Tonight one of the ACC’s more interesting early matchups occurs at Tallahassee when Florida State hosts North Carolina. Each team has reached double-digit wins. Both are undefeated at home. The squads are surprisingly similar from a statistical standpoint in areas from scoring to defense, free throw accuracy to rebounding margin.
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Where they differ most glaringly on the stat sheet is in their facility handling the ball. The Tar Heels had 1.80 assists for every turnover through this season’s first 15 games, best in the ACC. Florida State stood 13th among the league’s 15 members with one more assist than miscue, a 1.03 ratio.
Neither one of those levels is apt to endure; based on recent history, both ratios are inordinately high.
Last year at this time eight ACC clubs had more turnovers than assists, FSU among them. This season only Virginia Tech and Wake Forest were below breakeven as the new year began.
Producing more turnovers than assists is a Florida State tradition – its teams haven’t enjoyed a positive ratio in that category since Pat Kennedy’s last year as head coach. That was in 1997, also the final season of Dean Smith’s illustrious North Carolina coaching career and five years before Leonard Hamilton arrived at FSU.
Hamilton hoped for better this year with senior perimeter performers Devon Bookert and Monte Brandon, juco transfer Brandon Allen, freshman Terance Mann and sophomore Xavier Rathan-Mayes, converted from voracious shooter to discriminating playmaker.
"I think that we’ve elevated our skill level," Hamilton said this past fall. He conceded his previous squads "have not had great decisionmakers, we maybe have not had tremendous skill." With improved understanding and more adept shot creators "we might not have to pass the ball as much to get good shots because we have guys who can make better shots. I’m hoping that’s the case."
So far, so good.
As for North Carolina, passing to set up a basket is part of the Smith catechism. But 1.80 assists per turnover is over the top – better ballhandling efficiency than any ACC team in at least a decade.
FSU, UNC Team Ratios of Assists to Turnovers, Last Decade
(2016 Season Through Jan. 2)
|Season||FSU||Rank in ACC||UNC||Rank in ACC|
|* Reached Final Four|