The FSU basketball squad finished up the exhibition portion of its schedule 2-0 on Monday night, downing the Southeastern University Fire 117-76. We learned a little bit more about this year's iteration of Florida State basketball in what should be an exciting year for the Seminole cagers.
- This team looks to be quite balanced, as the 'Noles don't go to any one player to either score or rebound. Seven different 'Noles finished with double-digit points, as freshman Malik Beasley lead the way with 23. Also in double-figures were Devon Bookert (18), Dwayne Bacon (17), Jarquez Smith (14), Boris Bojanovsky (12), Phil Cofer (10), and Terance Mann (10).
- No Seminole had more than five rebounds, with three different players snagging that many (Beasley, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, and Mann). But perhaps FSU could use a dominant player on the glass, as they were out-rebounded by the Fire, 36-34. The rebounding should improve when the 'Noles return Montay Brandon and Michael Ojo, neither of whom played tonight, due to injury. Head Coach Leonard Hamilton said afterward that he's envisioning a nine or ten-man rotation for Florida State.
- And they all need to improve from the free-throw line. After shooting 60% from the charity stripe against Lynn University in their first exhibition, the Seminoles actually regressed, converting on just 57.9% of opportunities from the line. Hamilton insists that this is a better FT-shooting squad than that, but practice results mean nothing if they can't be translated to games-- much less exhibitions.
- But while FSU struggles when things are slowed to a halt at the foul line, it's excelling at tempo, averaging 115.5 points over its two exhibition games. And don't think that's necessarily an aberration-- Hamilton confirmed that he wants this team to play fast, which makes sense, given the athleticism of the newcomers and the depth that he plans on using.
- Perhaps most impressive about these 'Noles is the fact that while they're playing fast, they're nevertheless playing clean. Florida State had just five turnovers all night, compared to 28 assists, a fantastic ratio that will precipitate success more often than not. Leading the way was XRM, who did exactly what you want from your point guard: he distributed to his talented playmakers extremely efficiently, notching 12 assists to just two turnovers. I asked Bookert after the game how he could explain so few mistakes, despite FSU's frenetic speed, and his response should be quite encouraging to Florida State fans: "That's just the pace we're comfortable in playing." This is beyond heartening, as it demonstrates how this style isn't being forced on the team, but rather an organic manifestation of its strengths.
- And despite their propensity for scoring, these Seminoles are far from a solely offensive-minded team. FSU plays energetically on defense, and that showed vs. Southeastern. Although the Fire's field goal percentage of 42% was higher than Hamilton would like it, he chalked this up to correctable mental errors like not sealing the baseline and rotation issues. Still, the 'Noles forced 19 turnovers, including 12 steals, while also blocking nine shots.
The regular season commences on Sunday afternoon at 3 pm, when Florida State will host Nicholls State at the Tucker Center in Tallahassee.