Wednesday, December 18, 2013

season preview: Florida State

Media prediction: 9th of 15

Last season:

Record: 18-16 (9-9); ACC 6th seed
Postseason: NIT 4 seed; lost in first round
KenPom: 121st of 347

Returning scoring: 64.4%
Returning rebounding: 69.9%
Returning assists: 69.6%

2012-2013 all-ACC:

1st team: none
2nd team: none
3rd teamG Michael Snaer
HM: none
Defensive: none
Rookie: none

(Italics indicate departed player.)

Starting lineup:

PG: Devon Bookert (So.)
SG: Montay Brandon (So.)
SF: Okaro White (Sr.)
PF: Robert Gilchrist (Sr.)
C: Boris Bojanovsky (So.)


G Ian Miller (Sr.)
G Aaron Thomas (So.)
C Michael Ojo (So.)
F Jarquez Smith (Fr.)

Coach: Leonard Hamilton (12th season)

ACC schedule:

Twice: Clemson, Maryland, Miami, VirginiaOnce: Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, NC State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

With their string of four NCAA appearances broken last year and a predicted 9th place ACC finish this year, it'd be fair to wonder if FSU has begun to peak under Leonard Hamilton.  Hamilton has always had defense-first teams, and there aren't any defensive all-stars like Chris Singleton or Bernard James populating the roster this year.

However.  What is populating the roster is size at every position.  Florida State is simply an immense team, among the very biggest in the country.  That's going a long way toward their defensive efficiency so far this year.  They might be even bigger if ever 7-foot center Kiel Turpin can return from a nagging knee injury; Turpin's return would give the Noles a practically unprecedented three seven-footers in the rotation.

The other two are sophomores Boris Bojanovsky and Michael Ojo.  Neither are big pieces of the FSU offense, but Bojanovsky is shooting .784 so far this year and could be an all-ACC talent, easy, if he played more aggressively.  Both are tremendous shot-blockers, of course, and Ojo clocks in at a whopping 292 pounds, making him a defensive brick wall.

The frontcourt is rounded out by forwards Okaro White and Robert Gilchrist, both seniors (though Gilchrist was a juco transfer last season.)  White is FSU's primary frontcourt scorer and capable of playing small forward, sprinkling in a few three-pointers into his game.  FSU is closer to their full potential when White can play the three, so while Gilchrist is only a minor scorer, his ability to defend the four has been huge for the Noles.  Freshman Jarquez Smith gets a few spot minutes here and there but isn't quite ready for the prime time.

FSU's size doesn't stop in the frontcourt.  Shooting guard Montay Brandon is 6'7"; he was a near-disaster as a point guard last year but has found a home off the ball and is a solid complementary scorer.  Devin Bookert, his rotation partner last season, has stuck at the point and is pretty large for a PG himself at 6'3" - the smallest in FSU's rotation.

The top scorer, though, comes off the bench.  Ian Miller hasn't started a game, but he's third on the team in minutes, thanks to his ability to play either the one or the two pretty efficiently.  Miller isn't especially great at any one thing but does almost everything fairly well, both on offense and defense.  Also a high scorer for FSU is Aaron Thomas, who, like Miller, sees starters' minutes off the bench.

As you'd expect out of a team as big as FSU, they get most of their scoring inside, and it helps that they're overall a good free-throw shooting team too.  They shoot fewer threes than most teams, as none of them are deadeye shots from long range.  The highest percentage belongs to White at .421, but he's very selective; it would come down quickly if he shot more of them.

The lack of a true go-to guy may hurt them at times in ACC play.  Scoring is well-balanced, with Miller, White, Thomas, and Brandon all in double digits, but having no takeover player has already cost them in close games against good teams that they couldn't crush with their defense.  Losses to Florida and Michigan were heartbreakers, in which FSU couldn't respond fast enough when the opponents figured out their defense.  That defense and size should probably help them outperform 9th-place expectations in the league, but they'll struggle to crack the upper echelon and will spend the year floating perilously on the bubble.

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