ACC Team Previews: Florida State SeminolesPosted by mpatton on October 30th, 2012
Throughout the preseason, the ACC microsite will release a preview for each of the 12 teams. Today’s victim: the Florida State Seminoles.
Leonard Hamilton and his team knocked off Duke and North Carolina to become the first ACC champion from somewhere off of Tobacco Road since Maryland in 2004. Hamilton’s team used experience, physical defense and drive to push through the ACC Tournament before falling in a brutal game to Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32. Still, the Seminoles’ triumph earned Hamilton the credibility where it’s time to start accepting his teams as conference contenders — especially when star guard Michael Snaer is at the helm.
This isn’t to say picking Florida State to finish near the top of the league again is a no-brainer; on the contrary, the Seminoles lost six players to graduation, including three starters. Among those leaving were Luke Loucks, the veteran point guard who played the cool foil to Snaer much of last year, and Bernard James, whose shot-blocking and tough defense anchored one of the best defenses in the country.
Five freshmen and a junior college transfer join the Seminoles this season, headlined by Aaron Thomas and Montay Brandon. Brandon, a consensus four-star 6’7″ wing out of Greensboro, North Carolina, looks to be a paradigmatic Hamilton player: He’s very long, athletic and is ready to focus on defense. Thomas was also a consensus four-star recruit and is known as a slasher; he’ll be backing up Florida State’s very talented backcourt this season. His playing time will probably directly correlate to how his defense stacks up with Ian Miller. Devon Bookert and junior college transfer Robert Gilchrist also join the Seminoles, though look for their impact to be somewhat down the road. Bookert is an offensive-minded point guard out of Alaska, and Gilchrist is a skinny forward with terrific length and athleticism. Finally, there are the seven footers Michael Ojo and Boris Bojanovsky. Ojo and Bojanovsky are both very raw, but the Seminoles will need an eraser at the center of Hamilton’s defense, and one or both may play significant time if they can fit that role.
The man to watch is Snaer. He’s the most talented player on Florida State and the most driven player in the conference. He’s a terror on both ends of the floor, and he’s the sole reason I’m picking the Seminoles as second in the ACC. Ian Miller should also see an expanded role from last year. If his defense improved, he’ll be invaluable. Even if not, he’s an offensive spark plug on a team that has struggled to score with consistency. The two x-factor guys are Okaro White and Terrance Shannon, a junior and redshirt junior, respectively. White needs to take over primary post option from James, and I think he’ll rise to the occasion. Shannon redshirted last season after only playing seven games, but those seven games were very promising, as he averaged 8.3 points and 4.4 rebounds in around 17 minutes per contest.
The Seminoles have a strong non-conference schedule that should be a trial by fire for the younger players on the team. Florida State’s three marquee games are a neutral-site date with Brigham Young on November 16, a home Big 10-ACC Challenge battle with a good Minnesota team on November 27, and a home duel with a very good offensive Florida team on December 5. These three games will provide a good benchmark on the team’s progress, though don’t be surprised if the Seminoles lose two or all three. Remember, this is a young team that will take some time to click and work out the kinks.
In conference play the Seminoles drew home-and-homes with NC State, North Carolina and Miami, but they also face Duke at home. If they win four or five of those games, Florida State will have a chance at winning the conference, though this team has a history of disappointing performances against weaker teams (see: Boston College last year).
At the end of the day, this Florida State team may not be better than last year’s group, but one thing the ACC Tournament taught me is never to bet against Michael Snaer. Leonard Hamilton also deserves for people to start accepting his teams as regular contenders (like they’re doing with Duke and North Carolina teams who lost significant pieces), which is why I think the Seminoles will finish second in the regular season at 13-5.