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Reviewing our FSU men’s basketball 2018-19 preseason predictions

Can anyone take the title of Nolestradamus?

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida State men wrapped up a tremendous regular-season with a grind-it-out road win over Wake Forest on Saturday. The victory set several program records, including most ACC wins in a regular season and most total wins in a regular season. But the time to do a full season review is not here just yet...and hopefully we won’t be publishing that one until early April.

Instead, let’s time-travel back to early November and take a look at how your esteemed hoops staff felt the season might go before any of the 25 wins had been notched. You can read the entire preseason roundtable, as well as the discussion in the comments section, here. In this piece, I’ll re-print each of the original questions, give a general review of how the results were compared to the predictions, and also add in the prediction for each question that was closest to the final outcome. Down below, we can all regale each other with stories of perfect predictions we told our buddies at the local brewery.

FSU is ranked 15th in the preseason KenPom and coaches poll. Will the Seminoles finish in the top 15 in both? Either?

Not a single contributor felt FSU would finish the regular season ranked in the top 15 in either the coaches poll or KenPom. Yet, despite a slew of injuries and competing in a conference that could place three teams on the 1-line come Selection Sunday, here the Seminoles sit at 15th in KenPom and 13th in the coaches poll (with a slight chance to move up one or two more spots). Tip of the cap to Coach Hamilton and Co.

Since no one had the stones to make a top 15 prediction, the “closest one” is a bit like picking out of a hat. But we will go with Clodfelter since he at least predicted the ‘Noles would stay around 15th through the OOC portion of the schedule (FSU was 17th at tip-off of the UVA game):

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.

Which freshmen—including redshirts—will make the biggest impact?

To be quite honest, I’m not sure there’s a clear answer to this question even now. Perhaps we can has it out in comment section? It’s fair to say RaiQuan Gray and Devin Vassell are clearly above the rest here, but picking between those two is tough. Gray played in more games, played 35% more minutes, had a higher offensive and defensive rebounding rate, plus a higher FT rate. But Vassell had a significantly higher offensive rating, a higher true shot%, a turnover rate that was less than half of Gray’s, had a higher block and steal rate, and is a legitimate three-point threat. He also led the team in scoring on the road against GT and hit a monster corner three against Clemson at home to give FSU a second half lead it never relinquished.

My thinking is to ever-so-slightly give the nod to Vassell, but I’m open to having my mind changed by folks in the comment section. Gray provided some huge minutes in multiple ACC games when guys like Koumadje and Kabengele were in foul trouble, or even when FSU needed another ball handler on the court.

**Side note—had the question been worded as what “first year player...” then David Nichols would be the clear choice in my mind. His impact has been the difference between winning and losing in several games and I sure am glad he decided to spend his last year of college ball in Tallahassee.

The predictions were all over the board. Gray, Vassell, and Anthony Polite all received mention. Prince and Josh both went with Vassell, so imaginary points are awarded to each of them. And honestly, their answers were so similar I’m just going to give the copy/paste award to them both.

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.

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?

In full disclosure, this was meant as a “pick which one you’d rather have” question, as opposed to “pick which one you think will happen.” So it’s a little tougher to grade.

Nonetheless, this is a perfect place to reflect on just how remarkable Mann’s improvement from three has been. Mann had flashed the potential to shoot from the perimeter during the exhibition games for a couple preseasons, but never seemed to be able to translate that confidence when the score mattered. Note that my “pie in the sky” wish for him would be to shoot 35% on 70 attempts. Flash forward a few months and the senior is at a ridiculous 44% on 68 attempts, and is even letting them fly off the bounce. In fact, Mann has made more threes this season than in his first 3 years combined! This incredible improvement from him is a big part of why FSU is 25-6, and must have taken thousands upon thousands of reps in the gym.

Forrest, for his part, led the team in steal rate yet again (he’s 48th in the nation), despite playing on a gimpy toe for most of the season. It’s been a valiant effort to be sure, but one that will likely not lead to a 1st team All-ACC defense selection.

For the “predictions,” most said they would prefer Mann to be a knock-down shooter but weren’t sold he could actually hit 35%. So we’ll give the copy/paste award to Rogner who at least said it was possible.

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.

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?

We saw FSU needing to hit free throws down the stretch in several games this year and fortunately for ‘Nole fans, they cashed in on the vast majority. Trent Forrest sealed the deal late in several games this season, including a game-tying bucket to send the LSU game into OT and a game winning basket with six seconds left against Purdue. From the charity stripe, Forrest also sealed the deal against Notre Dame with four made FTs in the final minute and two made FTs to extend the lead to three with 19 seconds left in OT against UL.

