The first two keys to the season came on the defensive end. You can read part 1 and part 2. Now we move to the other side of the floor, where one word sums up the concept: Attack.
This team has a chance to have a really good offense, and could be better than last year's (which was in the 85th percentile nationally). The key is versatility. They can run traditional 3-out, 2-in sets and then switch to a 4-1 or even a 5-0 with one substitution. They can go big at 7-3, 6-9, 6-8, 6-5, 6-4, or go to a four guard lineup at 7-0, 6-8, 6-5, 6-4, 6-3. The team has slashers, shooters, guys who can go get missed shots.
But to make something out of all of these parts, FSU has to be able to get to the line. The key to the offense starts with attacking the rim. This could come from bigs getting position on the block, from pick-and-rolls, or from guards just beating their man.
Before the current crop of juniors made it to campus, Leonard Hamilton's teams had only twice in ten years been among the nation's 100 best teams in free throw rate (No. 93 in Toney's senior year, and No. 21 in Al's junior year). In the past two years FSU has been No. 57 and No. 51.
Last year the Noles made 101 more free throws than their opponents. That 2.8 points per game over the competition is fantastic, but more importantly the action to draw those fouls opens up the entire offense, most importantly, the 3-pt shot.
Last year - as a team - FSU made 40% of their 3s in conference play, which led the league. In four NIT games they made 47%. But two of the top shooters - Ian Miller (40%) and Okaro White (37.5%) - are now gone.
FSU still has Aaron Thomas, who shot 37% last year, and of course Devon Bookert, who is the top 3-pt shooter in program history (46.6%). But where are the rest of the 3s going to come from? Xavier Rathan-Mayes certainly has the stroke, but that doesn't always immediately translate to the college level. Robbie Berwick can light it up as well, but will he get the minutes? How many will Jarquez make?
Getting to the line and 3-point shooting are two results which originate from the same offensive actions - it starts with the ball-handler getting his feet in the paint.
If the Noles find themselves on the right side of the bubble in March it will likely mean that FSU is among the league leaders at getting to the line and knocking down 3s.
The season tips off on Saturday at 1pm against a very good Manhattan team.