It wasn't supposed to be like this.
Florida State was predicted by many to be near the top of the conference standings and participate in its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament. This was supposed to be a season that the ‘Noles began to establish themselves among the ACC's elite.
However, through the first 15 games of the 2011-12 season, the Seminoles have been far from elite. They showed moments of brilliance in a special effort against Auburn on Wednesday, and there have been times when they showed how dominant they can be in the paint.
Nonetheless, most of the season has been played at an average level. FSU's most impressive victory is over that 10-5 Auburn team, whose record is much better than their talent. Florida State has suffered two losses to Ivy League opponents that include a 41-point effort against Harvard, and they are yet to register a true road win.
In addition, the ‘Noles suffered a huge loss in personnel when Terrance Shannon dislocated his shoulder in late November. The 6-9 forward was the clear energy boost on this year's squad, and there have been several moments over the last few weeks when a spark off the bench was needed.
One is yet to be found.
At this point, it's too early in the season to make complete realizations. FSU still has an entire ACC schedule to complete, highlighted by three combined games against superpowers Duke and North Carolina. Pulling an upset against one of those teams would greatly increase the Seminoles' chances of reaching March Madness. The ACC Tournament at season's end would also provide them with an opportunity to build an attractive collection of wins.
Miller has been surprisingly effective in his return. He is averaging 13.8 points per game in four appearances as a reserve. His scoring could certainly help Florida State as the season continues.
Furthermore, Space is a promising freshman who coach Leonard Hamilton believes has a promising future. He is coming off foot surgery that sidelined him for the first month of the season. The 6-8 forward has contributed mildly over his first few games, but his role could increase as he becomes more comfortable with the system.
Still, Miller and Space in all likelihood will not be the game changers Florida State so desperately needs. They won't be entering the starting lineup any time soon, especially since Miller's bench scoring has helped balloon a number that would otherwise be very low.
This leads to the acknowledgment that perhaps the Seminoles were projected to be better than they actually are. They have plenty of talent and, in most of their games, feature big men that tower over their opponents.
However, for whatever reason, this year's bunch has yet to jell.
Offensively, Florida State has looked stagnant at times and turned the ball over more than 18 times an outing. The defense has remained superb for much of the season, but it most recently allowed 79 points to a Clemson team that had only surpassed 80 once this year.
The positive is that there is still time for FSU to change its fortunes. The chance to reach another NCAA Tournament may be dwindling with each passing game, but it would be foolish to think that goal is out of the question. There is still half a season to be played.
The problem is that there isn't much reason to believe the rest of the year will go any differently. The competition is only going to get more difficult, and the inconsistencies of this team don't appear to be subsiding.
Time remains, but that time is quickly running out. There are no games left that can go to waste. The Seminoles have to be close to perfect the rest of the way.
Close to perfect might not be in the cards this year, however. The reason being Florida State might be just as its record indicates: average.
In other words, the ‘Noles might not be who we thought they were.
Matt Ritter is the basketball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a graduate student in Media Communication Studies at Florida State.
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