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Wake Forest vs. Florida State Preview - Q&A w/ Tomahawk Nation


Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

You can head over to Tomahawk Nation and check out my answers.

Who is the one FSU player Wake Forest coaches/players/fans should be worried about the most?

The answer many might immediately think of is freshman PG Xavier Rathan-Mayes. XRM was a top 50 national recruit in the 2013 class (childhood friend and long time teammate of Andrew Wiggins) but had to delay his career by a year due to some academic issues concerning the accreditation of one of the schools he attended. He struggled at first after being pressed into a leadership role earlier than expected when star guard Aaron Thomas was ruled ineligible, however has been on a tear of late. That culminated in him dropping 35 points on UNC in Chapel-Hill last Saturday, tying for most points ever scored by an ACC opponent in the Dean Dome.

However, despite that opening monologue, I'm going to go in a different direction and say Devon Bookert. Bookert isn't FSU's best player, but he is by far the best threat the Noles have from deep. In fact, he's the only guy on the team shooting over 27% from three, checking in at 38.1% on the season. Making 38% of your threes is solid on its own, but to do it when the entire defense knows you're the only consistent perimeter weapon really is impressive. And typically this season, as Bookert's outside shooting goes, so goes FSU's offensive effectiveness. He's not that good at creating threes off the dribble, but he is good at moving off the ball and being ready to shoot when he gets the rock. When he's knocking them down, the entire defense is forced to spread out to deny him the pass, allowing for slashers like Montay Brandon and XRM to get in the lane and either finish at the basket or find an open big for an easy dunk. But when Bookert is forced out of his comfort zone and unable to get on track early, the Noles offense often bogs down as the opposing defense collapses the open lanes or simply moves to a stifling zone.

What do you think is FSU's biggest strength?

Making two point baskets. FSU is 24th in the country at 2-point FG%, touting a 53.5% mark. Some of this is due to the fact that FSU's bigs don't take a lot of shots outside of dunks and layups, but it's also due to the slashing and finishing ability of wings and guards like Montay Brandon and XRM. Even Bookert, though he doesn't take many shots inside the arc, has a nice floater he can use to score over bigger defenders.

What do you think is FSU's biggest weakness?

When you're 10-10 on the season and ranked outside the top 130 on KenPom (though some of that is due to a stretch of horrific performances two months ago when Aaron Thomas' status was still in limbo and Devon Bookert was out with foot surgery), it's a bit daunting to pick the "biggest" weakness. The defense has been comparable to Swiss Cheese at times, FSU had a game where they nearly gave up as many offensive rebounds as they secured defensive rebounds, and there is just an overall lack of talent compared to the ACC elite.

That said, if forced to pick one I'll go with perimeter shooting. As noted above, FSU has ONE player who shoots above 27% from deep. As a team--thanks to Bookert taking more threes than anyone other than XRM, despite missing five games--the Noles shoot 27.4% from three, ranking 337th in the country. That just makes it difficult to consistently execute on the offensive side of the ball, especially against ACC defenses.

Who wins and why?

Similar to Wake Forest, FSU has been playing better basketball lately--even if it hasn't translated into a ton of wins. The Noles were tied with NC State at 60 with a few minutes to go in the game, upset Clemson in Little John, and then pushed UNC for 40 minutes in Chapel Hill before ultimately falling by 4. KenPom has this as a two-point Seminole victory and I agree that it's two pretty evenly matched teams. It could honestly come down to a couple free throws (I notice neither team is stellar from the charity stripe) or turnovers late in the game, but with roughly equal teams I usually go with the home team pulling it out. FSU 76 - Wake 73.

Many thanks to Matt Minnick of Tomahawk Nation for taking the time to answer my questions.