Florida State starts the 2014-2015 season on Saturday with Manhattan, and the Seminoles will be hoping to improve on last season where the Noles finished in the NIT and not the NCAA tournament.
Keys to the season
1. Beat one of Florida, Duke, or Louisville at home. Last season Florida State lacked a signature win and it prevented the Seminoles from making the NCAA tournament. If they don’t win one of those at home they will have to beat Virginia, UNC, or Syracuse on the road.
2. Get production from the center position. Senior Kiel Turpin is back from injury to go along with Boris Bojanovsky and Michael Ojo. Turpin will be the key here as he is easily the best player between the three. If those three can provide sound defense inside and scoring options down low Florida State will be a team that no one wants to play.
3. Find someone that can play the point and not turn the ball over 15 times a game. Last season Florida State ranked 312th in Division 1 (out of 345 teams) with 14.2 turnovers per game. A lot of that was due to poor play at the point guard position. Devin Bookert and Ian Miller were shaky at best handling the ball and running the offense. This year there are three options at that position. Devin Bookert, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, and Dayshawn Watkins are all going to be in the rotation. Rathan-Mayes and Watkins are better prospects, but Bookert has been in the system for two years and coach Hamilton is loyal to his upperclassmen.
Projected Starting Lineup
G Devon Bookert: Bookert averaged 5.9 points, 2.8 assists, and 2 turnovers per game last season. Those numbers will need to improve if he wants to continue starting.
G Aaron Thomas: Thomas is the best player on the team and it will be up to him just how far this Florida State team will go. I’m expecting a big year from him. He averaged 14.5 points per game last season, and I expect that to rise.
G Montay Brandon: Brandon is a tough matchup for either a guard or forward to deal with. Brandon has the size to play inside, and the speed to cover a guard on the inside. He needs to stay away from the jumper and focus on getting to the basket.
F Jarquez Smith: Smith had a limited role last season, but will step into the starting lineup after the departures of Okaro White and Robert Gilchrist. He is an excellent defender and shot blocker that needs some polish on the offensive end of the court.
C Kiel Turpin: Turpin brings a lot more to the offense than either Bojo or Ojo. He has a legitimate jump shot, but needs to be more physical inside on both the offensive and defensive sides of the court.
G Xavier Rathan-Mayes: XRM is an elite scorer that Florida State has been lacking since Tony Douglas. The only problem is that he isn’t a great defender at this point. He is, however, one of the hardest working players on the Florida State team, and I expect him to continue to get better.
F Phil Cofer: There is no one on this team that plays with more energy than Cofer. He is an excellent rebounder and is always fighting for the ball. Coach Hamilton compared him to Al Thornton. Thornton was excellent on defense early in his career and developed into a great offensive player by his senior season. Hamilton expects the same of Cofer.
C Boris Bojanovsky: Bojo is still extremely light for his height and will continue to get pushed around inside. He plays fairly well on the offensive end, but will be a liability on defense.
I think this team is much better than last years group, but they will be playing a much tougher schedule. The ACC was the best conference in the nation last season and added Louisville. That lineup would be tough for any team. I believe that Florida State ends up 20-11 and 9-9 in ACC play. I also think that that is good enough to get into the NCAA tournament as a double-digit seed.