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Florida State year end sports notebook

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Just a few thoughts on Seminole sports. As always, read at your own risk.

NCAA Basketball: North Florida at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Men's Basketball Recruiting

Florida State currently has the 14th ranked recruiting class in the country according to 247Sports. However, that ranking could soon change in a big way. As we have been reporting in Tomahawk Nation, FSU is the current favorite to add top-5 guard Anthony Edwards to the 2019 class. If the Noles are able to secure Edwards’ signature, FSU's class will likely end up in the 4-7 range nationally. Florida State's exact ranking would be determined by where some other highly ranked recruits end up. Only four of the current top 10 players have signed and this accounts for the potential variation when projecting Florida State's final ranking. However, wherever the Noles finish in the final ranking, if the 2019 class included Edwards it would be the best class FSU has signed since modern recruiting rankings came into existence (circa 2000).

The class would also be remarkable for another reason. Anthony Edwards is a lock to finish as one of the top five players in the 2019 class. The signing of Edwards would mark the first time in the modern era (circa 2000) that Florida State has signed a top five player. The highest ranked player that FSU has signed in the modern era is Jonathan Isaac who was the eighth ranked player in 2016.

This inability to sign a top five player is not a failure that is specific to FSU. It is extremely difficult to sign top five players under any circumstances (the demand obviously exceeds the supply) but it is almost impossible for non-bluebloods to do so. I was interested in how unlikely it is for non-bluebloods to sign a top five player so I took a look at the last 10 recruiting classes to investigate how many top five players chose non-blueblood schools. The results were decisive but unsurprising. For the purposes of this discussion I have delineated six schools as bluebloods: Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA and Arizona. There is obviously room for debate when determining who should hold blueblood status. There are a few teams (Villanova, Indiana, Michigan State, etc.) who could plausibly claim to be bluebloods but I intentionally tried to keep the list as exclusive as possible.

The data reveals that those six teams have accounted for 35 of the 50 top five players available in the last 10 years. The chart below displays the exact breakdown. On the Y-axis is the recruiting class year and on the X-axis is the ranking of the recruit.

The main takeaway of the chart is that bluebloods have signed 70% of the top recruits in the last 10 years. There are 353 schools currently competing in Division 1 basketball. Viewed in that context it is somewhat astounding that only six of them account for 70% of the top 5 players. Remember also that one of the bluebloods, North Carolina, was crippled for most of the last 10 years because they were under the specter of sanctions due to the academic scandal. If not for that these numbers could be even more stark.

There are some other interesting nuggets revealed by the chart. Duke is a recruiting juggernaut that would make Alabama football blush. The Blue Devils have signed at least one top five player every year since 2012 and have signed a top five player in eight of the last ten years. They have signed a total of 11 top five players in the last 10 years which is tops in the country. The talent train to Durham isn't stopping any time soon as the Blue Devils have signed top five big man Vernon Carey in the 2019 class.

A total of 13 non-blueblood programs have signed a top five player in the last 10 years so FSU would be joining some exclusive company if Edwards signs with the Noles. Of the non-blueblood schools only Texas and Baylor have signed more than one top five player. Florida State could potentially join this group in the next couple of years as the Noles have received official visits from 2020 top five players Jalen Green and Scottie Barnes.

Obviously the Seminoles aren't about to join the ranks of the basketball bluebloods any time soon. However, the way the Noles are recruiting they may be in line to take big strides forward on the court in the near future.

FSU Team Sport Health Rankings

With the new year fast approaching, I thought it might be interesting to take stock of where the Florida State sports department is at this moment in time. Particularly, if we ranked the sports programs in terms of health, which programs would rank as the healthiest on campus. There are a couple of criteria used to rank the programs.

First, in order to create somewhat of a level playing field I decided to limit the rankings to team sports. In this context a sport qualifies as a "team sport” if true teamwork is required. There are many sports at the college level that are designated as team sports but no teamwork between teammates is required. These sports merely aggregate individual times or scores to create a team framework. In order to limit my rankings to true teams I used passing as a proxy for teamwork. In other words if the sport requires passing between teammates it requires teamwork and is therefore a true team sport.

The second criteria used to create the rankings is that these rankings are merely a reflection of the standings of each individual sport right now in this particular moment in time. These rankings are not meant to be predictive. It would not surprise me at all if they changed quite a bit next year. Because they are meant to be a snapshot of where the programs are right now, things like tradition were largely ignored. However, near term recruiting was considered since the ability to attract top recruits is a very good indication of the standing of a program.

With that criteria in mind, let's get to the rankings. Florida State currently competes in eight sports that qualify as team sports under our definition. We will count them down from eight to one top 40 style.

8. Football

The football program is obviously the flagship sport at Florida State. However, after a disappointing 5-7 season resulting in missing a bowl for the first time in 36 years, it's hard to rank the program any higher right now. Again, this ranking is not meant to be predictive. The football team has the most potential for growth of any program on this list. I am a big supporter of Willie Taggart and I believe that he will restore the program to its rightful place among the elite. However, right now the football team ranks eighth in the all program standings.

