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FSU basketball tips off the 2016-17 season

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the basketball season. In this little corner of the college basketball landscape we have an intriguing scenario. Florida State is talented. They have a mix of veterans and young players. They’re deep. They’re athletic. They’re big. But they are flawed as well. Who can shoot well enough to open up the defense? Is the team going to defend? Is the chemistry different – and better – than last year?

And on top of this FSU probably needs to make the dance or Coach Hamilton will be facing a flurry of calls for his job.

It should be an interesting season. We’ll call it Year 2 of “The Change.”

Coach Hamilton’s teams have sometimes flirted with playing fast, but they never really committed. The 2005-06 team with Al Thornton, Isaiah Swann, and Jacon Rich could get it cooking. The same can be said for Chris Singleton’s final season, when the vets teamed up with the young trio of Michael Snaer, Ian Miller, and Okaro White to get going.

But then last year happened. It wasn’t just a team playing fast because the personnel made it happen naturally, it was team coached to play fast. They were more uptempo than North Carolina. Only Wake Forest played faster than the Noles last year amongst ACC teams, and that by the slimmest of margins.

And the thing is that Coach Hamilton said they weren’t playing fast enough.

Clearly, there’s been a change in strategy. His tourney teams shut down the opposing team, and then fumbled around on offense enough to keep things close. Last year’s team scored a remarkably efficient clip, but then couldn’t stop anyone on the other end.

The defense was bad. And maybe that’s where this team has the chance to be different.

Coach Hamilton’s best teams have always had a deep bench. The past few years have seen a string of terrible injury luck, resulting in shortened rosters. In the four years in which FSU has missed the dance, 11 guys played more than 70% of the team’s minutes. In the previous four years (all NCAA Tourney appearances) only five guys played that often.

This defense needs fresh legs, and the year likely depends on how well the defense functions.

Success, for this team, is a loop which begins with the defense. The defense swarms and wears other teams down. The stops – whether tipped balls and steals, or missed shots and rebounds – allows the offense to play fast. The more stops, the faster the offense. The more stops and faster the offense, the more the other teams fatigues, creating – you guessed it – more stops and a faster offense.

That’s the goal for this season: swarm on defense and use that to create fast offense. We wrote in last year’s season preview that we wanted FSU’s offense to attempt a third of their shots in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock (up from 23.6% the previous year). That goal was nearly met, as FSU raised that percentage to 32.6%. The goal for this year should be at least 35%.

You can get your first look tonight, as FSU hosts Southeastern University in a 7PM exhibition game at the Tuck.