The calling card of Leonard Hamilton's teams is strong defense. But last season's Florida State team was anything but that. One of the top defenses in the country two years ago, the defense ranked near the bottom of the ACC in many defensive categories, including scoring defense, rebounding margin, and field goal defense. which helped the Seminoles finished 18-16 overall and 9-9 in the ACC.
The departure of Michael Snaer is a huge loss for the Seminoles. It is not just because of his all around ability on offense and defense, but his knack for hitting the game winning shot will be missed. Left over is a veteran and a couple of up and comers. The veteran, senior Ian Miller, had a rough year shooting the ball, averaging only 5.3 points, but shooting just 32% from the field, and 27% from three point range. He was also playing with a foot injury, so the numbers should go up this season. The up and comers are all sophomores. Devin Bookert started the final 11 games of the season, and proved to be a pretty solid scorer and passer, finishing fourth on the team in scoring, and second in assists. Aaron Thomas and Montay Brandon also saw a lot more playing time towards the end of the season, and both played well at times. They both need to improve on three point shooting. Thomas shot 22%, while Brandon shot 29%.
Despite a lot of size in the frontcourt, there was not a lot of production, especially in the rebounding department. The Seminoles were last in the ACC in rebounding margin, despite playing three players who are 7-0 or taller. The top rebounder is 6-8 senior Okaro White. He was easily the best player in the FSU backcourt, finishing second on the team in scoring, as well as finishing second in blocked shots. With Snaer gone, he will be asked to assume a lot of the on court leadership Snaer had. Look for freshman Jarquez Smith to back him up. He may fill in some of what Terrence Shannon did last season. The 6-9 freshman is a good shooter, and his range will be tough to defend for somer forwards. Kiel Turpin led the team in blocked shots, and shot 51% from the field. He could see a rise in producition this year as well, as well as Boris Bojanovsky. He only played 11 minutes per game, but averaged just under one block per game. Michael Ojo is still a work in progress. He only played five minutes per game, but shot just 29% form the field, and 36% at the free throw line.
The toughest portion of the non conference schedule will be in late November in to early December. The Seminoles will take part in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off classic, facing VCU, and potentially Michigan, Georgetown, and Kansas State. After that, there are two straight road games with Florida and Minnesota that will be tough games. In ACC play, the Seminoles will be on the road for five of the first eight, facing Virginia twice in two weeks. They will follow that with four of the next six at home, before finishing with two home and away games, with Pitt and Syracuse included in that final stretch.
For things to break right for Florida State this year, there will have to be a drastic improvement on defense. The Seminoles will likely lead the league in block shots again, but they can't finish near the bottom of the league in the key statistical categories again. Offensively, I do think they will score better this year, even without Michael Snaer. I think Devin Bookert could cross the 10 points per game mark, and Aaron Thomas could do it as well. As much as I think the defense will improve this year, I don't think it will be enough to get them back up the ACC ladder much this year.
Okaro White is the team's leading returning scorer and rebounder, and figures to lead in both again this year. His shooting percentage has increased every year, up to 51% last year. If he can improve on that, he could be a 14-15 point per game scorer.