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FSU basketball: Observations from the sideline

A few thoughts from Florida State's opening exhibition win on Monday.

Leonard Hamilton
Leonard Hamilton
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The 'Noles returned to the hardwood last night, hosting the Lynn University Fighting Knights at the Tucker Center in Tallahassee. FSU had no trouble with Lynn in the 114-68 blowout victory, but we were able to glean a few things about this iteration of Seminole basketball, however early on it may be.

  • Florida State is a young team, with five first-year scholarship players-- and that youth can play. Although the 7' 4" Chris Koumadje is recovering from injury and did not participate, the other newcomers (freshmen Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley, who started, Terance Mann, and junior transfer Benji Bell) combined for 42 points. That's 42.9% of FSU's total points scored.
  • And that young talent is balanced, too. Although Bacon and Beasley received the lion's share of the hype as the season has approached, head coach Leonard Hamilton is also big on the toughness of Bell, and one could argue, through the Jam with Ham event and this opening scrimmage, that Mann has stolen the spotlight with his all-around play and impressive physique.
  • These 'Noles hit the boards hard-- but need to do so smarter. Florida State amassed an impressive 57 rebounds in the contest to the Knights' 33, but it's worth noting that the latter only feature three players taller than 6-5. However, FSU allowed 17 offensive boards, often due to simply rushing toward the rim and not finding a man to box out. It is, however, worth mentioning that 13 of those offensive rebounds came in the first half, so the Seminoles seemed to address the issue at the half.
  • Florida State played cleaner than it did for much of last season, turning the ball over just 11 times all night. With the game played at a breakneck, 80 possession pace, that equates out to turnovers on just 13.75% of possessions. According to, that would have been the second lowest percentage of all of last season, with only the loss at Pitt checking in lower. This is especially impressive given the reality that so many young players would seem to make the 'Noles more turnover prone, but they played within themselves nicely. However, another weak spot still requires drastic improvement: free throw shooting. FSU went 21-35 from the charity stripe, an unacceptable 60%.
  • This team plays with fantastic effort--and very fast. Even when the game was well in hand, and it was for much of the night, Florida State displayed fantastic effort on both sides of the floor, while also getting on the floor and diving for loose balls. They really appear to have bought in. The Seminoles also play at a frenetic pace, which is exactly what Hamilton says he wants, and it may just contribute to why this team looks to believe. We asked Phil Cofer if getting up and down the court is more fun and makes working hard at practice more enjoyable. He responded: "Way more fun. You get more highlights, more stuff like that. If we keep running, man, and just put up points on the board, we just got to get our defense better, our transition defense better, so if we get those two things, it's gonna be a great team." The players are having more fun; if Monday night was any indication of the brand of ball we're going to see, the fans will, too.
  • One last thing that stood out was the amount of depth this team has compared to the last 3-4 years. It's actually pretty scary. In a game where a presumed starter (Montay Brandon) and two other contributors from last year (Robbie Berwick and Michael Ojo) didn't play, the Noles still had 10 guys log at least 12 minutes--and all ten scored at least 5 points and grabbed at least one rebound. When asked about the importance of depth after the game, Ham said, "Last year we had three guys--one played 36 [minutes], one played 35, and one played 34. It was miserable. It's hard to play at the level we're trying to compete at, especially in the ACC...and play those number of minutes and still be effective." Last year the Noles simply wore down as the season went on and lack of perimeter depth was the primary cause of that. This year, at least early, that issue appears to be resolved.

With one exhibition game in the books, FSU has one more opportunity (Monday the 9th, at 7pm) to work on some of the areas for improvement before the regular season kicks off on November 15th.

Specific areas we will be watching for include better free throw shooting, creating more deflections/steals in the half-court defensive sets, improved ball movement and execution in the half-court offensive sets, what position Montay Brandon spends the most time playing (assuming he plays), and cutting down on the number of offensive rebounds allowed.

Finally, we leave you with video of Devon Bookert talking about the uptempo pace, what he worked on over the summer, and the talented newcomers on the team: