Coming off the deepest NCAA Tournament run in two decades and with a number of key pieces returning, the FSU men’s basketball team has received a fair amount of hype as they tip-off the 2019 season. Can Leonard Hamilton’s bunch match or exceed expectations once again? Our hoops staff answers this and much more during the preseason roundtable. As always, be sure to head to the comment section to share your own thoughts.
FSU is ranked 15th in the preseason KenPom and coaches poll. Will the Seminoles finish in the top 15 in both? Either?
Matt Minnick (MM): The coaches poll seems quite unlikely simply because of how hard the ACC is. There are a legitimate 12 teams in the league that could dance if they stay healthy and FSU just doesn’t have the brand name power to be ranked in the top 15 with 8-10 losses. KenPom doesn’t care about wins and losses, so much as how you play. So I’d say the chances are a little better there. However, Hamilton’s penchant for using subs early and often to build depth, while great for March, can take a toll on FSU’s overall efficiency ratings. Given that FSU’s 2012 team still only managed a 24th place finish on KenPom, I’d plug the ‘Noles in somewhere closer to 25 than 15.
Michael Rogner (MR): No. I think FSU is more in the 20-30 range and is being overrated because of their Elite 8 run in the NCAA Tournament. Getting to the Tournament is important. Maximizing your seed is important. But what happens there is greatly impacted by luck. Virginia was the first No. 1 seed to be knocked off by a No. 16 seed, but they were undoubtedly a better team than FSU, and they had a better season.
Prince Akeem Joffer (PAJ) Unfortunately, I think not. I think that the chances are a little better in KenPom because it is more of a measure of efficiency. But I think even there it will be tough. In the coaches poll it will be really difficult because FSU will probably have too many losses. There will be a few teams with easier schedules who will have glitzy records that will be ranked higher than FSU.
Josh Pick (JP): No. FSU has too many variables, & the unexpected transfer of Ike Obiagu, & injury to Phil Cofer will be too much to overcome.
Jonathan Clodfelter (JC): Seems unlikely but not impossible, especially on KenPom. I think they could stay ranked around 15 through the out of conference schedule but will fall back during the grind of the ACC.
Andrew Miller (AM): No. Combine the gauntlet of ACC play, a very different roster, and the fact that FSU will lose an OOC game that it shouldn’t, the ‘Noles won’t end up in the top 15.
Which freshmen—including redshirts—will make the biggest impact?
MM: I’m going to cheat. For the OOC portion of the schedule, give me RaiQuan Gray. Someone is going to have to step up in the absence of Phil Cofer and I believe Gray has the skill-set to do it. Just needs to get his confidence and experience up. For the ACC portion of the schedule, I’ll go with Anthony Polite. Do everything guards who can defend, rebound, and shoot usually find a way to be utilized by Coach Ham.
MR: I’ll take Anthony Polite. After a bunch of injuries he should be ready to go. He won’t put up numbers in any category, but he has the ability to impact games. In this case I’ll take “biggest impact” to mean “most minutes” and Polite should be there.
PAJ: I’ll go with Devin Vassell. That guy is going to get shots up and it won’t take him long to do it. The good news about this team is that you could really go with a number of guys and have a good chance of being correct.
JP: I agree with Prince. Vassell, who still needs to add weight (maybe he could borrow some pounds from Gray), is very versatile on O. If he can figure out Coach Ham’s defense, I think he’ll be a key cog right away.
JC: Due to the time Cofer will miss, I’ll take RaiQuan Gray. He’ll have the best opportunity at more minutes and I think he has the skills to be a contributor to this team.
AM: RaiQuan Gray will get some opportunities early with Phil Cofer out and will be put in prime position to make an impact early.
Pick one: Terance Mann shoots 35% on 70 attempts from 3 (last year he shot 25% on 52 attempts), OR Trent Forrest is named 1st team All-ACC defense?
MR: If Mann hits 35% of his 3s, I’ll be ecstatic. I can pretty much guarantee that Forrest should be named to 1st team All-ACC defense, but that doesn’t mean he will be. The voters tend to pick their guys based on blocks and steals as opposed to actual defense. So I’ll take Mann in this case, knowing that Forrest will likely deserve 1st Team regardless of how the voting turns out.