7. Volleyball

The Seminole volleyball team finished the 2018 season with a 19-10 overall record and a second place ACC finish (15-3). The Noles went to their 10th straight NCAA Tournament falling in the first round to Florida in Orlando. They are one of only 11 programs nationally to reach 10 straight tournaments. The Noles finished the season ranked 27th in the RPI and unranked in the coaches poll. Head Coach Chris Poole has created a consistent program but the Seminoles haven't been able to break through in recent years. However, this seventh place ranking is more of a reflection of the strength of the other programs on this list than of the true health of the volleyball program.

6. Women's Basketball

It can be argued that this program should be higher but the fact that women's basketball is ranked sixth shows the overall strength of the Florida State athletic department. The Noles are currently 12-1 and are ranked 25th in the last coaches poll and 17th in the RPI. Florida State has been one of the more pleasant surprises in women's basketball as the Noles have compiled such an impressive record despite losing five starters from last year's team and despite having to absorb injuries to a pair of potential starters in Iho Lopez and Izabela Nicoletti.

FSU is a no doubt top 20 program nationally and you could make a strong case for top 15. However, even with the strong start this sets up as a bit of a transition year for Sue Semrau's crew. Florida State starts ACC play on January 3rd against Virginia. For all of you who think that this program should rank higher, if the Noles are still in the top 20 of the RPI after January feel free to say “I told you so”.

5. Baseball

Florida State obviously flamed out of the tournament last year losing its first two games at home to get eliminated in the regional round. However, the program shouldn't be judged solely by two disappointing games. FSU finished the 2018 season with a 43-19 record and managed to win the ACC Tournament. The Noles also finished the year 11th in the RPI. FSU is also welcoming the 3rd best recruiting class nationally according to Baseball America.

This is a program that is often defined by disappointment as longtime skipper Mike Martin has never been able to deliver a national championship. However, that disappointment shouldn't obscure the fact that Florida State has consistently ranked as a national power for a long time. The Noles should be a factor again nationally in 2019 and that accounts for the fifth place ranking.

4. Men's Basketball

If you read the first part of this notebook you will realize that the future for Leonard Hamilton's program is bright. However, the present is not too shabby either. FSU currently sits at 11-1 with a ninth place ranking in the AP poll. Coming off of a surprise run to the Elite 8 in last year's NCAA Tournament, the current edition of the Seminole basketball team looks capable of another successful season. The current level of play warrants this ranking but I have also considered the recent uptick in recruiting. Again, the ability to recruit top talent is an indicator of a healthy program and FSU is currently doing quite well in that department.

3. Beach Volleyball

Head coach Brooke Niles has built one of the most successful programs in the nation. The Noles finished the 2018 season with a 33-7 record. The Seminoles finished second in last year's NCAA tournament in controversial fashion. FSU finished the season ranked 7th in the coaches poll that was taken before the NCAA Tournament. The Seminoles have reached the Final Four in each of the last three years. Under the direction of Niles, FSU is at worst a top five program nationally and is the best program east of the Mississippi river. With the addition of an impressive recruiting class this program shows no signs of slowing down.

2. Softball

This is the first of two Florida State programs that are coming off of a national championship season. Lonni Alameda's squad finished 58-12 (21-3 ACC) in 2018. The Noles have 19 straight NCAA Tournament appearances and have won six straight ACC regular season titles and five straight ACC Tournament titles. FSU has six straight super regional appearances. That's nice backstory but the softball team is ranked this high for where it is right now. Even though this team loses important players off of last year's championship squad the team remains loaded. This includes a recruiting class that features the consensus top player in the nation (Kathryn Sandercock). The bottom line is that under Alameda this program has reached top five status nationally and it is poised to enjoy similar success in 2019.

1. Soccer

The soccer program is currently the healthiest program at Florida State. Mark Krikorian has constructed a program that is very near juggernaut status. FSU is coming off of a national championship season but that is just one data point in the dominance that we have seen from this program. FSU has won the ACC (consistently one of the toughest conferences in the nation) six times since 2011. The Noles have appeared in every NCAA tournament since 2000 (19 straight). In 16 of those years FSU has made the Sweet 16 and in 13 of those years the Noles have made the Elite 8. Florida State has made the College Cup (Final Four) 10 times and have appeared in the final game four times winning the title in 2014 and 2018. UConn women’s basketball is the only basketball, soccer, softball or volleyball program that has reached the national semifinals more often than FSU soccer since 2000.

Right now the Seminoles appear to be in a good place to continue the dominance. Despite losing key pieces of the 2018 title team, the 2019 team will still be absolutely loaded. It wasn't an easy call deciding between the soccer team and the softball team for the top spot. However, while I do believe that the softball team is currently a top five program, the soccer team is at worst top three and you can make a strong case that the soccer program is the top program in the nation at the present time. That is why they sit at the top of these rankings.

Feel free to let me know in the comments where you agree or disagree. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to read these articles this year. I wish you all health and happiness next year. Happy Nole Year!