The Florida State women's basketball team is coming off of a 25-8 season and trip to the Sweet 16. Last year was an objectively fine season but it may have been a little disappointing to some who thought that the Noles were at least dark horse Final Four material. However, a new year is set to begin and the preseason polls are being released. FSU has been tabbed as the #12 team in the nation in both the AP and USA Today polls.
This lofty ranking shows that FSU has made great strides in the eyes of national college basketball observers. It is also a testament to the group of talent that coach Sue Semrau has been able to collect in Tallahassee. In this article we will examine the talent level of this year's squad. We will also compare it to the talent level of other top teams in the nation. Later in the article we will discuss how this year's recruiting class is shaping up as well as some names to keep an eye on for the future.
National Talent Race
Basketball is similar to virtually any college sport in that recruiting is a necessary but not sufficient component of success. There are other factors (coaching, experience, luck, etc.) that are needed to succeed at the highest level. Even so, without talent a program will not be able to win on a consistent basis. Therefore a good (but far from perfect) predictor of success is the level of talent present on a team. So it may be useful to examine the talent level present on the top teams in the nation to see who has the most fire power to make a strong run to the Final Four.
We can use player recruiting rankings as a proxy in order to examine the individual talent level of the top teams in the nation. The chart below details the top 100 and top 50 recruits that appear on the 2016-2017 rosters of each team in the top 15 of the USA Today preseason poll. Therefore the 2016 recruiting classes for each team have been included. The rankings are courtesy of HoopGurlz.
Before we get to the chart a few caveats are in order. First, as we all know recruiting rankings are an inexact science and sometimes players are overrated and sometimes impact players fall through the cracks. However, generally speaking, the best teams tend to dominate the recruiting rankings as well. Secondly, the chart only considers players who will be eligible in the 2016-2017 season. Therefore transfers who have to sit out this year are not considered in the numbers contained in the chart. However, transfers who are eligible for the 2016-217 season have been considered. Third, many international players aren't rated properly because they don't attend American high schools or participate in tournaments (primarily AAU) where they can be seen by talent evaluators. An example is Leticia Romero. Romero is not reflected in the numbers in the chart below because she didn't attend an American high school so she didn't get a fair evaluation. Therefore it is fair to add one to FSU's totals because Romero would have certainly been rated in the top 50 had she attended high school in America. She was just named the 14th best player in the nation by ESPN. Fourth, as we discussed earlier the best teams aren't always the most talented because there are other ingredients needed for success beyond talent (coaching, chemistry, luck, experience, etc) but talent is obviously an extremely important condition for sustained success.
With that in mind, the following chart details the players ranked in the top 100 and top 50 that will appear on the rosters of the preseason top 15 next year. The numbers in this updated chart are slightly different from the ones in my ACC talent race article primarily because of late transfer action.
|Team||Top 50||Top 100|
|Notre Dame Fighting Irish||8||9|
|South Carolina Gamecocks||7||9|
|Ohio State Buckeyes||7||10|
|Mississippi State Bulldogs||2||2|
|Florida State Seminoles||7||10|
As the chart shows, the talent on Florida State's roster next year compares favorably with the top teams in the nation. Remember, the chart doesn't include Romero so if she was given her proper rating the Noles would have equal talent to both UCLA and Maryland with 8 top 50 players and 11 top 100 players.
However, some caution needs to be raised. The highest ranked player (according to the recruiting rankings) on FSU's roster is Shakayla Thomas (#11 in 2014). This means that the Seminoles will have no top 10 players on their roster. Compare that to their fellow ACC heavyweight Notre Dame. The Irish "only" have nine top 100 players but they have three top 10 players and a fourth who was ranked #11.
Even with that caution it is clear that the Seminoles have a talent base that matches up well with the best teams in the nation. That talent will also be experienced. The Noles will feature three top 100 seniors and three top 100 juniors. Add one to the seniors total if you include Romero.
In the final analysis it is clear that the Seminoles could be primed for a big season. They will have the talent to battle Notre Dame, Louisville and Syracuse for the ACC crown as well as the teams above in their quest for that elusive first Final Four appearance.
Florida State had perhaps its best recruiting class in school history in 2016 when the Noles recruited the #7 class in the nation according to HoopGurlz. In women's basketball it is harder to recruit multiple top classes in a row because most players stay for four years so it's tough to provide immediate playing time to top recruits when you already have a loaded roster. This is the case for FSU this year but Semrau and her staff have managed to recruit a good two player class led by 5* wing Savannah Wilkinson (5'11, London, ENG). Joining Wilkinson will be 3* guard Sayawni Lassiter (5'11, Dorchester, MA).
Unfortunately FSU missed out on a few top 100 players including Autumn Newby (Vanderbilt), LaDazhia Williams (South Carolina), Kasiyahna Kushkituah (Tennessee) and Maya Caldwell (Georgia). The recruiting period is not over but it is unlikely that FSU will be able to add any more top 100 players to the 2017 class.
For 2018 there are a few names to keep an eye on. They include (but are not limited to) 5'10 guard Izabella Nicoletti (#3 overall, Raleigh, NC), 5'6 guard Destanni Henderson (#10 overall, Lehigh Acres, FL), 5'10 guard Kourtney Weber (#18 overall, New Orleans) and 5'9 guard Amaya Brown (#28 overall, Albuquerque, NM).
Florida State opens their season with an exhibition against St. Francis (Illinois) this Sunday at 2pm in the TLCCC. They start the regular season against Jacksonville St on Nov. 11th. The next game is on Nov. 14 against four time defending national champion UConn at 6pm in the TLCCC (ESPN 2).
Florida State has the talent to make a very deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Stay tuned to Tomahawk Nation as we chronicle what could be a special season.