With the calendar turning to November, the boys on the hardwood are turning up the heat. We have already given you previews of the offense, defense, national expectations, and FSU’s place in the most difficult conference in all of sports. Now, just two days before the ‘Noles embark on a new season, we present to you the staff’s preseason roundtable.
What player are you most excited to watch this season?
Michael Rogner: Dwayne Bacon, no doubt. The guy was really special as a freshman, and if it all clicks, he has that Toney Douglas/Al Thornton potential of completely taking over games.
Curt Weiler: Bacon. There was a lot to like about his game in his freshman year and he completely reworked one of his more questionable skills (the mechanics of his shot) from the ground up.
Matt Minnick: For FSU, I think I’ll actually go with Michael Ojo. This is a guy who has really worked hard to reach a point where he can have a big impact on individual games, and his energy, smile, and attitude are infectious. After his injury last year, I’m excited to see him have some success.
Andrew Miller: On this year’s squad, I’m really looking forward to see Terance Mann, and how he improved over his first collegiate offseason. Mann was a pivotal role player on last year’s team, shooting 58% from the field, and if he can provide the same role with even better results, could play a key part on this year’s squad.
Josh Pick: Jon Isaac. The future NBA lottery pick has length and athleticism unlike anyone else on this squad, along with an inside/out game.
David Visser: I agree with all the above responses, but I’m gonna go a bit off the reservation here, and say Xavier Rathan-Mayes. XRM has carved out an interesting relationship with this fanbase, but I’ve seen some extremely encouraging signs from him heading into this season, primarily with regard to the selflessness and hustle he’s displayed. Rathan-Mayes does not need to be a superstar for the team, but he does need to be a leader, and I’ll be interested to see how well he handles that responsibility.
Best college game you've ever attended?
Michael: Going off the rails here and picking a high school game: the 2000 Oregon State 4A Semi-finals in front of 13,000 fans at Memorial Coliseum. My school (Jefferson) was undefeated and featured six Division I players, including Aaron Miles (Kansas) who would win the John Wooden Award the next year as the nation’s top high school player. But they also had Brandon Brooks, a 5-11 kid who could rain 3s and played well above the rim, and was head and shoulders above everyone on that team. He was the 2nd coming of Allen Iverson. And that was the greatest game he ever played, willing his team past Jesuit in the final seconds. The sad part is that he got ground up by the machine when he tried to go to college. His neighborhood was calling, and he barely played while bouncing around to three schools before drifting off into another life.
Matt: Kentucky/Duke, Elite 8, Laettner hits the—oh who am I kidding, I wasn’t there. I’ll go with one from our dark days: January 6, 2002, FSU upsets number 1 Duke 77-76. The team was terrible, but for one night they went toe-to-toe with the best. I had been heckling Jason Williams in pregame warmups for missing free throws, and I know he took a glance over at me court-side (back then you could basically stand under the basket on the actual court) when he missed a series of FTs down the stretch. Nigel “Big Jelly” Dixon pulled down 12 boards (six offensive!) and Sergeant Monte Cummings hit a baseline leaner with a second or two remaining; the court storming commenced soon after.
Andrew: It isn’t technically a game, however last year I was in attendance at the Fan Duel classic tournament in New York City. Both games of the doubleheader went into overtime, and it included some high-profile players, including Ben Simmons, formerly of LSU.
Josh: Almost all the high profile CBB games I’ve attended have been in a working capacity, so they start to run together. I will say it was fun to watch the 2014-15 Duke national championship team up close in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament with future stars Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones, and Grayson Allen.
Curt: When I was a student in 2011, I was at the TLCCC when No. 3 North Carolina came to town to take on unranked Florida State with College Gameday in attendance. FSU PG Deividas Dulkys went for a career-high 32 points on 8-10 three-point shooting and the Seminoles ran away with a 90-57 win, giving UNC its worst loss in the Roy Williams era in the process.
David: It was a home FSU game while I was an undergrad. And I have no idea whom the ‘Noles were playing. But the halftime entertainment was a contest played between commercial mascots, and it remains one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Charlie the Tuna could hardly see where he was going, but whenever he got the ball, he’d just put it in his mouth and run away from everyone else. I was in tears. But to bring it back to basketball, McGruff the Crime Dog had pretty solid handles, given his lack of opposable thumbs. And, ya know, being a dog.
Biggest chance for non-conference let down?
Curt: Bit hard to consider a game a let-down if the opposing team won the NIT a season ago but the fanbase would consider a neutral-site loss to George Washington in the midst of finals week a disappointment and they would not be entirely wrong.
Michael: Iona in the second game of the season. They’ve won 20+ games in seven straight years. They have the athleticism to match Florida State, and they won’t be afraid of anyone. These guys can play.
