NoleGameday

Florida State Basketball Season Preview

The Florida State Seminoles are primed for a big year during the 2016-2017 season. A berth in the NCAA Tournament would be the Nole’s first since 2012, and would show the growth that this program has made while rebuilding.

Last season, the team finished with a 20-14 record and went 8-10 in ACC play. The Seminoles failed to make the NCAA Tournament and accepted an invite to the NIT Tournament as a #4 seed. They defeated #5 Davidson 84-74 in the first round that they hosted at home, before losing on the road to #1 Valparaiso 81-69. The season came to a disappointing end, and the returning players are ready to get revenge.

Returning Players:

The Noles return seven rotational players, and many of them played key minutes last season.

– Xavier Rathan-Mayes

Mayes is heading into his junior season after averaging 11.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1 steal per game. He attempted to convert to more of a facilitating role last year with the additions of Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon, and he struggled. This year he’ll look to get back to scoring more. Mayes struggled from deep last season, only shooting 28.5%. If he gets his percentages back up, he’ll have another solid year and be in the conversation for the NBA draft.

– Dwayne Bacon

Bacon shocked everyone by electing to return to FSU for his sophomore season, many figured he was headed to the draft after he was projected to be a first round selection. By returning, he shows that he truly cares about trying to help bring the Noles back to the NCAA Tournament conversation. Bacon averaged a team high 15.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1 steal per game. His long range jumper was also his achilles heel last season, as he only shot 28.1% from deep. Supposedly, Bacon spent all offseason reworking his jumper and we’ll have to see if he improves. If so, he is almost a lock to be a first round pick in the 2017 NBA draft.

– Terance Mann

One of the nice surprises from the 2015 freshmen class, Mann’s high motor was one of his greatest contributions last season. He only averaged 5.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, but Mann shot 58.4% from the field. Many of his baskets came off putbacks or in transition, but he did show the ability to attack the basket. He provides good defense and effort, and he’ll start the season as a starter. Mann could break out this year if he improves his shooting percentages from the line and deep.

– Michael Ojo

One of two seven footers on this squad, Ojo missed all of last season recovering from surgery after he suffered a torn meniscus in the preseason. During his first three seasons, he didn’t seem to be much of a basketball player. He lacked the awareness and knowledge needed to contribute consistently on the floor but did show flashes, like when he played well against Jahlil Okafor in 2014. Ojo has finally developed, and he is finally beginning to look like a basketball player. He is going to need to have a big year if FSU is going to compete, it’s up to him to dominate opposing frontcourts with his size and strength.

– Jarquez Smith

Smith is in his fourth year as a Nole and has a been consistent rotational player and starter over the last few seasons. Last year, he averaged 5.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1 block per game. He’s been very inconsistent with performances but finally started to put good games together at the end of last year, it’ll be interesting to see if he carries that same momentum into this season.

– Phil Cofer

Cofer is heading into his junior year after missing most of last season due to surgery on an injured ankle. He only averaged 3.8 points and 2 rebounds per game last season in 11 appearances. Stats don’t always tell the true story, and Cofer is much more than that. This year he’ll be able to space the floor a bit more, as he has a come a long way offensively. He’s slowly been developing a consistent shot and his athletic dunks always get the crowd hyped up. He’s in contention for a breakout year if he stays healthy.

– Christ Koumadje

Now the tallest player in FSU history at 7’4”, Koumadje will try to contribute more on the court during his sophomore season. Last year, his thin frame and tendencies to foul often kept him off the floor more often than not. This season, he has bulked up and looks like he has developed more. He’ll be a role player off the bench and could provide valuable rebounding and shot blocking for this group. He’s also very athletic, and a guy the Noles like to throw the alley oop to on offense.

Departing Players:

FSU lost five players over the offseason. One was a first round NBA Draft pick, three were graduating seniors, and one decided to transfer during the offseason.

– Malik Beasley

Beasley was the first Seminole drafted since Bernard James in 2012 (R2, 33rd overall) and the first 1st round selection since Chris Singleton in 2011 (R1, 18th). He was the second leading scorer last year, and logged more minutes than anyone else on the team. Beasley was also one of the most consistent Noles, he scored double figures in all but four games last season. His scoring and attitude will be missed by this group.

– Devon Bookert

Bookert was one of the greatest 3 point shooters in FSU basketball history. He ranks fifth in percentage (41.9%), seventh in makes, and ninth in attempts. He has played a lot of quality basketball for Florida State over the past four years, and it pains me that we weren’t able to get Bookert an appearance in the NCAA tournament. He may be the Seminole that we miss the most this year, just because of his ability to stretch the floor and his leadership.

– Boris Bojanovsky

At 7’3”, Bojanovsky was the tallest player in the history of FSU basketball, Until Chris Koumadje came in at 7’4” and stole the title from him. Bojo never quite lived up to the hype that fans put on him because of how tall he was. He seemed to lack the athleticism and physicality to become the dominant big man that people wanted him to be. Boris had four games last season with four or more blocks, including a game against Notre Dame where he recorded 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 blocks. Finished his career ranked third in school history with 195 blocked shots. His ability to contest and alter shots will be missed by the team.

