoles were coming off 4 straight losses and preparing to start a
two-game home stand against two of the league’s better teams in
North Carolina and Wake Forest. Three of those four losses were
league games and two of those were to Clemson and Virginia, a duo
that appears headed for a Thursday night game in Greensboro in about
5 weeks.

Those losses to the
Tigers and the Cavaliers are not unusual for Leonard Hamilton’s
FSU teams. The Noles haven’t on an ACC road game since Colin
Powell could say “weapons of mass destruction” with a
straight face. It’s been nearly 3 years since Florida State’s
win at Clemson in the spring of 2001, the last time the team had a
happy plane ride home. But if this season’s early road losses
had everyone thinking it was business as usual with the Seminoles
then the big wins over UNC and Wake served notice that this year’s
team may be something different.

Florida State’s
recent success seemed even more unlikely when the team was down big
to Carolina in the first half. But then came the Rally in Tally when
the Seminoles used their superior depth to wear out the Tar Heels and
a 24-point lead disappeared faster than a plate of éclairs at
Sean May’s house. FSU followed that up with a 5-point win that
added to Wake Forest’s recent misery.

Hamilton has put
together one of the deepest teams in the conference, with 10 guys
averaging in double figure minutes and an 11th player at 9
minutes per game. That depth is spread out evenly across the
frontcourt and backcourt but it is the perimeter game that drives the


The most underrated
player in the ACC may be FSU’s Tim Pickett. The 6-4 senior is
in the top 10 in the league in scoring, free throw percentage, and
steals and is one of the best lockdown defenders in the league. Last
year, in his first season in the league, the JUCO transfer earned a
place on the All-ACC second team and this season he’s making a
strong case for the first team.

The one constant in
both of those two big victories for the Seminoles was the play of
Pickett in the second half of each game. Against the Heels he scored
22 points after the first half and Wake game featured a virtual
repeat of Pickett’s charge in the second half as he dumped in
18 points against the Demon Deacons.

Pickett is the textbook
example of a streak shooter. He’s hitting a respectable 38%
from three and a not so respectable 40% overall but when he’s
hot those numbers don’t matter. Hamilton gives Pickett plenty
of freedom on offense and the senior star can abuse that with some
wild shots. But that’s a price the coach is willing to pay
because the reward is so great if Pickett gets on a roll.

Starting at the point
guard spot for the Noles is Nate Johnson, a 6-3 senior who is another
JUCO transfer in his second year with the team. Johnson is primarily
a distributor of the ball, but is a dangerous shooter if open on the
perimeter. He’s actually hitting on an astounding 56% of his
three-point attempts, but he takes under 3 a game.

Backing up Johnson at
the point is 5-11 sophomore Todd Galloway who is also a reluctant
shooter. Galloway has hit on just 5 three-point attempts all year,
but he saved one of those for the shot that put the UNC game into
overtime. Other backcourt reserves include freshman Von Wafer, a 6-5
McDonald’s All-American selection who earns the career
traveling violation after enrolling in three high schools …..
in one year. Wafer has tremendous range and is able to get his shot
off in traffic but his defense is a long way from his offense.


Hamilton has used a
number of different starting lineups in the frontcourt, the most
recent featuring 6-9 freshman Alexander Johnson in the pivot.
Johnson is a strong inside presence who can step out and hit
mid-range shot. Hamilton and his staff have done a good job of
keeping him inside on offense where he can best use his 245 lbs.

At the power forward
spot the Noles have been starting Michael Joiner, a steady 6-7 senior
who Duke looked at as a recruit 4 years ago. He provides a good
example as to just how much Hamilton has been able to increase the
talent level on the FSU roster over the last two years. When Joiner
signed with former coach Steve Robinson, he was one of the highlights
of the Seminole’s recruiting efforts. Now, 4 years later,
Joiner’s biggest contribution may be his experience. He has
always been a decent rebounder, especially for his size, and he has
improved his outside shot each year. But with the addition of
players like Pickett, Johnson, and Wafer, the team doesn’t need
him to be a scorer.

