Three things FSU can do to win the ACC

Florida State basketball has one non-conference showdown left this season, against Winthrop on 1/1, before opening up ACC play against UVA on 1/5. FSU’s ACC schedule will be as tough as any in the nation, featuring games vs. No. 1 Duke, @ No. 4 UVA, vs. No. 10 VT, @ No. 14 UNC, and vs. No. 20 NC State. The Noles currently sit at 11-1 with impressive wins over Florida, LSU, Purdue, and UConn. Their one loss came in a back-and-forth affair against the defending national champs, Villanova. FSU is currently ranked No. 9 in the AP poll going into 2019, but still has lots to prove in ACC play. The Noles are capable of an ACC Championship and an even deeper March Madness run this season if they do three things:

1: Get Phil Cofer back to 100%

In the 2017-18 season, Phil Cofer led the Noles in minutes and scoring. Cofer has only played in two out of  12 games, averaging about 12 minutes each game. Cofer missed the first nine games of the season with a foot injury. His first game came against SEMO, during which he struggled, going 0-4 in 5 minutes of play. Cofer then took the next game off before playing against St. Louis four days later. Cofer’s minutes increased to 17 and he scored 7 points on 3/6 shooting. He still looked out of shape at times, but his shot looked much more in rhythm.

The conditioning will come with more practicing and game-time, but Cofer’s scoring ability is always present. The senior forward can score from anywhere on the court, is strong in the paint, a dead-eye midrange shooter, and a career 37.7% 3-point shooter. The Fayetteville native also gives the Noles flexibility with the lineup — they can go small and play him at center or go big and play him at either forward position. Cofer’s leadership, experience, and skill will significantly boost the play of the Noles as he is integrated back into the rotation. Watch here for a reminder of just how good Phil Cofer can be.

2: Terance Mann and Trent Forrest make 3’s

Terance Mann and Trent Forrest are the leaders of this basketball team, Mann leading the team in scoring and Forrest third. Mann leads the team in rebounding and Forrest leads the team in assists. The two guards have both played over 80 career college games and are the primary ball-handlers on this team. Mann is approaching his 80th career college start and just surpassed 1000 career points as a Nole. Mann has one of the best highlight reels in college basketball, with many high-flying dunks, for example:

The 6-foot-7 guard has the athleticism to play any of the guard or forward positions on the court. The one weakness through Mann’s first 3 seasons, was his 3-point shooting ability. Mann is nearly unguardable on the drive, but is often left wide-open at the 3-point line, as teams are willing to let him shoot than drive. So far this season, Mann is 8/20 from three (40%) so far this season, much improved from last season’s 25%. But Mann is often still hesitant with his shot, if he becomes more willing with his three, FSU’s offense could open up even more.

Forrest, like Mann, is nearly unguardable on the drive, MJ Walker said of Forrest, “There isn’t a player in the country that can stop him going to the rim when he turns it on.” Here is an example of his strength:

But Forrest’s whole college career, he has struggled with his jump shot. Forrest has been more willing to shoot the three this year, already attempting two more 3’s than all of last season. Still Forrest has struggled, shooting 18.8% from deep, but the shots will start to fall for the junior guard. Forrest has drastically improved his free throw shooting this season, up about 13% from last season. Everything about his shot this year looks more natural and more in rhythm. As more shots start to fall and Forrest and Mann’s confidence will continue to rise, the Noles offensive game will excel to another level.

3: More Fi

Redshirt sophomore Mfiondu Kabengele is the biggest key to winning the ACC. Kabengele is currently second in scoring on the team while only averaging 18 minutes per game. Kabengele is a freak of nature, listed at 6-foot-10, 250-pounds, with the ability to handle the ball, run the court, and shoot from anywhere on the court. There aren’t many college players that can stop the sophomore’s post moves or get by him on the defensive end. For example:

Mfiondu will have to get more minutes against teams like Duke. Kabengele has the perfect build and the athleticism to take on players like Zion Williamson 1-0n-1, not something you can say about many players. In my opinion, FSU would be best with a starting lineup of Forrest, Walker, Mann, Cofer, Kabengele with Nichols, Savoy, Vassel, Gray, and Koumadje coming off the bench while mixing in Polite and Wilkes. If Kabengele can stay out of foul trouble, his minutes should increase significantly in ACC play, benefiting the Noles.

FSU has the skill, depth, and experience to compete in the ACC this season and if the above three things happen, I believe there is a good chance the Noles could walk away with the ACC title and maybe even more in March. Buckle your seatbelts Noles fans, the ACC is coming to the Tuck.


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