– Montay Brandon

Brandon was another four year player, he set the record for most starts in FSU basketball history with 122. He had a sharp drop off from his junior year to senior year because his role was changed after the Seminoles added some high quality talent in the 2015 recruiting class. Brandon always tried his best to show a lot of effort, and it’s unfortunate his career had to end the way it did.

– Benji Bell

The surprise of the offseason, Bell decided to transfer in June. He shot a team high 42.6% from three and averaged 3.8 points and a rebound per game last year. He was a potential starter and definitely one of the first guys off the bench if he had remained a Seminole, instead he’ll look to play elsewhere. The transfer seemed to be because of the possibility of a lack of playing time. The Noles added talented guards in Trent Forrest and C.J. Walker, so there will be less minutes to go around this season. Maybe it’s better for the youth of the program that Bell decided to transfer.

New Additions:

With subtraction, comes addition, and the Seminoles signed six players during the early and normal signing periods. The gem of the class is 5* Forward and projected lottery pick, Jonathan Isaac.

– Jonathan Isaac

Isaac was rated as the #8 player in the nation, he comes into FSU as a 5* forward and is a potential one and done prospect. His size and ability to scorer from anywhere on the court has people comparing him to Kevin Durant. He’s one of the most highly rated prospects in the history of FSU basketball, and I hope he can live up to the hype that is beginning to set in around him.

– Trent Forrest

Forrest is a four star and the #68 player in the nation according to Rivals. He is a local product from Chipley High School. He is the leading scorer in Chipley history and was a McDonald’s All-American selection. His ability to run the offense will be a plus to this team, and he has the potential to be a great player when he gets his chance to start as soon as next season.

– C.J. Walker

Walker is a three star and the #124 player in the nation according to Rivals. He’s a distinguished player from the state of Indiana. Walker was a First Team All-State selection, a McDonald’s All-American selection, and was in the final three for the Mr. Basketball Award in Indiana. He’s a true point guard, and wants to set up his teammates for easy buckets. On offense, he can drive to the basket and knock down shots. Walker and Forrest could be the future of the Florida State backcourt.

– Mfiondu Kabengele

Kabengle is a three star prospect according to Rivals. He’s a strong rebounder and the nephew of Dikembe Mutombo. His athleticism and size will help him stand out at FSU, he has a knack for pulling down rebounds and hitting shots. Kabengele seems like he’ll be the type of player to contribute for FSU sooner rather than later with his work ethic.

– Patrick Savoy Jr

Savoy is a prospect out of Junior College who brings instant offense to this team. He is a lights out shooter from deep, and when’s he hot, he can dominate. His skills will be utilized well by a Florida State team that lost it’s top three 3 point shooters from last season (Beasley, Bookert, Bell).

– Braian Angola-Rodas

A scorer in the true sense of the word, Angola-Rodas could be one of the best players in this class. He’s considered a junior after spending his first two seasons at North Idaho College, where he averaged 21.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists, I think Rodas is a sleeper, and hopefully he breaks out for FSU. His ability to score is serene, and if he exhibits that same skill at this level, then he’s gonna be good.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Xavier Rathan-Mayes

SG: Dwayne Bacon

SF: Terance Mann

PF: Jonathan Isaac

C: Michael Ojo

This lineup should do well offensively if XRM and Bacon up their shooting percentages. We’ll get to see how well the true freshman Isaac does early, as he has earned a spot in the starting five. Mann and Ojo round out the group. Ojo should provide solid defense, rebounding, and size while Mann will provide toughness, great defense, and improved offense. If the Noles begin to struggle, don’t doubt a change later on down the line, a move such as inserting Phil Cofer into the starting five could instantly improve rebounding.

Toughest Stretch:

After opening ACC play against Wake Forest, the Noles play six straight games where they could possibly be underdogs. The team will take on #8 Virginia, Virginia Tech, #1 Duke, #6 North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Louisville. That stretch has to be one of the hardest in the country, and the Seminoles will need to be playing some of their best basketball in in January if they are going to succeed in the ACC. This team is going to learn very fast how good they are with the type of schedule they’ll be playing.

Staff Season Predictions:

Dustin Lewis – I believe FSU will improve on the 20-14 record that they achieved last year. This team has the potential to do big things, and I think they’ll live up to some of that hype this year. I see a 10-8 finish in the conference, and I think the Noles will make it the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. I think at least one tournament win can be considered successful for a program that has been out of it for five years.

Dakota Moyer – 8-8 in the conference. #1 seed in the NIT tournament.

Ben Brewton – I see a 12-6 finish in the ACC and have the Noles advancing to the Sweet 16.

Ethan Vaughan – 11 seed in the NCAA tournament after going 10-8 in ACC play. Out after one win in the tournament.

Dustin Lewis
Lead writer for NoleGameday. Majoring in English Editing, Writing, and Media at Florida State University. Writer for FSView Sports and Hashtag Basketball.

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