Can Hamilton stay off the hot seat?

Nobody is suggesting Leonard Hamilton's job is on the line, not after a solid NCAA Tournament run last season. However, he needs to find a way to replace Chris Singleton and Derwin Kitchen in a hurry.

Last season's NCAA Tournament could be considered a magical run for the Seminoles by many.

After all, the 'Noles were just one buzzer beater away from advancing to the Elite Eight to face No. 1 seed Kansas. Florida State held VCU to just three points in the final seven and a half minutes in regulation before falling victim in overtime.

However, last season was last season, and this year's team will be different. There is no Chris Singleton and there is no Derwin Kitchen, meaning that at least 40 percent of the starting lineup will be new.

It will be coach Leonard Hamilton's job to find a way to make this team mesh quickly to compete in the powerful Atlantic Coast Conference. After several mediocre seasons at FSU and two quick exits from the NCAA Tournament in 2009 and 2010, Hamilton appears to have the 'Noles headed in the right direction.

The question is: Will that continue?

Hamilton and the Seminoles could be staring at their toughest schedule in years. Typical ACC powerhouses such as Duke and North Carolina will be strong again. However, the 'Noles will also travel to Florida, Michigan State and could face nationa-champion Connecticut in an early-season tournament.

If Hamilton is going to remain in a positive light with FSU fans, then he's going to have to find a way to win some of those games.

Of course, there is always the question of who to blame if the team falters. Is it the coach, or is it the players? Common sense would tell us that at least some blame must fall on the players. After all, Hamilton isn't playing offense or defense. He isn't dribbling, shooting or scoring.

However, he is still the coach, and that title demands a certain amount of responsibility.

His recent track record at FSU would suggest that perhaps things look bright for the Seminoles this season. They are the top-rated defensive team in the country under Hamilton's guidance and have appeared in a school record-tying three consecutive NCAA Tournaments.

However, the 2011-12 roster will feature several new faces, and a team with that many new members may suffer through some growing pains. With Singleton in the NBA and Kitchen overseas, the team's top returning scorer is Michael Snaer. Snaer averaged just under nine points per game last season and will need to do more if the team is going to be a factor in the ACC.

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Talented incoming freshman Terry Whisnant and Antwan Space may be asked to contribute immensely. Can they handle the major talent difference between high school and the ACC? We can't predict that now. Only time will tell.

However, one thing that can be predicted is that in order to keep Hamilton off the hot seat, the Seminoles will have to remain competitive. Florida State opens the season Halloween night ranked 20th in the nation. With that comes certain expectations. If those expectations are not fulfilled, then Hamilton may once again find himself in a familiar position: on the aforementioned hot seat.

Fair or unfair, it's the way sports work.

Try pointing a finger at 15 people. It's impossible. Now try pointing a finger at just one person. Much easier, isn't it?

Matt Ritter is the basketball reporter for and a graduate student in Media Communication Studies at Florida State.

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