Matt: I’ll second Rogner’s Iona concerns, however keep on eye on Winthrop, too. Those boys love to get up a ton of threes, and if they start to fall...
Andrew: A loss to Temple at a neutral site would be the biggest chance for a let down. The magnitude is higher as FSU, if it loses, will most likely not get the chance to win a quality game against the better team in the opposing side of the bracket, as they will be in the championship game.
Josh: There are plenty of worthy candidates, and I won’t put it beyond Florida State to lose to any of them, but for the sake of this argument, I, too, will go with Iona, a solid team from the northeast who can easily beat you if you’re not at your best.
David: I’ll add to the concerns about Iona. Although I’m not certain that Hofstra, while not on the schedule, isn’t outside its three-point range.
X-Factor on this year's FSU team?
Curt: The big men. The backcourt is a known commodity on this year’s squad. With Bacon and Rathan-Mayes, as well as the addition of a number of talented guards, this team will be fine there. But the frontcourt will go farther in determining how successful this team will be. Will the big men on this year’s team be able to stay out of foul trouble, rebound efficiently, and pose some sort of threat as a post player? If not, will they at least be defensively sound? Isaac will go a long way toward aiding this cause if he is able to play significant minutes as the 4.
Michael: X-FactorRM. If FSU is going to achieve its goal of being in the position to make a deep March run, then XRM quite simply needs to play his ass off. He has the best understanding of the offense. He has skills that no one else on the roster has. FSU doesn’t need him to be 1st Team All ACC, but they need him to be picking up some votes. If he runs the team, and leads the team, this squad could be special.
Matt: XRM. Most famous for scoring 30+ points in four minutes, that’s not the XRM that FSU needs. Instead, the ‘Noles need a steady playmaker who can set up the bevy of talented wings on this team for easy buckets—both in transition and half court—but also create his own shot when the offense breaks down. The ‘Noles could also use more Damian Lillard on defense from X and less James Harden. X has the tools and he has the experience— he just has to put it all together.
Andrew: Christ Koumadje. The tallest player in FSU history is a year into his collegiate career, and has visibly put on needed muscle and weight this offseason. He has been moving fluidly in the exhibitions, and if the ‘Noles can get a dynamic duo with him and Ojo, the paint game for FSU can be a big part of the team’s game aside from the tempo.
Josh: Xavier Rathan-Mayes. Most pundits expected XRM to bolt Tally after last season for professional basketball, but it says something that he chose to come back. For me, it points to a newfound maturity, and a realization he still needs to work harder. The kid is super talented, but up until now, he’s stopped himself from reaching his true potential. If he fully buys in and works relentlessly at both ends of the floor, he could lead the Seminoles to a very successful season.
David: I’ll back Curt here, but to be more specific, let’s say Michael Ojo. I’ve been amazed at how much better his hands are in traffic, in addition to what has always been an impressive physique that, somehow, looks better. Ojo is also a valuable team leader and a key cog defensively, especially as a backstop when the ‘Noles go five-full, which looks like their preference for this season, defensively.
What addition to a returning player's game could help this team the most?
Curt: Mentioned it above, but it bears repeating. Bacon’s complete reworking of his shot has seemed to be a success so far this season and could go a long way toward helping FSU, as well as himself, with regard to his professional future.
Michael: I’ll agree with Curt here. Make Bacon a 35-40% 3-pt shooter and good luck guarding that guy.
Matt: Giving Bacon Al Thornton’s senior year perimeter shooting...and “I’m taking this game over” mindset.
Josh: It has to be Dwayne Bacon with a consistent perimeter shot. Good luck defending THAT guy!
Andrew: Since everyone else said Bacon, I’ll go with the hustle and athleticism of Terance Mann.
David: Along the lines of Bacon’s improvement from long range, I’ll add a wrinkle: Phil Cofer, who missed last year due to injury, spent the offseason working on his distance shooting, and drained three of four treys during FSU’s exhibition games. The Seminoles want him to work more in space as opposed to the post, so if he can contribute a three or two here and there, it could certainly challenge the zone that many teams will probably try to throw at Florida State.
Favorite college basketball arena?
Curt: As a person who has two aunts and a cousin who attended Duke, I feel obligated to say Cameron Indoor Stadium. I have not yet had the pleasure of watching a game in person there, but it’s at the very top of my college basketball bucket list.
Michael: St. Mary’s. McKeon only holds 3,500 people, and a generation of Gonzaga players have said it is the loudest place they’ve ever played a basketball game. There aren’t many college gyms where you can watch Matthew Dellavedova get fouled on his way to the rim, only to have him run out into the lobby to grab a drink of water before he shoots his free throws.
