Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Wednesday, January 25, 2017 at 1:46 PM
Florida State basketball has traditionally taken a back seat to the school’s more powerful football program, but this year’s Seminole hoops squad has spent the early part of the ACC schedule letting the country know they’re a threat to be in Phoenix for the Final Four come April.
FSU’s 18-2 record overall, 6-1 in the conference, is impressive enough on its face. Then you look at who they’ve beaten—a win at Virginia, and three more home Ws against Duke, Notre Dame and Louisville. The only ACC loss is at North Carolina. If you look at the non-conference resume, there’s a win over a pretty good Florida team.
All in all, that’s not bad. And while Florida State’s 16-1 odds to win the national championship aren’t all that great, it is worth nothing that conference brethren Duke and North Carolina are each priced at 8-1. That’s striking given that it seems fairly evident the Seminoles are better than the Blue Devils and at least on a par with the Tar Heels.
What Florida State has in its lineup is size. And I’m not just talking about Jonathan Isaac, the seven-foot freshman who averages 13 points/8 rebounds per game. The Seminoles are also big on the wings. Dwayne Bacon is the team’s best player and he goes 6’7” in the backcourt. Terance Mann, another guard, is 6’6”. It’s no surprise that both of these players are able to crash the boards and rebound effectively. That kind of size in the backcourt creates significant matchup problems for opposing coaches.
The three players mentioned are all underclassmen, in the modern spirit of college basketball contenders being very young. You can also add to that list sophomore sharpshooter P.J. Savoy, the team’s best option for loosening up defenses behind the arc. But it’s not all about youth—point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayers is a junior and he averages 10 points/5 assists per game.
Florida State is a well-constructed team. Bacon, Isaac and Rathan-Mayers are basically a “Big Three” that cover the point, the post and the wing. Savoy is the shooter and Mann the athletic X-factor off the bench, the kind you need to make a difference at some point in an NCAA Tournament run .
What’s concerning about FSU is their pedigree. In a sports world where the city of Cleveland has won a championship and the Chicago Cubs have a World Series trophy, maybe it seems a little passe to be thinking about a program’s history. But it does have to be considered that head coach Leonard Hamilton has been in Tallahassee since 2003 and he’s only made the NCAAs four times—and only once (2011) did he get past the opening weekend. It would be nice to think that Florida State’s patience with Hamilton will pay off this year, but we can’t deny the uncertainty regarding the coaching.
One way to start measuring that is to look at what kind of consistency Florida State plays with. We know they’re capable of matching up with anyone based on the early ACC returns. Now let’s see them handle the coming road stretch of Georgia Tech, Syracuse and Miami. All are teams that FSU should beat and all are teams capable of knocking off an unfocused opponent. The quiet taking care of business is the next step in the progression of this basketball team.