ACC Team Preview: Florida State SeminolesPosted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 4th, 2013
The 2012-13 Florida State Seminoles could best be described as one of the luckiest unlucky teams in recent ACC history. Coming off the school’s first ACC basketball championship the year prior, the Seminoles only returned four players and two of those suffered through difficult, injury-plagued seasons. Terrance Shannon and Ian Miller combined to miss 16 games and were never at 100 percent for the rest. Freshman Devon Bookert didn’t miss any games but was hobbled for the first half of the season while recovering from a preseason knee injury.
Now for the lucky part – Florida State’s record in close games. Counting a 73-69 win over Clemson in the ACC Tournament, the Seminoles were 9-1 in ACC games decided by five points or less. In games decided by three points or fewer, they were 6-0. Michael Snaer’s clutch play was certainly a factor in that record, but in those one-possession games you can’t just look at the last shot of the game. In such tight contests, any single possession throughout the game may have changed the outcome. That means one shot that rattled in instead of out, one bad call by an official, or one bounce of the ball off a random leg could make the difference in the game.
ESPN Insider John Gasaway looked at this in detail and wrote, “Indeed it’s not too much to say that Florida State was historically lucky in 2012-13, posting a 9-9 record in ACC play when the Seminoles’ level of performance would ordinarily fetch the team a 5-13 mark, or even quite possibly 4-14. Statistically, it was the most fortunate conference season recorded by any ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12 or SEC team in the last four seasons, meaning what the Seminoles did ranks No. 1 on a list with no fewer than 295 team-seasons.” Wow.
Newcomers. Before we present those who will be joining the team this year, we should also mention who won’t be on the squad. Although Florida State was regarded as a possible leader for the #1 player in the nation, Andrew Wiggins instead opted to play for Kansas this season. Then to make matters worse, four-star recruit Xavier Rathan-Mayes was ruled academically ineligible and will have to sit out. That leaves 6’9″ Jarquez Smith as the only recruited freshman — he is regarded as a possible defensive standout with his length and shot-blocking ability. Also joining the Seminoles will be 6’6″ Brandon Allen, who has spent the past three seasons playing minor league baseball. He was an all-state hoopster in Florida as a high school senior but not highly recruited at the time.
Returnees. In senior Okaro White, Leonard Hamilton has a versatile forward to build around. White is one of the most efficient offensive players in the ACC, as his 117.6 Offensive Rating shows, and he should be able to handle a greater leadership role this year. Collectively, the four new post players last year struggled. Seven-footers Kiel Turpin and Boris Bojanovsky have added strength, while Michael Ojo and Robert Gilchrist will be more comfortable with the Seminoles’ system. It’s important that at least two of them emerge for Florida State to becoming a post-dominant team. The backcourt should also be much improved, with healthy guards Miller and Bookert joining sophomore wings Montay Brandon and Aaron Thomas.
Potential Breakout Player. Look for Devon Bookert to emerge as one of the better young guards in the league this year. Once he got healthy last season, he became a starter and averaged 10 PPG in FSU’s last eight games. For the season Bookert shot 32-of-61 from three-point range, and had a decent assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.40. If the sophomore Bookert can bring stability to the point guard position, all the other roles on the team will be easier to establish. This makes him the key to the Seminoles’ season.
Schedule. Florida State has a challenging non-conference schedule, including road games at Florida, Central Florida and Minnesota. It also draws VCU in the first round of the Puerto Rico Shootout. The conference schedule includes two games each with Clemson, Miami, Virginia, and Maryland, which of course means only one meeting each with Duke, Syracuse and North Carolina. The Seminoles begin ACC play with four winnable games starting with Virginia, followed by a trip to Clemson, Maryland at home, and then at Miami. A good start is possible and probably vital to achieve a high league finish and a shot at postseason play.
Overall Outlook. It’s quite likely that Florida State will be a better team this season. It’s also likely that it will have to be much better in order to reach a .500 record again. The key thing to watch on offense is turnovers. As mentioned in a previous article, ball-handling was a huge problem for almost the entire team last year. If the Seminoles want to get back to their traditional stifling defense, the returning big men must show tremendous improvement. Despite being one of the tallest teams in the country, Florida State was only average in two-point field goal percentage defense and was the worst team in the ACC in defensive rebounding. This is one of the hardest teams to gauge because so many returning players have potential for improvement, but we can’t be sure if this is the year that they make that leap.