Matt: It’s rarely used for men’s basketball anymore, but Reynolds Coliseum is a fantastic place to watch a game. If you get a chance to catch a game there, do it. As for a team’s current home court, I’ll go with The Pit out in Albuquerque. More than 15,000 seats in stands built under ground, with an altitude of over a mile high...no wonder the Lobos have won more than 80% of their games there since it opened in 1966.
Josh: Cameron Indoor Stadium is somewhere every college basketball fan should visit for its unique nature, but I’ll say Allen Fieldhouse on the campus of Kansas University (although I have yet to visit). Can you imagine this atmosphere in Tallahassee? Me neither. There’s also nothing quite like the: “Rock-Chalk; Jay-Hawk; K-U” chant that eminates throughout The Phog before the game.
Andrew: Recently, on my trip up to Raleigh for the FSU at NC State football game, I was fortunate enough to catch a basketball game at UNC’s Dean Smith Center. The amount of powdered blue from the court, to the seats, to the ceiling was a lot to take in, and gave the place so much character. It was also a benefit having an open concourse, in an arena, that you could still watch the game from while walking around.
David: I cannot disagree with the comments about Cameron— I really respect how Duke gives its students courtside seats. However, that joint is a tiny little place that’s easy to fill, so give me a home game at a public school like Michigan State. Sparty supporters also get to man the sideline, and the white-outs in East Lansing are beyond impressive.
Favorite basketball movie?
Curt: I’m a child of the ‘90s. The obvious (and correct) answer is Space Jam.
Andrew: Also as a child of the ‘90s, the obvious (and real correct) answer is Like Mike. The original.
Matt: Finding Forrester. Did he miss the free throws on purpose? Not exactly a soup question, is it?
Michael: Hoop Dreams. One of the best sports documentaries out there.
Josh: Kind of cliche, but I’ll say Hoosiers, although I like Matt getting Finding Forrester in here—didn’t see that one coming (Sean Connery is a very talented and versatile actor).
David: This isn’t close, and Josh is right. It’s Hoosiers. The reality that the film is based on a true story, features a great score, and is multi-faceted, cement it as the best hoops picture ever made. But some other nods to lesser films go to White Men Can’t Jump and Above the Rim, the latter of which has a great soundtrack.
Which former player would be the best addition to this year's team?
Michael: The correct answer to this question is Dave Cowens. He averaged 17.2 rebounds per game for his CAREER at FSU. He’s a Hall of Famer. If we’re limiting this to players coached by Ham, then Al Thornton is the correct answer.
Matt: Dave Cowens is an obvious answer (and really, the only correct answer). But George McCloud’s length, vision, and perimeter shooting sure would be fun to watch on this Leonard Hamilton team.
Josh: There have been numerous talented players at every position over the years, but there’s really only one correct answer here, and that’s Dave Cowens.
Curt: Like the others have mentioned, Cowens’ rebounding ability would complement the rest of FSU’s offense and take the Seminoles to the next level.
Andrew: Dave Cowens is, of course, the guy, however I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Sam Cassell run the point on this year’s squad.
David: Forgive the repetition, but it’s Charlie the Tuna. Duh.
win a national title advance to the Final Four in your lifetime?
Curt: I’m gonna say yes. The 2011 team went to overtime before falling to VCU in the Sweet Sixteen, and that’s not even the most talented Florida State team of the past decade (2012). One year, the stars align and the Seminoles make a triumphant return to the Final Four.
Michael: Oh man. How healthy am I feeling? The power in college basketball is being consolidated into fewer and fewer programs, and FSU isn’t spending the money to keep up. It could certainly happen. It seems that there is an outlier about every other season, but will FSU be that outlier one of these times? I’ll say No.
Matt: I’m gonna say yes. March Madness is exactly that—madness. I have to think the ‘Noles will roll seven with their matchups at some point in the next 40-50 years. I will say, that I would answer “no” if the question was will FSU be a 1-seed. But heck, even a 12-seed can make a Final-Four run.
Josh: This is a fun question. I’ll say yes, as well (to the Final Four, NOT a national championship). Sometimes it may feel as if FSU basketball is hopeless, but they were THIS CLOSE to the Final Four several years ago. Look at Syracuse last season...they weren’t anything special in the regular season, but they got hot at the right time and got some favorable matchups during March Madness. That’s really all it takes, and the ‘Noles recruit well in an area with plenty of available talent, so I like their chances.
Andrew: As a 21-year-old, I would have to believe so. The team has been recruiting so well recently, and it is only a matter of time until it pays off, and Florida State will be able to make a serious run for a championship. I don’t think they’ll win one, but a Final Four is more than possible.
David: FSU has recruited well of late, but most fans don’t understand how routine that is for other powerhouse programs, particularly within the ACC. But as long as Florida State gets a healthy Derwin James back next season, my confidence is high.