MM: Trent making 1st team All-ACC defense. If Forrest actually makes the all-conference defensive team, that will mean he’s probably been the best perimeter defense in the entire conference. Which means he won’t just be playing very good defense, he’ll be playing “game plan changing” defense.
PAJ: I’ll say Trent. Mann hitting 35% from deep would be huge for FSU. I obviously hope it happens but it would be a huge jump over what we have seen from him in the past. Trent is definitely capable of being named 1st team defense and FSU is getting more love after the Elite 8 run but I still don’t fully trust the Tobacco Road writers to recognize him. Even so I think his chances are better than Mann’s getting to 35%.
JP: Not sold on Mann as a 3-pt. shooter, so give me Forrest making 1st-team, although it’s easier said than done with the “Tobacco Road” media (just ask Toney Douglas).
JC: Forrest. Though I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he is deserving but ultimately gets snubbed.
AM: Every time I watch Trent Forrest on the floor, he’s giving 100% effort on every single play. With that said, with only more experience and conditioning from last year, he’ll make a huge impact on defense and will hopefully be rewarded.
With 6 seconds left, FSU is up 2 and headed to the free throw line for a 1 and 1. Who do you want at the stripe?
MM: Trent is the first guy who popped into my head. Yes, he only shot 69% on the season last year, but in conference-only games he came in at 76%. But after some deeper thought, I think I might go with graduate transfer David Nichols. Free throw shooting is something that typically transfers at any level. In conference play the last two years, Nichols shot 80.4% and 84.2%, respectively. And if you don’t think there are pressure packed moments during conference play for low and mid-major schools, you aren’t paying attention to college basketball.
MR: David Nichols has been money, making 80% of his FTs for his career. Trent was pretty solid in the 2nd half last year, so whoever has the ball should be able to get it done.
PAJ: First, I would hope that FSU is in the bonus with 6 seconds left. Thanks, ACC refs! Back to the question: I’ll pick David Nichols. He seems like the best free throw shooter on the roster. Plus he has the experience to handle the pressure.
JP: Give me Nichols, as well, although I think PJ Savoy, MJ Walker, and Forrest will be very reliable options, as well.
JC: I will go by pure stats and say David Nichols.
AM: Free throws in games are one of those percentage stats in basketball that doesn’t seem to deviate too much from a players’ career free throw percentage. With that said, I’ll take David Nichols.
Who will lead the team in scoring?
MR: Tough not to go with Phil Cofer, being that he led the team last year, but he’s going to miss all the games against over-matched opponents, which will let Terance Mann and Trent Forrest have some big games in his absence. I think we’ll see four or five guys in double figures with them bunched at the top, and I’ll go with Trent Forrest sneaking out of the pack to lead the team in scoring.
MM: I’m not sure it really matters, as I’m guessing FSU will have 6 or 7 guys who are the leading scorer for at least one game this season. But given his knack for offensive rebounds and a perimeter shot that appears improved in exhibition play, I’ll go with Terance Mann edging out Mfiondu Kabengele, somewhere near the 13ppg mark.
PAJ: I’ll pick MJ Walker. I think that he has the most diverse offensive skill set of anyone on the roster. I also think that he is the guy most likely to explode for a huge game that will help him compensate for games when his shot is off. This is a tough question though because FSU has so many guys who can step up.
JP: This will change from night to night, but over the course of the season, I’ll take the consistency of Mann.
JC: Several guys could end up being the leading scorer, but I’ll go with Mann because I think he will be the most consistent. I think Phil will fall short of repeating due to missing the early season games against lesser competition.
AM: I’m gonna go with Terance Mann just based on consistency from last year.
Last year, 10 guys played at least 25% of the available minutes: over/under that number this year?
MR: If Forrest and Mann stay healthy, then I’ll go under. They could both average over 34 minutes a game come ACC play, and with them eating up so many minutes, I don’t think there are enough left to go around to get to 10 guys playing that much.
