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2016-17 FSU basketball preview: the offense

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Boston College vs Florida State Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Last preseason we predicted a big uptick in FSU basketball’s offense. This, despite the Seminoles returning almost everyone from what had been arguably FSU’s worst offense since Leonard Hamilton’s inaugural season in Tallahassee. The reason was the freshmen class, and how well they filled the holes left open by the more experienced players. We figured if everything went great, then the Noles offense could go from 145th nationally in 2014-15, to about 30th in 2015-16. The bottom end we pegged at improving “just” seventy spots to 75th.

In the end, the Noles were closer to best case than worse, finishing the year an impressive 47th in offensive efficiency out of 351 Division I programs.

So what does that portend for this year’s team?

To the numbers!

By far the most important part of an offense is how well the players shoot the ball. The Seminoles finished last year with an eFG% of 51.8%, good for 83rd nationally. That’s about average for a Hamilton coached team. Had the Noles shot better from deep, that number would have improved, but FSU only made 34.1% of their 3s (197th). The bad news for this team is that the three best shooters from last year – Devon Bookert, Benji Bell, and Malik Beasley – are all gone.

That means FSU needs to a) find some shooters, or 2) be exceptionally efficient with other areas of the offense. Right now all we have are questions. Will Dwayne Bacon’s rebuilt mechanics allow him to be a better deep threat? Is this the year XRM learns to take better shots and is actually somewhat consistent from long range? Can Terance Mann or Phil Cofer make enough to keep defenses honest? And what about the new guys? How will Braian Angola-Rodas, CJ Walker, Jon Isaac, Trent Forrest, and PJ Savoy, shoot against ACC defenses?

On 2s, the Noles made better than 52%, and were the first Seminole team to best that mark nearly a decade. And here there is good news: FSU should be better this year from inside the arc. FSU will be deeper on the interior, have more slashers on the roster, and run tons of transition.

Following shooting, the next most important part of an offense (the 4 Factors) is how often they turn it over. Last year’s team turned it over on 18.0% of their possessions, which was just under the national average of 18.1%. That was the best performance by the program since 2002-03. While Malik Beasley and Devon Bookert were steady with the ball, Montay Brandon and Boris Bojanovsky were not. With the maturation of young guys and another year of XRM at the point, I’d expect a similar number from this year’s team.

The final two pieces of the puzzle are offensive rebounding and how often the team gets to the line (free throw rate). The Noles were neither average nor exceptional in either of those categories. They were decent in both.

It’s not hard to imagine the Noles being slightly better in each of those two categories. Terance Mann, Phil Cofer, and the centers should be pretty good at offensive rebounding. Hopefully Bacon will get better. Offensive rebounding has always been a focus of Leonard Hamilton’s system, so at least there will be an effort at improvement.

The free throw rate could increase simply because Dwayne Bacon is back for another year, and he took more FTs than anyone on the team. With as athletic as this team will be, they’ll be some whistles.

So where does that leave Florida State’s offense?

It basically comes down to 3-pt shooting. If all goes well, this will be an offense which will be a problem for other coaches. But if the team struggles from deep then they’ll have trouble scoring in bunches.

This team probably has the same window as last year’s team (30-75 nationally), though if I were putting money down I’d say a small regression is more likely than a small improvement.

You can get a look at the Noles long range shooting and other areas of the offense on Thursday in the annual Aubry Boyd fundraiser, in the 2nd tune up of the preseason.

Then it counts on November 12 when the Noles open at home vs Charleston Southern.

Next up, we’ll take a look at the defense.