I initially set out to develop an introduction to my "Jam with Coach Ham" review. It turned into this massive 1500 word monster that I thought needed it's own fanpost.
Its that time of the year again. In a little less than a month we'll be cheering the Garnet and Gold on both the gridiron and the hardwood. We'll be singing the fight song after touchdowns and big time three pointers. For the first time in what seems like forever, both the basketball and the football teams are poised for legitimate post season appearances. No longer is basketball season used as a psychological coping mechanism to get our minds off of another disappointing football season. This time it's icing on the cake.
In case you don't remember, the Noles are coming off of a somewhat schizophrenic season leaving fans wondering whether they should call it a success or failure. The team had a regular season that achieved all that we could hope for. The Seminoles went 22-8 in the regular season with a 10-6 record in ACC play that was good enough for 4th in the conference. They played well against ranked team with two wins against Georgia Tech and losses against Big Ten Champion Ohio State and National Champion Duke. Ohio State was one of two losses against out-of-conference opponents, the other being at UF.
All of this success is set against a backdrop of failure. Once again the Seminoles' offense was clearly disjointed and unproductive especially when juxtaposed against the excellent, stifling defense. The Seminoles rarely broke 80 points against any legitimate opponent and only had two players that broke double figures in points per game (Alabi- 11.7; Singleton- 10.2). A lack of a go to scorer, poor ball movement (only 13.9 assists per game), and failure to take care of the ball (16.9 turnovers per game) that doomed Florida State's post season dreams. Losses against North Carolina State (58-52; Alabi only player in double figures with 13pts; 8 assists vs 20 turnovers) in our first game of the ACC tournament and Gonzaga (67-60; Alabi and Dulkys in double figures with 13 and 14 pts respectively; a better 15 assists vs 8 turnovers) were bitter disappointments for Seminole fans that expected a longer post season .
The team lost two veteran big men from last years roster including leading scorer and shot blocker Solomon Alabi. While Alabi was one of the most efficient offensive players last year (#1 on team .596 true shooting %; #4 on team .534 efg%), he never demanded the ball enough (7.8 field goal attempts per game) which negated his offensive talent, considering his ability to make free throws, and destroyed the team's offensive philosophy which seemed to organize itself around slowing the game down and using height as an advantage. Solomon's offensive inconsistency and failure to live up to his potential will always haunt Florida State fans as they watched a talented center with great footwork, an offensive game, and free throw shooting that provided a bonus in crunch time, make a minimal impact on the college game before entering into the draft too early (based on skill developed and being drafted with the 50th overall pick despite early projections in the late lotto). Currently Alabi is on the Toronto Raptors with an non-guaranteed contract. Through four preseason games, Alabi has failed to impress and has been completely outplayed by 2002 draftee David Anderson.
The other loss came from perennial hustle/energy guy, Ryan Reid. Though he didn't have the talent and height of Alabi, Reid brought senior leadership and good defense off of the bench. His 6.8 ppg and 4 rebounds per game shouldn't be difficult to replace.
Though we're losing experience, height, potential, and our focal point both offensively and defensively from the 2009-2010 season, Florida State fans have a lot to be excited about. The core of our team gets significantly older. Our rotation should include 1 Senior (Guard- Derwin Kitchen), 6 Juniors (Guards- Luke Loucks, Deividas Dulkys; Forward- Chris Singleton; Forward/Center-Xavier Gibson, Bernard James, Jon Kreft), 2 Sophomores (Guard- Michael Snaer; Forward/Center Terrance Shannon), and 2 Freshman (Guard- Ian Miller; Forward- Okaro White).
Of the four new comers (Jucos- James, Kreft; Freshman-Miller, White), Ian Miller (6'2 180) should have the most impact immediately. Miller provides a style of play that the Seminoles lacked last year after the departure of Toney Douglas. Miller can hit three's, play either guard slot, use his athleticism to drive to the basket and play above the rim, play great defense, and create by himself. If he lives up to the hype he should get a lot of minutes and supplant either Kitchen or Dulkys in the starting lineup.
Okaro White (6'8 185) is a raw prospect that is working on developing his outside game. He seems to be the heir to Chris Singleton's role as a defensive stopper at both forward positions. He might not get many minutes at the beginning of the season.
Jon Kreft (7'0 240) was originally a part of FSU's 2006 class before a cocaine possession charge. He is a talented Center with a variety of post moves. He has two years of eligibility and is already 22 (I think).
Bernard James (6'9 240) is PF/C and will probably replace Ryan Reid on the roster. He's a former Staff Sargent in the U.S. Air Force and is 25 years old. He's a very powerful player and his background should provide leadership and focus to the roster.
The way the talent is spread out on our roster I eventually expect this rotation:
C- Xavier Gibson Jon Kreft/Bernard James
PF- Chris Singleton Terrence Shannon/Bernard James
SF- Michael Snaer Chris Singleton/Okaro White
SG- Ian Miller Deividas Dulkys/Snaer
PG- Derwin Kitchen Luke Loucks/Miller
That's an 11 man rotation. I know we'll play at least 9 with Shannon and White probably being left out. Shannon might get beat out of his spot by James. James provides the strength and grittiness that we don't have anywhere else on the roster. White might not play that much his freshman year due to his low weight.
The benefit's of playing with this type of rotation is we have a lot of multi-positional players who should be able to fill a lane in an up tempo type of offense. With two ball handlers and (essentially) two small forwards in the lineup we should be able to use our athleticism and out run the other team. This type of offense might increase our turnovers, but it will also increase our possessions (problem last season, we turned the ball over a lot and slowed the game down so we only had 68 possessions per game). With everyone being able to play multiple positions we're better able to "ride the hot hand" while still rotating players in.
Hopefully we choose to exploit our athleticism by using this type of offense instead of messing around in an "ISO" set where one player gets the ball and the rest clear out and let him go to work.
Expectations for this season: Well, we finished last year 22-10 overall. We gained a lot of talent. We play a very tough schedule this year though. We face UF (Andy Katz has them at #10, Pat Forde #9, Vitale #8), Ohio State (Katz #6, Forde #8, Vitale #4) and potentially Baylor in the Diamond Head Classic (Katz #4, Forde somewhere between 11-23, Vitale #11). We also play National Championship winner Duke (Katz #1, Forde #2, Vitale #1) once in Tallahassee, potential #1 pick Harrison Barnes and UNC (Katz #11, Forde btw 11-23, Vitale #10) twice, Virginia Tech (Katz #22, Forde btw 11-23, Vitale #24) and the rest of the ACC.
Vitale ranks his top 40. We're #34, Maryland is #38, and Miami is #40.
These are just opinions but you can see we're a far cry from the 4 ranked teams we played last year.
Even with this extremely tough schedule we have the potential to finish somewhere between 3rd and 7th in conference. I think its almost impossible to make a lot of noise in the ACC this year, but finishing in the top half almost guarantees a spot in the NCAA tournament. I think 22 or 23 wins isn't out of the realm of possibility. Wake Forest, Maryland, and Georgia Tech lost a ton of talent. I think we have a talented conference but a top heavy conference. We should be able to sneak into the #4 spot like we did last year. We can lose the 4 games against Duke, UNC, and VT and still be in pretty good shape vs the rest of the ACC. The real goal shouldn't be where we fall in the ACC standings, it needs to be making a tournament run. I'm not asking for a Final Four appearance, but a first round win and a close second round loss would be a breath of fresh air for Florida State fans.