The same can be said
for Andrew Wilson, a 6-6 sophomore who has moved into the other
starting forward spot. Wilson’s time in Tallahassee has been
marked by a string of injuries, allowing him to complete just one
full season in the last three years. In total, Wilson had played in
just 6 games over the last two seasons and that inactivity has led to
a decline in his offensive production. Also contributing to his
offensive woes is yet another injury this season – an
inflammation to his heel. Despite his struggles on the offensive end
of the floor Wilson has been able to crack the starting lineup
because Hamilton likes the effort he gets out of him on defense.

promotion has come at the expense of former starter Anthony
Richardson a 6-7 junior who was a fixture in the starting lineup last
year. The former Monald’s All-American was playing over 25
minutes per game earlier in the season and a focal point in the
team’s offense. All that changed three games ago when Martha
Stewart dumped her Anthony Richardson stock just before the tip off
of the Virginia game. Subsequently, Richardson has played just 11
minutes a game and in the last two contests has scored just 2 field
goals. Richardson is struggling on a major scale on offense and his
defense has never been what’s kept him in the game. He has
never been a great threat from the outside, but over the last 11
games he’s hitting just 15% on threes. The strength of his
game is usually his athleticism. He may be the team’s best
player in the open court and in halfcourt sets he is a slasher that
likes to get to the rim. His problem is that even that part of his
game has gone AWOL over the last few games as he’s hitting just
36% from the field. Hamilton has opted to use more of Wilson over
Richardson because while neither player is contributing much
offensively, Wilson is clearly more motivated to play defense.

Another guy earning
more minutes in the frontcourt because of his defensive intensity is
Adam Waleskowski, a 6-8 junior and the brother of Dayton star Keith
Waleskowski. He lacks athleticism and any time he puts the ball on
the floor Hamilton instinctively reaches for some Maalox, but that’s
not what earns him his minutes. Where he excels is with his tenacity
in the paint – he leads the team in rebounding and is their
best interior defender.

Rounding out the
frontcourt reserves are Mike Mathews and Al Thornton. Mathews is a
6-10 senior who started some games last season and early in this
season. Mathews is a decent shotblocker and defensive player but
hasn’t developed much offense in his four years at FSU. His
playing time this season has dwindled to nearly nothing and he’s
unlikely to see anything but spot duty against Duke if the other
Seminole big men can stay out of foul trouble. Thronton is a 6-7
redshirt freshman who enrolled in December of last year after
struggling to qualify. He’s a good athlete who was forced to
play the pivot in high school and is making the adjustment to the
small forward spot in college. Once he develops an outside shot he
should be a solid contributor for the Noles.


Anyone preparing for
the Seminoles this season sets their defensive game plan around
stopping Tim Pickett. Much like with the Clemson teams led by Will
Solomon, the goal against Florida State is to make their secondary
scorers beat you. In almost all of FSU’s 5 losses this season
the constant has been a subpar performance by Pickett. The lone
exception to that is the Florida game where the Noles lost despite
Pickett’s 25 points. But in the losses to Pitt, NC State,
Clemson, and Virginia, Pickett averaged just 10 points and, even more
importantly, shot just 27% from the field. Look for Daniel Ewing to
draw the defensive assignment. If he keeps Pickett’s point
production equal to his shot attempts then Duke stands an excellent
chance to extend the Seminole’s road game futility.

The Seminoles have a
hard choice to make defensively in how they employ Pickett. A chimp
with a head wound could watch Duke play over the last dozen games and
realize that JJ Redick is on a bit of a streak. If Hamilton decides
to use Pickett, his best perimeter defender, against Redick it will
leave Wilson matched up on Ewing, who has also been playing well
recently. While Wilson is a tough defender he gives up a lot of
quickness to Ewing and may not be able to contain him.

The Seminoles also face
a difficult matchup with Luol Deng. Michael Joiner is likely to draw
the assignment and while he matches up well with him in size he isn’t
nearly as mobile on the perimeter. The problem for Hamilton is that
his other options aren’t particularly well suited for the
assignment either. Waleskowski and Johnson are most certainly not
quick enough and Richardson has never been an aggressive defender.

Florida State enters
this game with the most momentum the team has enjoyed since Bob Sura
was in garnet and gold. But they also face a huge challenge in
coming into Cameron and trying to break a nearly 3-year ACC road
losing streak against the team with the longest home court winning
streak. That’s not an equation that points to an upset.