But Forrest isn’t the only guy who deserves mention. M.J. Walker sank two FTs of his own in the final minute against UL and hit quite a few others late in ACC games, such as drilling a pair to give FSU a two-possession lead against NCSU with just more than two minutes to go and sinking two with 14 seconds left against Miami to extend FSU’s lead to six. In fact, Walker finished second in the ACC for FT shooting percentage during conference games only, scorching the nets at 86.8%. He also hit critical threes late against LSU, Purdue, and Virginia Tech to either give FSU a lead or get them within one possession.

Mfiondu Kabengele drained four consecutive free throws in the final 1:09 against NC State that kept FSU in control of that ending. Of course, Kabengele also hit the game winning three in OT against LSU.

Terance Mann and David Nichols also each came up big down the stretch of games. Mann hit a pair to give FSU a three point lead with 28 seconds left against VT, which would turn out to be critical as the Hokies hit a three to send the game to OT. Nichols sank two FTs with less than seconds left against Notre Dame to give FSU a three possession lead and seal the win.

Like the freshmen impact question, this answer might best be hashed out in the comments section. For me, it comes down to Forrest or Walker and I’ll give it to Forrest just by the slightest of margins. Truth be told, I’m not sure you’d go wrong with any of the guys mentioned.

The predictions featured a consensus around David Nichols. Yours truly did say “Trent is the first guy who popped into my head,” but ultimately my pick was Nichols as well. So for the copy/paste award, let’s go with Josh since he is only person who mentioned Walker by name and he also mentioned Forrest.

JP: Give me Nichols, as well, although I think PJ Savoy, MJ Walker, and Forrest will be very reliable options, as well.

Who will lead the team in scoring?

Despite not starting a single game, Kabengele finished as the team leader for scoring at 13.1 points per game. Mann, the only other player in double figures, finished runner-up with 11.5.

Most of the predictions were for Mann, and not a single person picked Kabengele. However, one person mentioned the blossoming big man and even nailed the two who would finish in the top two—plus got the actual ppg correct. This author takes home his first copy/pasty:

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.

**For the record, FSU actually had an astonishing nine guys lead the team in scoring at least once.

Last year, 10 guys played at least 25% of the available minutes: over/under that number this year?

Vassell has an outside chance to work his way up to 25% by the end of the full season (especially if he’s part of a deep NCAAT run), but as of now FSU has nine guys who played at least 25% of the team’s regular season minutes. Only two guys, Mann and Forrest, played more than 60%, a testament to the team’s depth and Forrest’s toughness for playing hurt most of the year.

The folks of the roundtable did pretty well here, with all but one saying under 10. Hard to pick a winner with so many right answers, but we will go with myself since I actually predicted the number 9.

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.

FSU averaged 16.1 seconds per offensive possession last year, 44th fastest in the country. Over/under that pace this year?

Despite wanting to run, FSU finished a good bit slower than this at 17.2 seconds per offensive possession. Much of this credit goes to opposing coaches who were determined to not get into a track meet with the Seminoles due to the considerable depth amassed by Hamilton and often didn’t even attempt to hit the offensive glass out of fear of not having guys back on defense. Some of it is also due to playing a slew of molasses styled teams, as UVA, Villanova, Florida, Virginia Tech, UAB, and Notre Dame all rank 298th or worse in tempo.

Nonetheless, every single one of us put up air balls on this prediction. I won’t insult the copy/pasties by awarding one in this wipe-out.

What will be FSU’s ACC record?

The Seminoles pulled the ultimate rope-a-dope by starting off 1-4 in the ACC and then roaring back to win 12 of their final 13 games. Even with FSU playing the easiest conference slate in the league (as determined by KenPom), it’s still a remarkable accomplishment.

Like the last category, not a single person predicted 13-5. Most were around the 10-8 mark. Yours truly did say 11-7 and even predicted the slow start/strong finish (I had a 2-3 start with a 9-4 record over the final 13), but also said 10-8 was more likely than 12-6. So the award goes to Prince who was the only person to predict 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.

Will the men or women earn a better NCAA Tournament seed?

Obviously we don’t know this answer quite yet, but it’s safe to say it will be the men. Hamilton’s boys are in line for anything from a 3 seed to a 5 seed, while Sue’s ladies are looking more like a 6 or a 7 seed (fantastic job of fighting through a rebuilding year for the Lady Seminoles).

Most of the prognosticators had the men edging out the women, so really the award could go to any of them. But let’s go with Josh since he was spot on about Coach Sue getting her team to overachieve.

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.

Okay, folks, fire away! Did anyone out there think 13-5 was possible? Got any proof? How about the leading scorer, anyone have Kabengele? And who was the most impactful freshman?