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What We’ve Learned: Florida State can play defense. To be frank, this team is hardly recognizable . Save for one snail-paced loss to Virginia, the Seminoles had given up at least 73 points in every game since Christmas. In those 19 games (including Virginia), they allowed an average of 80.6 points per game while opponents shot 41.2 percent from three-point range. Now, out of nowhere, they are holding good three-point shooting teams to 61.3 points per game.
We’ve also been repeatedly reminded just how deep this team is. Florida State’s bench is averaging 39.3 points per tournament game. Against Gonzaga, 10 Seminoles played at least 10 minutes, and 11 scored at least two points. It was a similar story in the first two rounds. What they lack in star power, they make up for with a ton of viable scoring options.
Most Outstanding Player Candidate: Mfiondu Kabengele. It’s tough to come up with an MOP option for Florida State. It’s a different star every night, and even at that, no Seminole has scored more than 18 points in a game since the regular season ended. But with a hat tip to Braian Angola, we’re going with Kabengele. The freshman forward had 14 points and 12 rebounds in the opener against Missouri and blocked four shots in just 14 minutes of action against Gonzaga. He has been a game-changer off the bench for Leonard Hamilton.
X-Factor: Three-point defense and free-throw shooting. Those were the biggest concerns about Florida State heading into the tournament, but neither has been a problem. Opponents have shot a combined 18-of-57 (31.6 percent) from downtown. And while the ‘Noles weren’t great from the charity stripe in comfortable wins over Missouri and Gonzaga, they made 19 of 22 (86.4 percent) in the comeback win over Xavier. Without those Achilles’ heels hindering them, they have looked nothing like a typical No. 9 seed. But will it continue?
Championship Blueprint: Keep winning with defense and diversified offense. Both Missouri and Gonzaga had an absolute nightmare of a time trying to score against Florida State’s long and athletic line of defense, which has recorded at least 14 combined steals and blocks in each game. Meanwhile, the Seminoles have been getting contributions from all over on offense, which keeps everyone fresh while making them tough to defend.
We haven’t seen them play like this since early December, but it has been nice (albeit not for their opponents) to get another glimpse of the team that began the season 9-0 with an average margin of victory of 20.1 points per game.