By Bill from Tampa
Records: FSU 9-2, 1-2 neutral site games, 19th ranked Butler 8-1, 3-0 neutral site
Last Games: FSU destroyed the visiting and outmanned Maine Black Bears 95-55 on the strength of a school record 20 three point field goals. Brian Hoff hit five threes in the game to score 15 points. Butler lost for the first time of the season to Horizon League rival Wright State 43-42. The Bulldogs had a 40-33 lead with 9:23 to play but could not hold it. Wright State took the lead for good with 1:45 left and A.J. Graves forced a desperation three point shot with three seconds left that was no good.
Previous Meeting: The Seminoles hosted Butler in the first round of the 2006 NIT winning 67-63. Alexander Johnson grabbed Ralph Mimsâ free throw miss and immediately put it in to give FSU a 64-63 lead with fifty-one seconds remaining.
Projected FSU Starting Lineup:
Julian Vaughn - 4.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg
Uche Echefu - 10.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg
Isaiah Swann - 15.1 ppg, 3.8 apg; 16 pts and 3 asts against Butler*
Toney Douglas - 12.7 ppg, 2.9 apg
Jason Rich - 9.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg; 22 pts and 8 rebs against Butler*
Projected Butler Starting Lineup:
F 6-7, 220 Matt Howard -11.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg
F 6-7, 200 Drew Streicher â 5.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg
F 6-5, 200 Julian Betko - 6.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg
G 6-1, 155 A.J. Graves - 15.4 ppg, 2.4 apg
G 6-1, 175 Mike Green - 14.7 ppg, 5.0 apg
About Butler: Prior to the loss to Wright state, Butler had racked up some impressive wins, most of which in the Great Alaska Shootout. The Bulldogs beat Michigan, Virginia Tech in overtime, and then Texas Tech in the title game. After that Butler easily beat Ohio State at Conseco by the score of 65-46.
Things sort of fell apart after that. In particular shooting woes crept into the team. Although they beat Detroit, the Bulldogs were a very un-Butler like 3-19 from behind the arc. That was followed with an improved but still below average 7-21 performance in the Wright State game.
Before those two games The Bulldogs were shooting threes at a rate of 44%.
And that has been a hallmark of a usually very fundamentally sound in all areas of the game Bulldog team; shooting especially the three ball. And Butler is not shy about taking the three with 51% of their shots taken from the bonusphere.
Shooting guard Graves explained the shooting slump as a loss of focus and energy.
To restore that energy that the Bulldogs took three days off last week before returning to practice on Wednesday. Reports are that the improvement was vastly noticeable.
Head coach Todd Lickliter left Butler for Iowa and in his place assistant coach Brad Stevens was promoted. So there is no change in style in what kind of team FSU saw the last time they faced Butler. The Seminoles will see a team that patiently moves the ball around the floor working for the open three or better yet the backdoor play. Never a big team (the Bulldogs have just one player at 6-8), they just play smart ball looking to exploit your slightest mistake.
Thatâs where point guard Mike Green comes in. Leonard Hamilton called Green an âextremely unselfish player who drives the ball hard. He gets everybody in and out of the offense. He's always a threat to take the ball to the basket. He's a set-up guy who's capable of scoring himself.â Green is also second on the team in rebounds with 5.1 rpg.
Green is the perfect compliment to Graves who has the range from anywhere on the floor. Graves is averaging 40% from the arc with the vast majority of his shots coming from long range. While that doesnât get him to the free throw all that often, Graves has missed just two of his 18 free throw attempts.
Off the bench Butler will bring forward Pete Campbell in who is averaging 14.1 ppg good for second on the team.
What Must FSU Do: The âNoles in the last few games have certainly seen a lot of zone defenses and teams that like to backdoor you as was the case with Samford. Now is the time to utilize that experience against a quality team that runs those same schemes.
That will be a challenge with a frontcourt that is thinned and mostly inexperienced. Solomon Alabi, Julian Vaughn, and Jordan DeMercy will get their first taste of a road game that should have a very partisan Butler crowd in attendance. Not getting caught up in the atmosphere will be a test for the three freshmen.
It will be incumbent on the perimeter defense to get in the face of the Bulldog shooters and passers and disrupt the timing at least. Causing turnovers will be difficult as Butler just doesnât give away the ball much at all. The Bulldogs are turning it over just 10 times per game.
Playing smart on defense getting into the right spots on the floor and not getting caught looking the other way at the wrong time will be key for FSU.
Offensively the Seminoles will need some of those threes they launched against Maine.
They should not expect to get the same kind of space for those three ball attempts that the Black Bears afforded them.
And as Hamilton has been trying to do all season, he will try and get as much as he can out of the post positions. It would be a good guess that FSU will try and get the ball inside most likely to Echefu right from the start of the game.
TV Coverage: Those of you who have HD Net or Direct TV will be able to watch the game on the tube.