FanPost

FSU Women's Basketball Recap and Look Ahead

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

By most measures, the Florida State Women’s Basketball team just completed the most successful season in program history. FSU ended the season with a school record 32 wins (14 in ACC) while earning an Elite 8 berth. The Noles also reached the ACC title game for the first time in school history.

Individual accolades also came FSU’s way as Adut Bulgak was named first team All-ACC and Leticia Romero was named to the second team despite missing almost half of the season due to NCAA transfer rules. Head Coach Sue Semrau was named AP National Coach of the Year for her efforts in guiding FSU to their unprecedented success this season.

We will take a quick look at the end of last season and then assess where the team stands today. We will then look around the ACC and discuss thoughts about what the team needs to do to maintain their impressive upward trajectory and perhaps improve on it.

End of Season Recap

After dominating the Tallahassee Regional, #2 seeded Florida State rolled into Greensboro for the NCAA Sweet 16 full of confidence. They were facing a #3 seeded Arizona State team that had just edged heavy underdog Arkansas Little-Rock 57-54 in a game that the Sun Devils trailed most of the way. FSU edged ASU 66-65 in a game that FSU mostly controlled. However the Noles struggled to put away the Sun Devils due to their great foul shooting and big shots by guard Katie Hempen who paced ASU with 22 points.

FSU then turned their attention to #1 seed South Carolina. The Gamecocks had their own nail biter in the previous game defeating familiar Seminole foe North Carolina 67-65 when a last second shot by the Tar Heels fell short.

FSU played significantly better against USC and controlled most of the game. USC didn’t take their first lead until 9 minutes left in the second half. Florida State was playing well but simply didn’t have an answer for 6-4 center Alaina Coates. The sophomore almost single handedly kept FSU from pulling away in the second half with a perfect 5 for 5 performance from the field (6-6 for the game). This set the stage for AP 1st team All-American and two time SEC player of the year Tiffany Mitchell. In the last three minutes the junior guard had an assist, a layup, a 3 point dagger, an offensive rebound and two free throws. At that point FSU was reduced to fouling and USC sealed the Noles’ fate by making six straight free throws.

FSU Program Overview

The season ended on a disappointing note but every team in the nation but one will have that same feeling once the dust settles. Despite that ending these players and this coaching staff have built a strong foundation for the future. This program is set up for success next year and if a few right moves are made this season could turn out to be the launching pad for great success for years to come.

Florida State loses only two seniors from a 32 win squad in Maegan Conwright and Lauren Coleman (Gabby Bevillard also probably won’t return due to injury). In Coleman FSU loses a valuable locker room presence who helped younger players due to her intimate knowledge of the system. Her leadership as the captain of the team will be missed.

Conwright will be a huge loss. She only played one year in Tallahassee but she led the team in minutes played for a reason. She quickly gained Coach Semrau’s trust to the point that Semrau clearly hated to take her off the floor for any reason. Conwright provided deadly three point shooting, excellent on ball defense, exceptional ball handling and unselfish passing. She was the starting point guard early in the season and FSU was 12-1 in those games. However, her greatest contribution was how hard she played the game. Conwright never took plays off and this attitude spread to the entire team. The Noles always played hard and never backed down from anyone this season. Conwright will be missed next year. FSU will need to find someone to fill the leadership void left by these two players.

However, every team loses seniors and Florida State is still loaded with talent that will be returning next year. Starting point guard Leticia Romero is technically eligible to enter the WNBA draft but FSU coaches are confident that she will return for her junior season.

Around the ACC

Focusing solely on next season, FSU will have the talent to again contend for an ACC title but it won’t be easy. Notre Dame will without doubt be the prohibitive favorite to again capture the title. The only senior who played in the semifinals last night was Madison Cable who came off the bench. With the recruiting class they have coming in and their remaining talent they will be tough yet again. Louisville loses a ton – 4 of their top 5 players by minutes played in their final game won’t be back – but they have the best class in the nation coming in next year. The Cards’ season will really depend on how quickly the freshmen can contribute. Syracuse loses two seniors but they have a very good recruiting class coming in (just missed the top 20) with five players total featuring three 4* and all three in the top 100. I expect the Cuse to be even better next year.

Duke’s year was a bit of a disappointment by their standards and they lose superstar Elizabeth Williams and starting guard Ka'lia Johnson. However with their recruiting class added to what they have coming back they could easily make a move in the conference. North Carolina should be better next year. They lose three important players but get Allisha Gray back and Xylina McDaniel returns from injury. When you add their impressive recruiting class expect an improved Tar Heel team next year.

Pitt loses do everything guard Brianna Kiesel as well as starting forward Monica Wignot and sixth player Cora McManus. The Panthers have a good but not great class next year (5 3*). Losing Kiesel is huge and Pitt probably takes a step back next year. Miami loses two starters (Michelle Woods and Necole Sterling) but star guard Adrienne Motley returns and they have one 3* recruit. The Canes will probably finish again in the middle of the pack. Georgia Tech loses no one of consequence and has 3 3* recruits joining the squad. They may improve a bit but it is hard to see this team challenging for the upper echelon of the league even with Kaela Davis returning.

Virginia doesn’t lose too much and adds frontcourt help in their recruiting class with 3 post players; 4* Mone Jones (#61 overall) and 2 3* players. The Cavs will probably improve a little but won’t escape the middle of the pack. Speaking of the pack, NC State loses starting guard Len'Nique Brown-Hoskin but they have a ton of talent coming to Raleigh (see below). I expect the Pack to be better next year.

The rest of the conference will struggle next year although Virginia Tech is making strides with a top 20 class coming to Blacksburg.

