The 'Nole cagers are 1-0 to start the 2015-2016 basketball season, having easily dispatched of the Nicholls State Colonels at the Tucker Center in Tallahassee Sunday afternoon by a 109-62 score. FSU cruised in this one, so we didn't get the chance to see how they played down the stretch in a close contest, but we nevertheless learned a few things about the Seminoles.
Florida State was extremely impressive -- and played very fast -- in a pair of exhibition wins over Lynn and Southeastern. In those tune-ups, the 'Noles put up 114 and 117 points, respectively. But was the FSU we saw then indicative of what could be in the regular season? It appears so. The Seminoles opened it up again vs. NSU, posting a 60-32 halftime lead before finishing in triple digits for just the fourth time since 1999. Yes, it was "just" Nicholls State, but Florida State has played similar competition to open other seasons and not looked nearly as sharp or explosive.
How did FSU score 109? Well, their impressive freshman class did a ton of scoring-- actually, most of it. Dwayne Bacon led FSU with 23 and already plays with the confidence of an upperclassman; the multifaceted Malik Beasley followed with 21. In all, the Florida State freshmen combined for 62 points-- as many as the entire Nicholls State team.
This production from the talented new 'Noles allowed point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes to concentrate more on running the offense and distributing instead of having to initiate and finish for FSU on offense, a role he was essentially forced into last season. His final line on Sunday is more of what you can look for this year: his 11 points and 11 assists constituted his second career double-double.
But as good as this team looked, it can get a lot better, as coach Leonard Hamilton mentioned after the game that FSU is still searching for its identity. That most readily applies on the defensive end of the floor, where these players still need to acclimate to each other and get better at team defense. That said, the Seminoles' present defensive shortcomings are in no way tied to a lack of effort, as this team plays very hard-- which helps explain Florida State's 11 steals. The results on the boards, another issue during the exhibition season, also improved, as the 'Noles doubled up NSU on the glass, 42-21.
Which brings us to a broader point with which I'll close: no matter what type of success Florida State may experience this season, there's little reason to expect that effort to abate. With a team this deep (FSU played ten guys on Sunday), players will have to compete relentlessly, in not only games but practices as well, or risk losing minutes to other similarly talented options.