Mar 18, 2014

Know the Opponent: Q & A With Tomahawk Nation

(Courtesy of Linwood Ferguson)

In preparation for FGCU's showdown with Florida State in the NIT, the FGCU Eagles Nest conducted a question and answer session with FSU hoops guru Michael Rogner of Tomahawk Nation. Enjoy.

Liam Jones: Is FSU the type of high major team (i.e Kentucky) that might tend to start slow or not put it all out there in a NIT first round game? 

Michael Rogner: I think that's a danger with all high major teams. But this team has been pretty consistent in their effort this season (unlike last year), so I would expect that they'll give FGCU their best shot.

LJ: How does the injury to Ian Miller effect the 'Noles offense, if he is hindered or did not play all together? 

MR: This is really big. He was hurt earlier in the season and FSU lost 2 of 3 without him, and looked pretty bad to be honest. Then, in the ACC quarterfinal vs Virginia, he was hurt again when a Virginia player essentially tackled him from behind and landed on Miller's foot. Miller isn't just FSU's best point guard, but he's also the one player who can make something happen out of bad possessions. He's almost impossible to stop off the dribble, and as Jay Bilas repeatedly pointed out during games, his range starts as soon as he crosses mid court. As a senior he's still prone to a lot more bad decisions than you'd want, but when it gets down to it he's the most important player on FSU's roster. Okaro White might be more important on a possession to possession basis, but from a positional standpoint, FSU only has 4 guards on scholarship, and without Miller the other three will be forced to play far too many minutes.

LJ: I haven't watched much of Okaro White but how dynamic is he and what have other teams done successfully to slow him down? 

MR: Other teams haven't done much to slow Okaro down, because he generally slows himself down. He plays with remarkable passion and emotion, but that also gets him in trouble. Typically, he'll sit most of the first half after he gets himself into foul trouble by trying to make silly plays. Yes, you want your players to make mistakes based on aggression, but he takes it too far. When he does stay in the game, he's a unique talent. He's 6-8 and has never played at more than 205 pounds, but he plays above the rim and is a pogo stick on the offensive glass. He scores most of his points from within 5-feet of the basket, but when guarded by larger players FSU will just give him the ball 20' from the basket and clear out. If he stays out of foul trouble and plays a solid game then I really like FSU's chances even without Ian Miller.

LJ: This clearly isn't the NCAA Tournament that fans were hoping for, what do you think the turnout will be?

MR: It will be terrible. I'd guess around 3,000 in attendance, and that's with FSU giving away 1,000 free tickets. Because of the football program FSU fans have become remarkably spoiled. FSU football spends at an elite level (much more than ACC teams and competitively with a lot of SEC teams) and so of course, the football program is elite - if it wasn't, there'd be a serious problem. Meanwhile, spending on FSU basketball is at or near the bottom of the ACC, yet fans demand elite results. Two years ago FSU won the ACC basketball title, and the last place SEC team (South Carolina) drew more fans per game. The Noles have won more ACC games in the past 7 years than any team but Duke and North Carolina, but still, the fans stay away, and even more annoyingly a significant portion call for the firing of Coach Hamilton. They're getting a champagne program on a Ripple budget, and they're totally clueless as to how good they have it.

LJ: FGCU is now on people's radar after last year, but has Florida State had any trouble overlooking somewhat lesser opponents? 

MR: Not at all. There are two ACC teams who haven't lost all year to a team ranked outside Pomeroy's top 75 (FGCU is No. 180), and FSU is one of them. But, of course, FSU will most likely be playing without Ian Miller. With a healthy Miller I'd guess FSU would have a 90% chance of winning. Without him, I think that drops to about 75%.