Seminoles earn first ranking of the season before heading to Brooklyn

The Florida State Seminoles men’s basketball team has earned their first top-25 ranking of the season. In the latest AP Poll, the Noles were selected as the #25 team in the country.

Now, they’ll have a chance to improve on that ranking as they head to Brooklyn,NY to take on the Temple Owls on Thanksgiving day. The Seminoles will then play either the West Virginia Mountaineers or the Illinois Fighting Illini on Friday.

FSU is 4-0 with wins over a few of the stronger mid-major programs in the country. The Noles defeated the Iona Gaels 99-78 back on November 15th. The Gaels made the NCAA tournament last year and have finished with 20 or more wins in each of the past seven seasons. Winthrop, an opponent that the Noles defeated 100-86, was able to upset the Illinois Fighting Illini on the road. FSU could see themselves matched up with Illinois on Friday.

The Noles strong start is a testament to how hard the returning players worked during the offseason. Four returning players are averaging career highs in points so far this season. Dwayne Bacon has improved his scoring from 15.8 points per game to 17.5 points per game. Bacon has also increased his efficiency, he’s shooting 48% from the field and 40% from three point range compared to 44.7% from the field and 28.1% from three last year.

Terance Mann is another returning Seminole who is showing vast improvement early in his sophomore season. Mann is averaging 9.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Last year he averaged 5.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game. Even more impressive is the fact that his shooting percentage has continued to rise. Mann shot an impressive 58.4% from the field last season, and this season he has upped that to 66.7%. If Mann can continue to play this caliber of basketball as the season progresses, he’ll develop into an impact player for the Noles.

Leonard Hamilton has been utilizing the two seven footers on his roster to the best of their ability as well. Starting center Michael Ojo is currently averaging a career high six points and 5.5 rebounds per game, aided by a 13 point and ten rebound performance in FSU’s 100-86 victory over Winthrop. His best season prior to this one was in 2013-2014 when Ojo averaged 2.5 points and three rebounds per game. Ojo is shooting a career high 70.6% (11-18) from the free throw line, after he shot a total of 40% from the line over his first three years as a Nole. Christ Koumadje is also having a career year. After averaging a mere 1.3 points and 1.5 rebounds per game as a freshman, Big K has shown vast improvement early in his sophomore season. He has put on weight, although he could still probably put on another 20-30 pounds. He’s averaging 7.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game while playing 12 and a half minutes a night.

Hamilton is putting his two tallest players in position for success by not asking them to do too much. He uses Ojo in some post up situations, but Ojo is at his best offensively when he’s trying to grab offensive rebounds and going for putbacks. Koumadje on the other hand is more developed offensively. He’s patented a short jump hook around the rim that has become a very efficient shot for him, Big K is shooting 68.2% on the season. He has a chance to be one of the better Florida State centers we’ve seen in recent years if he can continue to develop, he’s already farther along than Boris Bojanovsky and Ojo were at this stage in their respective careers.

Florida State’s success can be attributed to their depth. The Seminoles have 11 players averaging double figures in minutes per game, including four newcomers. Two of those newcomers, Jonathan Isaac and Trent Forrest, have been difference makers in games.

Isaac looks like a player out of a video game. He is extremely tall and long, and he can use his length to dominate you on either side of the court. On offense, he displays a smooth jumpshot and his length allows him to crash the offensive boards with ease. On defense, his length makes him almost impossible to shoot over and his long arms allow him to swat shots or nab easy steals. He’s averaging 14.5 points, six rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game. Isaac is making a case to be a lottery pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. He has a lot of untapped potential. I’d really love to see him try and take over games, once he realizes how much of a weapon he can be, he’ll be almost unstoppable.

Forrest is a guard out of Chipley High School. He’s averaging 9.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and two steals per game. He’s the kind of player that is going to become a favorite among the fans. Forrest plays tough, physical, harassing defense and he’s already beginning to fluster players. He leads FSU in steals with eight after recording four steals to go along with a career high 12 points in the win over Detroit Mercy. He’s shown the ability to read passing lanes, and once he grabs a steal he is off to the races. Forrest isn’t much of a shooter, but he has been a strong finisher around the rim thus far. He’s shooting 69.6% from the field and he’s only attempted one three this season. Forrest could become the building block out of the 2016 recruiting class.

This team has a lot of talent, and they’ve shown that by beating the teams they have to beat. They’ve been rewarded with a spot in the top 25, now the Seminoles have to respond. They need to come out with a sense of urgency and dominate Temple early so they can be well rested for their game on Friday. This two game tilt is a very important early season test.

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