Imagine being in a situation where you are unsure of who you are.
You're not sure of your strengths or weaknesses.
You're not sure of what it is you do best.
That is precisely the situation that the Seminoles find themselves in following their third consecutive loss Wednesday night.
The ‘Noles fell to Michigan State by a score of 65-49 and are now searching for answers as they head home following a four-game road trip. FSU dropped three of four games during a week that found them traveling from Paradise Island in the Bahamas to East Lansing, Michigan.
Florida State had its chances to win all four but squandered several opportunities.
The biggest reason the Seminoles return to Tallahassee with a 5-3 record is because this team has yet to establish an identity. As frustrating as it has become to watch, it must be extra frustrating to participate in it.
FSU must discover whether it's going to be an outside-shooting team from three, a paint-threatening team from inside or both. Coach Leonard Hamilton has continuously stressed getting around 22 post touches per game, but against Michigan State, FSU took 20 of its 54 shots from beyond the arc. Bernard James was the only big man to record double figures in points or attempt more than 10 field goals.
The Seminoles lost big man and energy booster Terrance Shannon to a dislocated shoulder against Connecticut this past Saturday. Losing him for any length of time will hurt FSU's ability to score down low.
However, despite his absence, the ‘Noles still must find a way to get more scoring in the post. James, Xavier Gibson and Jon Kreft all have the ability to score with their back to the basket. It must become a priority to get these players the ball more when they are in position to put the ball in the hoop.
Even so, Florida State does have outside scorers that can shoot the rock if needed. Junior Michael Snaer is the most talented of the bunch and has to be more assertive on the offensive end when games are close down the stretch. Snaer took only one shot in the final 14 minutes of Wednesday night's loss. Over that span, FSU was outscored 27-13. There is clearly a conscious effort on his part to be unselfish.
Still, a player can be unselfish and play for his teammates, while at the same time taking over the game when needed. Being the biggest outside scoring threat on the roster, the 6-5 guard must be more involved offensively when the game is on the line.
Nothing is more important than knowing your identity when the game is tight with just a few minutes remaining on the clock. A team has to know who to get the ball to and for whom to run set plays.
As of now, Florida State seems rather unsure of who to get the ball to or who gets a designated play call.
The ‘Noles have plenty of players that can score when needed. There is lots of experience on this team and lots of players that know what it takes to win in crunch time. Even without Shannon, depth is a major strength.
Despite this, James and Snaer lead the team in scoring and shots attempted. Therefore, they have to be ones who get the ball when the team needs a basket the most. Whether FSU becomes an outside-shooting team, an inside-scoring team or both isn't so much the issue.
The issue is: Who's going to get the ball when the team is reeling? Who's going to step up when the ‘Noles need a hoop in the worst way?
Every great team knows its strengths and weaknesses. Every great team knows what it does best. Every great team knows who to get the ball to when it needs a score.
In order for Florida State to become a great team this season, it has to answer these lingering questions.
Matt Ritter is the basketball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a graduate student in Media Communication Studies at Florida State.
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