Player from another ACC team we'd most like to have on FSU this season?
Matt: It’s tempting to say Grayson Allen, as it would really cut down on the number of travels and offensive fouls FSU is called for. But I’ll say Dennis Smith, Jr. He’s a true point who can show flashes of Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving. XRM could move off the ball and Smith’s ability to penetrate would leave Bake and Issac alone for open shots and favorable iso matchups.
Curt: I’m going a bit against the grain here and saying Jaron Blossomgame from Clemson. With so much talent at the guard position, a forward of his caliber would go a long way toward taking the pressure, as well as the attention, off of Bacon, Isaac, and XRM.
Michael: I’ll take Virginia’s London Perrantes. He’s steady as they come at the point, which would allow XRM to play off the ball, and he’s a tough, tough defender. Plus he knocks down almost 50% of his 3s.
Josh: I don’t like him (due to immature antics on the court), but I’ll say Grayson Allen. The kid’s a lights out shooter (something FSU seriously lacks), while also possessing the athleticism to get to the rim and finish at will. Too bad there’s this pesky team in Duke that wins at a crazy rate, or he very easily could’ve chosen Florida State out of high school.
Andrew: Grayson Allen. The ‘Noles are pretty square regarding size and height on the team, and could always use another key player to run the court. It also doesn’t hurt when that player can hit 40%+ from behind the arc, something Florida State could desperately use.
David: Andrew couldn’t have been more wrong in picking Like Mike as the best hoops movie, but I’ll totally go like Mike Rogner in his call of Perrantes. He’s skilled, gutsy, smart, and talented. Also, he’s not Grayson Allen, which is a very positive attribute.
Curt: I think that Florida State’s experience and depth goes a long way toward helping the Seminoles escape non-conference play with a solid 11-2 record. In conference, the early slate is tough, as the Seminoles go up against Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Louisville all within their first seven ACC games. Because of this, FSU is forced to play from behind with its conference record.
However, the ‘Noles bounce back thanks to a much easier finish to their schedule, wrapping up the regular season with a 20-11 (9-9 in ACC) record. From there, Florida State wins one game at the ACC Tournament and makes a return to the NCAA tournament after three years away, falling as a No. 9 seed in the first round of the tourney.
Matt: It’s an intriguing mix of talent, experience, and depth. The ‘Noles need three things to happen in order to reach their ceiling (which is higher than any year since 2012).
A) The injury luck must finally turn in FSU’s favor, as depth will be key to playing at the pace at which this team will thrive.
2) Three-point shooting needs to at least be decent.
D) The guys must fully commit to playing team D.
So far, so good for “A” (knock on wood) and I feel good about “D” happening. For 2...I’m hoping one of the two Juco transfers steps up and becomes the knock-down shooter we need. A brutal start of the ACC season means FSU could play well and still open things up with a 1-4 record. But the Noles find enough wins down the stretch to finish 10-8, good enough for 7th in the league. Add in a 11-2 OOC record and a win in the ACCT, and the Noles enter the Big Dance at 22-10. After that, it’s all about matchups.
Michael: In the offense and defense previews, I noted that I expected FSU to perhaps slide a smidge on offense from last year, but improve significantly on defense. So I think they’ll be better than last year. But what does that mean? A relatively easy OOC schedule should lead to an 11-2 record heading into ACC play. Then things get nasty. I could see anywhere from 12-6 in the ACC to 5-13. I’ll hedge my bets and go 8-10, putting FSU at 19-12 heading into the ACCT. A win there and the Noles are dancing in that 10/11/play-in sweet spot.
Josh: I’ll predict a 20-11 regular season (11-2 OOC/9-9 ACC), with a return to March Madness, allowing Leonard Hamilton to remain head coach in Tallahassee at least one more season (sorry to the #FireHam crowd).
Andrew: After my bold prediction last year of an undefeated out-of-conference schedule, it is only appropriate that I predict that mark of 10-3 this season. I think those three losses will be against very winnable opponents, and will occur when the team is still figuring out its chemistry and quirks. Combined with 8-10 ACC schedule play, the ‘Noles should finish off the season at 18-13, losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
David: I was way too high on last year’s team. So I’m going to dial it back, especially given the points made about the early schedule that could erode some momentum coming off the OOC slate. However, the depth and buy-in are encouraging, if, like Matt said, this squad stays healthy. So, in the interest of getting neither too high nor too low, I’ll agree with Curt: 20-11 (9-9). But, most importantly, this team goes dancing, and Leonard Hamilton keeps coaching — and recruiting — at FSU.
We’d love to hear your answers to these questions in the comment section, so please feel free to chip-in and tell us where you agree/disagree.