Forgotten Florida State Still Very Much a ContenderPosted by Matthew Auerbach on March 10th, 2017
It has been said, often with a pejorative undertone, that there aren’t many teams that look better getting off the bus than Florida State. If the second half of Thursday night’s ACC quarterfinal was any indication, you’d be hard pressed to find many teams who look better on the court either. Down a bucket at the half, the Seminoles utilized a pair of dominant scoring runs to dispatch a game Virginia Tech squad to advance to tonight’s ACC Tournament semifinals. The second-tallest team in college basketball, Florida State played to its strengths in bullying the smaller Hokies, snatching 18 offensive rebounds to eventually wear them down. And while Virginia Tech mostly employed a lineup with its tallest player standing at just 6’7”, there just aren’t many teams in the national landscape that can match the overwhelming size and depth that Leonard Hamilton has at his disposal.
Depth tends to get overvalued at this time of year, but there is something to be said for the quality of Florida State’s roster that 12 guys can see action without performance dipping. With 10 players averaging double-figure minutes, the Seminoles not only have the sufficient confidence and trust that comes with so much shared on-court experience, but they can also separate themselves in one essential regard. At this time of year, a team can’t just win with bodies — it needs guys who can take over a game. And within Hamilton’s lengthy rotation, he has three such players.
Freshman Jonathan Isaac, a surefire lottery selection thanks to his acumen on the perimeter and ability to attack the glass, showed off all of those skills in producing the seventh double-double of his rookie campaign. Conspicuous by his absence in the first 20 minutes, leading scorer Dwayne Bacon notched 15 of his team-high 17 points in the second half, right at his season average. And then there is junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes, whose floor game, highlighted by a game-high six assists, steadied the Seminoles in the victory. Behind these three are not just supporting players, but dudes, elite athletes who can defend, attack the glass and make open shots. After a 16-1 start and #6 national ranking, it was easy to forget about Florida State when it closed in an uninspiring fashion, losing six of its final 14 games with a handful of curious losses. Last night was a nice reminder of what this team is capable of.
It’s impossible to predict which team will eventually end Florida State’s season, but it says here that it won’t be one that utilizes a small lineup. The Seminoles are just too physically imposing to lose that way. They are unrelenting on the glass, and the length and agility of their big men doesn’t leave them as susceptible to guarding the perimeter as many other big (and slow) lineups. This team is just very unique at the collegiate level. And in tournament play with a quick turnaround, Hamilton’s ability to call on every man wearing a garnet and gold uniform gives him a significant advantage. We will see how that plays for Florida State in a back-to-back setting, starting tonight in the second semifinal.