2019/20 FSU Basketball Season Preview – Team Analysis

Welcome back to NoleGameday’s 2019/20 FSU Basketball Season Preview.

Week 1 covered the newcomers on the roster.

Week 2 focused on the returning players.

Last week dove into the conference outlook, and where FSU falls in.

This week we take a broad projection of the team as a whole: strengths, weaknesses, and lineups. Last week’s and next week’s pieces are longer, so this one is a much shorter read.


It will help that the three strengths listed are vital to the team’s success. If one area of the game doesn’t produce as they should, the success of the team will likely go with it.


Defense being a strength should come as no surprise for a Leonard Hamilton coached team, but this should be his best defensive team since the NCAA changed the rules following FSU’s ACC Championship. Last season marked FSU’s lowest points allowed per game since 2014/15, despite having the toughest strength of schedule since Hamilton became coach.

A backcourt of Trent Forrest, MJ Walker, Anthony Polite, and RayQuan Evans is going to continually put pressure on opposing ballhandlers. Wings Patrick Williams, Devin Vassell, RaiQuan Gray, and Malik Osborne all have the length and size necessary to disrupt passing lanes and challenge shots at the rim, and while bigs Dominik Olejniczak and Balsa Koprivica may not be the greatest shot blockers, they are both big enough and strong enough to be tough to finish around.

Hamilton has had to adjust the way his teams play defense and the more years that go by, the more consistent the team will get defensively. Forrest sometimes got caught out of position gambling for steals, but I think part of this had to do with his injured toe and wanting to try and make an impact. This should be a very disciplined team on defense and will be a tough team to score on.

3-Point Shooting

While Terance Mann shot 39% from 3 last season, teams never really respected it enough to guard him closely off-ball. When Mann and Forrest shared the floor, spacing got congested quickly, causing the offense to sometimes stall before it really got started. Mann being replaced by Williams, who projects to be an elite scorer from every level of the floor, is going to free up the offense more than words can speak. Florida State’s man-to-man offense relies on getting as many screening actions possible until a look opens up. If Forrest initiates the first pick-and-roll, the defense has no great option to sag off of without giving a great shooter a great shot.

The NCAA did move the 3-point line back to the international mark of 22 feet, 1 3/4 inch this offseason (was 20 feet, 9 inches), but I think this will help Florida State. This opens the floor up even more for driving lanes. When the NCAA experimented with this change in the NIT, the 3-point% only dropped about 2%, not a big enough drop for teams to change how they play basketball. Vassell, Williams, and Nate Jack should all be elite shooters, while Walker, Gray, Polite, and Wyatt Wilkes should be respectable enough from distance to have defenses guessing whether to play help defense off of them or not. The big question is how improved are Forrest, Osborne, and Evans as shooters? If they are all shooting above 30% from 3, this offense becomes impossible to guard. If they are shooting below 30%, it creates sagging opportunities.

Last season’s team shot 33.2% from 3 last year, good for 235th in the country. I would expect this percentage to shoot up around 36%, which would be good enough to be in the top 100.


This should come as no secret. Hamilton builds his teams so that players can come in off the bench and there won’t be a huge dropoff. Last year’s depth was a little overstated, as production wasn’t as prevalent throughout the team. The past two seasons had 9 players that produced a win share of 1.0 or above. While that is more than most teams, Hamilton wants more. 2016/17’s team had a whopping 11 players post a win share above 1.0. While that type of production is hard to replicate, this year will probably stay around the production of the last two seasons. Forrest, Walker, Williams, Vassell, Gray, Osborne, Olejniczak, Evans, and Koprivica should get to that 1.0 mark of win shares. Whether Jack, Wilkes, or Polite can get up there as well will be the difference-maker.

This team might actually be more top-heavy compared to most Hamilton teams, as Forrest, Vassell, and Williams should rack up the win shares, but the depth will still be vital.


This section can also be taken as “a step back”. These are areas that FSU has had good-to-great success at in the past, but won’t be as strong at this season.


This isn’t typical of a Florida State team. Coach Hamilton consistently has players great at blocking shots. Solomon Alabi, Bernard James, Ike Obiagu, Christ Koumadje, Mfiondu Kabengele… the list goes on and on. This year will be a different story though. No player has a reputation as being a proven rim defender. Olejniczak and Koprivica should eat up a lot of space and force tough shots at the rim, but they don’t have the elite athleticism to block every shot. Osborne is the most likely candidate to block the most shots, and he posted a great block percentage his lone season at Rice.

This team will play great defense by forcing steals and will have to rely on more weak side help if they want the block numbers to stay consistent compared to the past.

Free-throw shooting

Hamilton’s offense relies on players getting to the free-throw line consistently and knocking down those free throws. The roster combined to shoot around 73.4% their last season on the hardwood, whether at Division 1, JUCO, or high school (Koprivica not counted, as his stats couldn’t be found). That would’ve been good for 86th in the country last season, which is alright. Last season’s team shot 74.4% and finished tied for 49th in FT%. Just one percentage point can make a huge difference, but Hamilton would like the team to be around 75%. Anything less than that will be the difference between a great team and an elite team. Last year’s national champion, Virginia, had the same FT% as Florida State at 74.4%, but was 7th in 3-point%.

Like I said in the brief introduction to this section, counting this as a “weakness” is a strong word, it’s more just “not a strength”. Hopefully, FSU lights nets on fire from the FT line, but only time will tell.

Offensive Rebounding

The Seminoles are losing 65.6% of their offensive rebounding production from last year, including the top three in Kabengele, Mann, and Koumadje. Their offensive rebounding output led FSU to a top 50 offensive rebounding rate, a huge part of their success last season. Osborne will help stabilize these numbers a little bit, but much like with blocks, Olejniczak and Koprovica aren’t as athletic or long enough to replace those leaving. Mann just had a feel for when he could attack the rim and get offensive boards, and if anyone has the potential to replace that it’s Vassell, but Mann also played a lot of power forward last season due to depth concerns, something Vassell won’t have the luxury of.

The defensive rebounding doesn’t concern me, as all five players are supposed to crash the defensive glass, compared to just one or two on the offensive glass. And very few teams, if any, will out-athlete FSU this season.


Projected Depth Chart

PG: Trent Forrest, RayQuan Evans

SG: MJ Walker, Anthony Polite, Nathanael Jack

SF: Patrick Williams, Devin Vassell

PF: RaiQuan Gray, Malik Osborne, Wyatt Wilkes

C: Dominik Olejniczak, Balsa Koprivica

Forrest and Walker are the only two 100% locks. Everything else is basically a lock, but things could change. Hamilton prefers to value experience with his big men, which is why I have Olejniczak and Gray starting, while Williams is just too great of a player to keep out of the starting lineup. It helps that Coach Hamilton is a huge fan of Gray’s potential.

The loss of Naheem McLeod hurts this team’s depth with their bigs, but he most likely would’ve redshirted anyways. Vassell is almost certain to be the first man off the bench, with Osborne and Koprivica not far behind, but I expect to see a lineup at some point of Forrest, Walker, Vassell, Williams, Osborne. The length and athleticism of this lineup is ridiculous, and if they get matched up against a slower and weaker team, this lineup could gas opponents. It’s very Golden State death lineup-esque, and the track meet they’ll run will be fun to watch.

All-in-all, there won’t be a lineup that I see tanking the production of this team as long as Hamilton doesn’t try something like playing Osborne or Gray at the 3, or playing both point guards at the same time (unless both Evans and Forrest have improved as deep shooters).

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