| ||Rebuilding. Coaches hate to hear that word, because what it really means is, "We're going to have to scramble for everything, and even if we play well we can lose." Florida State and Northwestern are both rebuilding this season.
The good news is that Steve Robinson and Kevin O'Neill are both good coaches who recruit and teach very well. They will not be rebuilding for long, and each team will play hard every game out (which cannot be said about every program).
When Florida State has the ball
Florida State runs a spread, pass-and-cut offense after running a very solid secondary break. The Seminoles run some set plays that go right into their motion, and some quick hitters. The key to Florida State's success will be point guard Devlon Arrington, a rapidly developing speedster out of St. Anthony's High School in New Jersey. Arrington was one of the top assist men in the ACC last season and is very quick with the ball. He makes good decisions for the most part, and can really push the ball upcourt. The only downside to Arrington is that he cannot shoot the ball.
When Arrington has the ball, he often looks for Ron Hale, a skilled athletic small forward who can spot up or take defenders off the dribble. Hale is very good in transition, and has true inside-outside ability. Hale is the Seminoles' best instinctive rebounder, although Damous Anderson will give Hale a run for that distinction this year. Anderson, the cousin of former NBAer Willie Anderson and current Houston Rocket Shandon Anderson, and can score very effectively on the baseline. Anderson had 23 points and 9 rebounds against Duke and attacks the hole and finishes plays.
Players to watch
Florida State's Ron Hale and Northwestern's Steve Lepore. If you want to stop Northwestern, the first order of business is to stop Lepore, a good shooter with good instincts on getting open. Lepore has a nice release, and can knock down shots in a hurry.
Hale is the unsung hero of this Florida State team, and one of the more underrated performers in the ACC.
Oliver Simmons, Justin Mott and Ronald Thompson all return, and Adrian Crawford will be counted on to step forward this season. Crawford is a lefty and a streaky shooter who can put points on the board in a hurry. Antwan Dixon is a very good athlete who could see more action this season. Dixon is a former high school teammate of Georgia sophomore D.A. Layne, so he knows how to play without the ball. Robinson has some new faces that are large, including Mike Matthews, Nigel Dixon and David Anderson, all above 6-10.
When Northwestern has the ball
Kevin O'Neill joked that there is one thing his team does well, and that's turn the ball over. O'Neill has done wonders with the Northwestern program, but this will be a lean season without Evan Eschmeyer. The key performers should be Steve Lepore, David Newman and Tavaras Hardy. O'Neill will also rely on Ben Johnson, Brody Deren, Winston Blake and Jason Burke to play some minutes, but it is unknown how they will fare once the lights are turned on.
Northwestern struggled to beat Chicago State on Nov. 23, and Chicago State won only three games in 1999. O'Neill used eight players against Chicago State, and four were freshmen. Northwestern is having to deal with the unexpected departures of Sean Wink, Aron Molnar and Danny Allouche.
Bilas' breakdown: Wisconsin vs. Wake Forest
Bilas' breakdown: Duke vs. Illinois
Bilas' breakdown: Iowa vs. Maryland
Bilas' breakdown: Virginia vs. Minnesota
Bilas' breakdown: Michigan State vs. North Carolina
Bilas' breakdown: N.C. State vs. Purdue
Bilas' breakdown: Michigan vs. Georgia Tech
Bilas' breakdown: Clemson vs. Penn State