As hard as it is to believe, college basketball tips off in just a few weeks from now, with the "Champions Classic" getting things rolling on November 9th at Madison Square Garden.
And to get you ready for the season, Aaron Torres Online will be giving you 30 previews in the coming 30 days to get you ready for the start of the year, all written by college basketball nut and recruiting guru Jacob Polacheck.
We are smack dab in the midst of these previews, with thoughts on Indiana, USC, LSU, Maryland Saint Bonaventure, Colorado State, and Virginia and last week, we got an exclusive sit down with Bruce Pearl to preview the Auburn Tigers.
Now e take a look at Florida State, which lost a ton off last year's team. But if we've learned one thing about Leonard Hamilton, he'll have him in contention in the ACC:
Florida State Seminoles
How it went down in 2020-21
The Florida State Seminoles entered the 2020-21 season as a Top-25 team, led by incoming five-star recruit and preseason first-team All-ACC selection Scottie Barnes as well as preseason second-team All-ACC selection MJ Walker.
Walker led the way for the Seminoles last season, averaging a team-high 12.2 points, but it was a very balanced effort overall for FSU. Four players (Walker, Raiquan Gray, Barnes and Anthony Polite) averaged more than 10 points per game, with Gray posting 11.9 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds per game.
The Seminoles finished the regular season with a 15-5 record (11-4 ACC) with impressive wins over No. 7 Virginia and No. 20 Clemson before entering the ACC Tournament as a No. 2 seed. FSU got a break in the first round of the ACC Tournament after Duke forfeited due to COVID and was then able to pull off a 69-66 win over North Carolina to advance to the tournament’s championship game.
Despite falling to Georgia Tech 75-80 in the ACC Championship Game, Florida State entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 4 seed. Led by Anthony Polite’s 17 points, FSU slid past No. 14 seed UNC Greensboro in the first round 64-54 before a dominant 71-53 win over Colorado in round two. However, the Seminoles season ended in the next round, falling to No. 1 seed Michigan in disappointing fashion 76-58.
Barnes, after averaging 10.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game, was named ACC Freshman of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year and earned All-ACC Third Team honors. Walker was named to the All-ACC second team, while Gray joined Barnes on the All-ACC third team.
Barnes of course went on to be the No. 4 pick in the NBA Draft, ironically, the second consecutive Seminole to be selected in that slot (Patrick Williams went to the Chicago Bulls as the No. 4 pick in the 2020 draft). He was one of three Seminoles (including Gray and Balsa Kopricava) to be selected.
Still, few programs in college hoops have shown an ability to re-load year-in and year-out, and Leonard Hamilton once again has a team good enough to compete for an ACC title.
What You Need to Know About 2021-2022:
Key Returnees: Anthony Polite, Malik Osborne, RayQuan Evans, Wyatt Wilkes
Key Losses: Scottie Barnes, M.J. Walker, Balsa Koprivica, RaiQuan Gray
Key Transfers: Caleb Mills, Cam’Ron Fletcher, Naheem McLeod
Key Recruits: Matthew Cleveland, Jalen Warley, John Butler
Florida State will look like a very different team in the 2021-22 season after losing the team’s three leading scorers in Walker (12.2 PPG), Gray (11.9 PPG) and Barnes (10.3 PPG), as well as starting center, Koprivica.
Still, FSU will be bringing back fifth-year senior guard Anthony Polite, who started in 16 games last season, and junior guard RayQuan Evans, who made 18 starts, to bring back just enough production off last year’s team.
Perhaps overshadowed by some of the flashier names in college basketball, Florida State was able to reel in the nation’s No. 8-ranked recruiting class in 2021 and the No. 2-ranked class in the ACC. Led by five-star forward Matthew Cleveland, top-45 guard Jalen Warley and top-70 center John Butler, Hamilton is bringing in the program’s highest ranked recruiting class since the 2016-17 season.
After only averaging 6.5 minutes per game last season, center Tanor Ngom may see minutes increase and potentially starting time with the departures of Barnes, Walker, Koprivica and Gray. Malik Osborne, who started in four games last season and averaged 20.3 minutes per game, is also likely to be in the starting lineup.
The incoming transfers are also likely to be of importance, with Caleb Mills coming in as a strong shooter while Cam’Ron Fletcher comes in as a potential breakout candidate from Kentucky.
Florida State’s season begins on Nov. 10 with a non-conference matchup against Penn, opening up a relatively difficult non-conference schedule that features a Nov. 14 road matchup with Florida, a Nov. 30 road matchup with No. 7 Purdue in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and a Dec. 12 road matchup at South Carolina. They also play UCF, a solid program out of the AAC on a neutral court a week before Christmas.
The ACC should once again be a powerhouse with FSU facing Syracuse on Dec. 4 to start off conference play. The Seminoles will have a plethora of non-conference games before getting into its full conference schedule, starting with a contest at Boston College on Dec. 29.
What's interesting about FSU's conference slate is how unbalanced and backloaded it is. The good news is that in January they will face just one of the three favorites in this league (besides the Seminoles themselves), with a game at home against Duke on Jan. 18.
The bad news: They will play those three teams - Duke, North Carolina and Virginia - all on the road, in the final three weeks of the season.
If the Seminoles want a second ACC regular season title in three years, they're definitely going to have to earn it.
What to Expect in 2021-2022:
Expect another versatile Leonard Hamilton Florida State team with an array of defensive and offensive weapons and some potential one-and-done candidates. Overcoming the losses of Walker, Barnes, Gray and Koprivica should come a lot easier when you have a couple of top-70 recruits and high-major transfers.
Despite having perhaps the biggest losses of any ACC team over the offseason, Florida State is well-positioned for another NCAA Tournament run as returnees RayQuan Ecans and Anthony Polite bring back some March Madness experience and the rest of the roster fills some of the holes last year’s team was missing.
If Warley and Cleveland can live up to lofty expectations, Fletcher and Mills can make a smooth transition and Polite, Osborne and Evans can make expected leaps in their games, FSU will be firmly in Top-25 contention and in solid position to take home an ACC Championship.
For more college hoops coverage, make sure to follow Jacob Polacheck on Twitter @JacobPolacheck
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