ORLANDO – At about 12:45 a.m. Friday morning, Jarquez Smith and the Florida State men’s basketball team made their way back to FSU’s hotel in downtown Orlando after beating Florida Gulf Coast in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Smith went up to his room, and, before bed, pulled out his iPad. Already waiting for him on the tablet was all the film, tendencies and scouting reports on Xavier that he could handle.
No. 3-seed FSU will meet 11th-seeded Xavier on Saturday with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line, which means the Seminoles don’t have a moment to lose in their preparations.
Throughout the season, Nutt, Suarez and a team of graduate assistants have downloaded, edited and repackaged film for every FSU opponent.
They’ll pore through as many as 10 of each team’s most recent games, with a scope as wide as offensive and defensive philosophies and as narrow as an individual player’s post moves or shooting techniques.
The goal is to be sure that the coaches and players never see anything in a game that catches them by surprise.
Safe to say it’s worked: FSU’s 26 wins this season are the second-most in school history, and the Seminoles are on the verge of a fifth appearance in the Sweet 16.
“They do all the little things that people don’t see,” Smith said. “And it’s the little things that help us win games.”
Once the film is trimmed and ready, it’s then distributed digitally through Synergy Sports Technology, a web-based scouting service that’s used by every NBA team as well as several WNBA teams and NCAA programs.
Each player has the Synergy app on his iPad and can get new clips almost instantaneously.
“We have a lot of good equipment, to start with,” said Nutt, a former head coach at Arkansas State who joined FSU’s staff in 2015. “We’re able to go in and watch every NCAA basketball game in America. And right now, we’re zeroing in on the opponents in our brackets, that we could potentially play.”
And thanks to the tireless efforts of FSU’s video operations staff, headed by director Dickey Nutt and assistant director Bobby Suarez, the Seminoles didn’t waste a single second.
“As we laid in our beds, getting ready to go to sleep, they already had things for us to watch on Xavier,” Smith said. “Plays they like to run, how their big guys like to rebound, what type of shots their guards take. Things that are going to happen in the game, and that we have to be prepared for.”
It’s one of the hallmarks of March Madness: quick turnarounds, unfamiliar opponents and coaching staffs scrambling between games to make sure their players are as ready as possible for what lies ahead.
For Florida State, however, it’s nothing new.
Dickey Nutt helped lead Arkansas State to the NCAA tournament in 1999. He joined FSU’s staff as video coordinator in 2015.
The Seminoles’ game against Xavier will come quickly, but the film and scouting work for the Musketeers has been finished for several days.
Suarez, a Florida Gulf Coast graduate in his fourth year at FSU, said the video staff divided its time evenly between FGCU, Xavier and Maryland once the NCAA tournament bracket was revealed.
“Ten minutes after, we left Buffalo Wild Wings (where the team held its watch party) and just started,” Suarez said. “We started Xavier at the same time. Obviously, Florida Gulf Coast had first priority, but you have to hop on that.”
Suarez estimated that full scouting reports take about 12 hours per team to complete. And, in the case of the NCAA tournament, the video staff knows that several of those reports won’t be needed.
They’ve already discarded their work on Maryland, which was upset by Xavier on Thursday. And as Suarez turns his gaze toward other teams in the NCAA west region – work has already begun on Gonzaga, Arizona and Saint Mary’s – he knows that much of those efforts won’t ever see the light of day.
That said, there are worse ways to spend a few hours.
“I watch basketball all day, so that’s fun,” Suarez said with a laugh. “Nothing wrong with that.”
The video staff’s work might not show up on a TV broadcast or in a box score, but their efforts have hardly gone unnoticed in the FSU locker room.
Assistant coach Charlton Young, who handled scouting duties for Xavier, called Suarez’s and Nutt’s work “invaluable,” and compared the two to a fighter pilot’s wingmen.
The system works, Young said, because both Suarez and Nutt have an intimate knowledge of FSU’s system, and they can tailor every report to the tastes of whichever coach is scouting an individual opponent.
“Coach Nutt and Bobby, they already have three or four suggestions before I start my scout on what I should look for or look at,” Young said.
“Now, I may look at it and say, ‘No, fellas, that’s not what I’m looking for.’ Or I may look at it and say, ‘Man, you saved my life. That’s the answer.’ And that happens a bunch, because we’ve got a chemistry.”
And if there’s anything a coach or player wants that they don’t have, Suarez will get it to them in short order.
Perhaps the best aspect of the Synergy system is that it can be accessed from anywhere. Suarez can log in from home, pull the clip he needs and then send it through the cloud to a player waiting at his apartment.
Or, if need be, a hotel room in the middle of the night.
“Bobby and Coach Nutt do an amazing job for us,” FSU junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes said. “They do such a great job of preparing us in the right ways and giving us all the right information that we need in order to be successful.
“Bobby’s huge for us, and we’re lucky to have a guy like that.”