Last season, the Florida State Seminoles started their non-conference season as strong as anyone in the nation by knocking off a ranked Florida team and only losing to Oklahoma State on a neutral court. The tall (average height 6’6”), uber-athletic FSU team entered the ACC season with momentum. Veteran leaders Phil Cofer, Braian Angola-Rodas and Terance Mann played with confidence and poise. The ACC season wasn’t as kind to them as they ended up with a 9-9 mark. FSU had a few unexpected losses to Boston Colege, Louisville, Notre Dame, and NC State coupled with an early loss in the ACC tournament to a hungry Louisville squad. Their late-season tailspin earned them a 9 seed in the NCAA tournament, with a difficult matchup against a Missouri team that regained the services of blue-chip Michael Porter. Somehow, Leonard Hamilton and company turned it on in the tourney by knocking off #8 Mizzou, #1 seed Xavier, #4 seed Gonzaga before bowing out in a 4 point loss to the eventual national runner-up, Michigan.
An elite eight run has added expectations to a veteran FSU team. Terance Mann returns and Phil Cofer was granted a sixth year of eligibility. The Noles’ are a sleeper to win the ACC crown and make a Final Four appearance.
Easily, the biggest boost that Florida State received was keeping the service of leading scorer Phil Cofer (12.8 ppg). The 38% three point shooter is a major boost for a team that doesn’t stroke it well from long range (ranked 177 in CBB). Senior Terance Mann adds experience, length and defense prowess (0.9 SPG) at multiple positions. Mfiondu Kabengele comes back and should be the starting center, who has demonstrated that he can stretch the floor (39% 3P%). Sophomore MJ Walker was a former McDonald’s All American who made an impact in the ACC season but relinquished playing time to veterans during the NCAA tourney run. His development along with Trent Forrest becoming the full-time starter at PG are developments to follow early in the season. FSU also has two frontcourt seniors coming off the bench with wing PJ Savoy and 7’4” Christ Koumadje who will add a battled tested element to the mix.
Angola-Rodas had a banner senior season (12.5 PP and 3.0 APG), but his major strength was being a superior defender at multiple positions. This will be sorely missed.
CJ Walker (transferred to Ohio State) could be a tough loss for FSU because he started at PG, but it should be mitigated by Trent Forrest and newcomer David Nichols. Walker had a very unspectacular end to the FSU season while they made their NCAA run.
The Albany transfer averaged 14.6 PPG, 3.5 APP and shot 37% from the perimeter and will add experience and depth behind Trent Forrest and MJ Walker at either guard spot.
Another 1-seed falls!
Xavier blows a late 9-point lead as FSU storms into the Sweet 16. pic.twitter.com/wJ3vYjB786
— ESPN (@espn) March 19, 2018
Projected Starting Five
It’s hard to bet against a team that has a so much experience and has tasted success like Florida State. I expect them to be in the top 4 of the ACC with Duke, UNC, UVA and possibly Syracuse. Adding David Nichols was critical for this team with the transfer of CJ Walker. On the flip side, this team finished 13th in ACC in defensive efficiency and didn’t add any real impact freshmen, which has been a staple in the equation for championship teams. We see the Seminoles to be a top 4 team in the ACC and make it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. Their defensive woes will plague them when they begin to match up against teams that have similar athleticism and experience.
Record Prediction: 24-7 (13-6)
Non-conference-wise, I only see FSU losing to Florida, but they should handle Purdue and a rebuilding UCONN team. They finished 8th in the ACC last year due to a late-season slump, but expect Florida State to handle the rigors of conference play much better this year due to experience. Hardly anyone wins at UVA and road games at Syracuse and UNC look daunting for a team that lacks a bit of defensive prowess. I also look for them to split against rival Miami.