FSU Program Outlook

When assessing FSU’s prospects for next year there is mostly good news. We will get to that in a minute but first let’s get the bad news out of the way. For the 2015 recruiting class, Florida State currently has no high school recruits either signed or committed. To add to the problem, the rest of the ACC is cleaning up on the recruiting trail as the chart below illustrates.

ACC 2015 National Recruiting (HoopGurlz Rankings)

National

Class Rank

Team

Number of

Recruits

Notes (all #’s are overall rankings)

1

Louisville Cardinals

5 (4 5*, 1 4*)

Asia Durr 5’10 G (#2)

Taja Cole 5’7 PG (#29)

Erin DeGrate 6’4 C (#41)

Brianna Jones 5’9 G (#49)

Samantha Fuehring 6’3 F (#65)

2

Duke Blue Devils

5 (4 5*, 1 4*)

Angela Salvadores 5’8 G (#5)

Kyra Lambert 5’8 G (#9)

Faith Suggs 6’1 G (#25)

Crystal Primm 5’11 G (#46)

Haley Gorecki 6’0 F (#55)

6

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

3 (3 5*)

Arike Ogunbowale 5’9 PG (#10)

Ali Patberg 5’11 G (#14)

Marina Mabrey 5’10 G (#26)

7

North Carolina Tar Heels

3 (3 5*)

Destinee Walker 5’9 G (#17)

Stephanie Watts 5’9 G (#24)

Eternati Willock 6’2 F (#45)

17

NC State Wolfpack

6 (4 4*, 2 3*)

Rydeiah Rogers 6’1 F (#63)

Amber Richardson 6’0 G (#72)

Kaila Ealey 5’8 G (#75)

Jonquanae Cole 6’3 C (#100)

20

Virginia Tech Hokies

3 (1 5*, 1 4*, 1 3*)

Kelly Koshuta 6’2 F (#32)

Chanette Hicks 5’5 G (#53)

N/A

Florida State Seminoles

0

N/A

The good news for FSU is that the team is loaded for next year and if they can get some internal improvement they really don’t need much of a talent infusion to stay at or near the top of the ACC. However, it’s never a good sign when you have no recruits coming into your program at this late date.

With the seniors moving on FSU has some roster spots open. The Noles have a few options when deciding how to fill those spots:

1. Try to sign some high school talent in the late signing period. Unfortunately, most of the top talent has already committed. Only 4 of the top 100 players remain uncommitted and none of them come from states east of the Mississippi river (one is from Italy).

2. Try to find some high quality transfers. Of course FSU experienced stunning success with this option this year but it is hard to sustain a top quality program with transfers as your main method of acquiring talent. Transfers are similar to free agents in pro sports. They are great for filling holes on your roster but for most of your roster you want to build through the draft or in this case through high school recruiting.

3. Fill the spots with walk-ons. With this option FSU would basically be rolling with the talent they already have on hand. The appeal of this choice is that you save scholarships. This would allow the Noles to try to hit a home run with the 2016 class (more on that later).

4. Try some combination of the above options. This is probably what FSU will do. They may try to find some diamonds in the rough in the high school ranks and complement that with one or two transfers and if that doesn’t work they can always roll the scholarships into 2016. The lesson as always, don’t count Sue’s schollies!

While the 2015 class looks bleak, FSU is in much better position with the 2016 class. FSU has secured a commitment from A'Tyanna Gaulden (5’7 PG #54 overall). The Noles are also very involved with 5* Jazmine Jones (5’10 G #23 overall). Jones led Tallahassee’s FAMU High to a 27-2 record and a state title winning the championship game in a 30 point rout. Jones’ recruitment is crucial. If the Seminoles want this recent success to continue then they need to turn their success on the court into success on the recruiting trail. They really need to keep 5* talent like Jones home. If they can sign Jones and keep Gaulden they will have a top 20 class with only those two. However, to keep up with the traditional blue bloods in the ACC they can’t stop there.

FSU made huge strides this year and gained a ton of conference and national respect. The Noles will surprise no one next year. FSU is now the hunted and not the hunter. This is exactly where you want to be as a program. The NCAA Selection Committee doesn’t release its final S-Curve but judging by how the bracket turned out FSU was probably #6 on the final S-Curve. That is an elite team. The Noles validated this ranking with their play in the NCAA Tournament. They controlled most of the game against South Carolina and could easily have been in Tampa for a rematch with Notre Dame. They are clearly knocking on the door of the Final Four.

In order to knock that door down FSU needs players like Leticia Romero, Ivey Slaughter, Brittany Brown and Adut Bulgak to continue to play like they have this year. I fully expect this to happen. They also need Shakayla Thomas (Weapon X) to continue to improve. Thomas was impressive in her first year in Tally. FSU needs to replace one starter (Conwright) and Coach Semrau will likely choose between Weapon X and Morgan Jones. Unless she wants Thomas to continue her Vinnie Johnson (former sixth man for the Bad Boy Pistons) role off the bench I believe she will opt for Thomas for the starting spot.

FSU can win a ton of games playing like they did this year and they will be successful in the post season. However, if the Noles really want to take that next step forward and truly challenge for a Final Four spot or (gasp) a National Championship they need to find someone they can count on who can get to the basket and score consistently or get fouled when the chips are down. In their last two losses they were victimized by just this sort of player. Notre Dame had Jewell Loyd and South Carolina had Tiffany Mitchell. It’s no coincidence that both of those teams made it to Tampa. Both of those players will be back for their teams next year. FSU needs a player like that to take the next step.

Is that player currently on the roster? Only Weapon X knows for sure.

On a personal note; I’d like to thank you guys for reading and big thanks to Tomahawk Nation for hosting this drivel. This team has been a blast to write about and next year could be even better.

Go Noles!

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