ACC Burning Questions: Florida State Seminoles

Posted by Matt Auerbach on November 8th, 2017

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Will the Seminoles have enough left to overcome the departures of last year’s leading triumvirate?

Few teams nationally will have to cope with the task of replacing as much lost production as Florida State. With the early defections of freshman phenom Jonathan Isaac (picked sixth by Orlando), sophomore Dwayne Bacon (second round, now with Charlotte) and junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes (G-League), Seminoles’ head coach Leonard Hamilton bid adieu to the three players most responsible for last year’s 26-win campaign (second most in school history) and second place ACC finish. By the numbers, the group accounted for an astounding 47 percent of Florida State’s points, 38 percent of its rebounds, 52 percent of the assists and 41 percent of the steals. Daunting as it is to replace all of that output, the statistics that best elucidate the value of the big three come from their exorbitant usage rates. A resounding 48 percent of Florida State’s shot attempts (including 57 percent of those hoisted beyond the arc) emanated from the hands of Isaac, Bacon and Rathan-Mayes.

The player most likely to yield a major uptick in production is 6’4” junior sharpshooter PJ Savoy. (Logan Bowles/USA TODAY Sports)

The good news for the glass half-full crowd is that Hamilton returns six players who averaged double-figure minutes a season ago. Junior Terrance Mann is the most notable and accomplished of the returnees, having started all but one game as a sophomore. The versatile 6’6” wing trailed only the aforementioned three in scoring, tallying an efficient eight points per game while ranking 89th nationally in effective field goal percentage. Sophomore southpaw CJ Walker, who averaged a touch under five points per game while handling reserve point guard duties, will be handed the keys to the offense. Walker proved skillful and capable of providing an explosive spark off the bench a year ago, but he’ll need to combine that scoring punch with an adroitness in setting the table for his teammates this season.

The player most likely to yield a major uptick in production is 6’4” junior sharpshooter PJ Savoy. In his first season in Tallahassee, Savoy managed to fire off 100 three-point attempts in 227 minutes, connecting on 40 of those tries. Another potential sniper will be senior Braian Angola, who made 42 percent of his shots from beyond the arc a year ago, highlighted by a career-high 17-point game (including four threes) in an ACC Tournament semifinal loss to Notre Dame. The massive offensive contributions of the departed stars shouldn’t discount how vital those three, along with the graduated Michael Ojo, were on the defensive end of the floor. On that front, sophomore Trent Forrest, who was the first freshman in school history to lead the team in steals since Charlie Ward, freakishly athletic but oft-injured senior Phil Cofer, and 7’4” Christ Koumadje, have the size and ability to mitigate the losses from a squad that resulted in Hamilton’s most efficient defensive group since 2012.

McDonald’s All-American M.J. Walker is the headliner of a class that will infuse the Seminoles with their new talent. At 6’5”, Walker combines the requisite size, skill and elite athleticism that will make him a nightmare match-up at the collegiate level. Seven-foot center Ike Obiagu projects as an imposing rim protector, while 6’8” Raiquan Gray brings a versatility capable of affecting the game both on the perimeter and in the paint. With far less expected from Hamilton’s 16th team at Florida State, this sets up as a season that meshes better with the head coach’s easygoing personality. Last year’s team occasionally dealt with competing personal agendas that trumped the importance of the team but this year’s group should have none of that. Roles will be better defined, and with a roster that is still brimming with size, skill and athleticism in the Hamilton mold, it isn’t a colossal stretch to think that Florida State will be pondering whether losing that tremendous trio turned out to be addition by subtraction.

Matthew Auerbach (70 Posts)

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