MM: Forrest, Mann, M.J. Walker, Christ Koumadje, PJ Savoy, Nichols, Kabengele, and Phil Cofer all seem like locks to play at least 25% of the team’s minutes (assuming Phil comes back healthy by Christmas). RaiQuan might get there if he’s relied on a lot while Phil’s out. But I’m not confident in any other player to say they reach the 25% mark (for reference, Obiagu played 25.6% last season). I think I’ll go one under with 9.
PAJ: I’ll push and stay at 10. I am going to be optimistic and say that one of the freshmen will step up and earn significant minutes.
JP: Smart money says probably no more than nine will play 25% or more of the available minutes, as it’s hard for younger guys to fully earn Ham’s trust.
JC: Under. I don’t see Wilkes, Polite, or Vassell getting that kind of playing time and Gray may not either.
AM: I feel like everyone else has answered this question pretty well and that you don’t want to read another analysis of the same answer. Under
FSU averaged 16.1 seconds per offensive possession last year, 44th fastest in the country. Over/under that pace this year?
MM: Under. FSU ran at 15.3 seconds per possession in the 2016-17 season and I think we will be a shade faster than that. Opposing teams are going to be running in mud mid-way through the second half.
MR: Under. This team is gonna fly.
PAJ: I’ll say under. It seems that Ham is recruiting guys that want to get out and run. It also fits with FSU’s strategy to fatigue other teams and force them to play their bench more than usual.
JP: Think FSU will play at a faster pace this season, which should be fun, although it’ll inevitably lead to some frustrating/foolish moments.
JC: Under. They want to go as fast as possible.
AM: Every year, it seems as Hamilton just wants to get the offense faster and faster. This year is no exception. Under.
What will be FSU’s ACC record?
MR: If Phil is 100% I think the over/under is probably 10.5 wins. I’ll go 10-8, as it will take some time to get Phil back involved. If he’s bothered all year I could see 9-9 as being most likely, with 8 wins more probably than 10.
MM: For the first time in a while, we seem to have one of the more favorable ACC schedules (relatively speaking given the meat grinder of a conference we play in). I think we could start out 2-3 over the first 5, as Phil gets back into game shape, but I really like our odds of a strong finish. Give me 11-7, with 10-8 more likely than 12-6.
PAJ: I’m going optimistic. I’ll say 12-6. I’m counting on FSU being tough at home and sweeping teams like Miami and Georgia Tech. I’m also obviously counting on Cofer coming back 100% for a full ACC schedule.
JP: The ACC schedule is always a brute, and it’s no different this season. The ’Noles open with Virginia, Miami (FL), & Duke. With Cofer’s status still up in the air for conference play, I’ll say 10-8.
JC: 10-8. The ACC might be even more competitive than usual with 12 teams that could make the NCAA Tournament.
AM: 9-9. FSU will drop some games it shouldn’t, just as it seems it does most years, and I think it’ll take some time for the team to gel and get Cofer back to the level FSU needs him to be.
Will the men or women earn a better NCAA Tournament seed?
MM: With the move away from the RPI (more on the NET in a few weeks), I like our chances of a Selection Sunday bump for the men. I’ll take the men’s team with a 6-seed, with the women drawing a dreaded 8/9 matchup.
MR: I have zero knowledge of the women’s team, so I’ll take the men’s team with a 7-seed.
PAJ: I discussed the women more in the preview article. However, it’s great to talk about them here. The women will be in a transition year. They are talented but very young and they have players who will have to play big minutes out of position. I would be very surprised if the women had a better seed than the men. In fact it is possible that the women could end up as a bubble team. I don’t think that the men will be a bubble team.
JP: Whatever Prince said, as he’s the resident TN king of women’s sports. I actually think Coach Sue will find a way to get more than expected out of the Lady ’Noles this season, but I’ll still say the men get a higher seed.
JC: I’ll go with the men as a 6/7 seed over the women as an 8/9.
AM: It doesn’t matter, just get a higher seed than Michigan.