Mar 11, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Florida State Seminoles guard Ian Miller (30) and Florida State Seminoles guard Michael Snaer (21) celebrate after winning 85-82 against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the finals of the 2012 ACC Men

Florida State Seminoles Basketball Season Preview

The college hoops season is right around the corner, and Busting Brackets is here to whet your basketball-starved appetite. Over the next five weeks, we are publishing season previews team by team, conference by conference, to offer a glimpse into the upcoming season. Busting Brackets is giving you the lowdown on the biggest storylines, offseason changes and x-factors for each team and each league as we roll into the 2012-13 season. Our complete season preview archive can be accessed here. Buckle up, peeps.

Florida State Seminoles

Last Season 25-10 (12-4 ACC)
Won ACC tournament
Lost to Cincinnati in third round of NCAA tournament
Key Returning Players: Michael Snaer, G
Ian Miller, G
Terrance Shannon, F
Okaro White, F
Key Additions: Montay Brandon, G (Wesleyan Christian Academy)
Aaron Thomas, G (Brewster Academy)
Devon Bookert, G (Impact Basketball Academy)
Robert Gilchrist, F (Polk JuCo)
Boris Bojanovsky, C (Slovakia)
Michael Ojo, C (Tennessee Temple Academy)
Key Losses: Bernard James, C
Luke Loucks, G
Deividas Dulkys, G
Xavier Gibson, F/C
Jon Kreft, C
Jeff Peterson, G
Top Non-Conference Games: Nov. 16 vs. BYU (Brooklyn, Coaches vs. Cancer)
Nov. 17 vs. Notre Dame or Saint Joseph’s (Coaches vs. Cancer)
Nov. 27 vs. Minnesota
Dec. 5 vs. Florida
Dec. 22 @ Charlotte
Jan. 2 @ Auburn
Top Conference Games: Jan. 9 @ Maryland
Jan. 12 vs. North Carolina
Jan. 27 @ Miami (FL)
Feb. 2 vs. Duke
Feb. 13 vs. Miami (FL)
Feb. 19 @ NC State
Mar. 3 @ North Carolina
Mar. 9 vs. NC State
Breakout Player: Terrance Shannon. By now, Michael Snaer has already broken out. And if the preseason All-American has an All-American caliber season, no one will be the least bit surprised. The same cannot be said were Terrance Shannon to have a similar coming out party of sorts. Shannon missed all but seven games last season thanks to a shoulder injury that required surgery, but the junior forward was sure to leave his mark in the limited action he saw. Shannon was a monster on the glass and a dominant scorer down low, serving as yet another tough and physical presence in Leonard Hamilton’s frontcourt. Shannon is a stereotypical Seminoles player: athletic, strong, defensive-minded, aggressive on the glass and can’t shoot free throws. He’s more skilled than Xavier Gibson (who graduated in May) and a more natural [and efficient] scorer than former Noles standout Chris Singleton. That’s awfully high praise. Likely to receive more playing time, spry combo guard Ian Miller is just as likely to break out as Shannon. But perhaps no player in the ACC will turn more heads than the oft-injured Noles forward. Terrance Shannon is the ACC’s best kept secret, and coach Hamilton would just as well keep it that way.
X-Factor: Interior defense. Scoring will almost always be priority number one for the offensively-challenged (putting it kindly) Noles. As will protecting the basketball. Despite the presence of six seniors and veteran-laden backcourt, FSU committed more turnovers per game last season (16.1) than any team in the ACC. The next closest was freshmen-laden Boston College at 14.6 turnovers per game. But the Noles, believe it or not, have the weapons to be a decent offensive team this year. Between ACC player of the year frontrunner Michael Snaer, instant offense Ian Miller and the resurgent Terrance Shannon (not to mention Okaro White), FSU should see an uptick in offensie productivity next season, especially without having to rely on so many 3’s (Dulkys and Loucks are gone). Interior defense, the Florida State’s bread and butter over the last several years, could actually be an area of concern in 2012-13. Bernard James, the team’s leading shot-blocker and one of the best post defenders in ACC history is gone, as is his unheralded backup Jon Kreft and frontcourt teammate Xavier Gibson, another defensive stalwart. The Noles can be had in the paint next season, and will be vulnerable to the likes of Mason Plumlee, CJ Leslie, Reggie Johnson, Devin Booker and James McAdoo. Freshman center Boris Bojanovsky, a 7-foot-3 project, could see significant burn in his rookie season, as could fellow freshman big Michael Ojo. In total, the Noles have three 7-footers on the roster, so size shouldn’t be an issue. Talent and experience inside will, however. Florida State will still be good defensively this season. Leonard Hamilton never disappoints on that end. But don’t expect the usual Noles blistering D. That left along with James, Gibson, lock-down Loucks and Dulkys.
Best Case: Leonard Hamilton is one of the best bang-for-your-buck coaches in all of college basketball, and shows why in 2012-13 as conference coach of the year. Under Hamilton, Florida State’s defense surprisingly doesn’t suffer much. Ojo and Bojanovsky are instant contributors on the defensive end (while still raw on offense) while junior college transfer Robert Gilchrist adds additional frontcourt depth. Okaro White makes the junior jump, similar to the ones made by Michael Snaer and Chris Singleton to boost their own stock. Ian Miller seamlessly transitions from off-the-bench spark to effective starting point guard. Michael Snaer wins ACC player of the year and draws some consideration for NPOY honors. Terrance Shannon, a star in the making, stays healthy, and along with Snaer forms the best one-two punch on the wing in the league. Strong outside shooting years from Snaer and Miller help offset the losses of sharpshooters Dulkys and Loucks. Meanwhile, the absences of James and Gibson bolster FSU’s free throw shooting numbers. Still strong on defense, though not as elite as last season, the Noles ride one of the premiere defenses in the country along to a top-three finish in the ACC. Thanks to the best offensive backcourt the school has had in ages (better than Derwin Kitchen and Snaer from two years ago), the Noles are a bigger threat in March, where they advance to the Sweet 16 thanks to the heroics of Snaer. Andrew Wiggins, the top high school player in all of high school basketball, tops off a splendid season by committing to FSU in the spring.
Worst Case: Even Hamilton himself cannot atone for the sizable losses of James, Gibson and Kreft inside. The interior defense takes a major hit, and FSU sees its defensive rankings falter as a result. Feeling the weight and pressure of exorbitant preseason expectations, Snaer has a disappointing senior campaign (relative to those expectations). Miller is more of a gunner than a facilitator and struggles adjusting to a starter’s role, where not only he’ll be tagged with more minutes, but also a changing role as a floor general. FSU sorely misses the clutch shooting of Dulkys and Loucks as well as the veteran leadership each provided. What’s more, the perimeter defense takes a hit, as Dulkys and Loucks were both outstanding on-ball defenders. Sans a true point guard (as Loucks was last season), FSU’s offense becomes all too reliant on Snaer isolation or Miller jacking up perimeter shots. White and Shannon are underused in the offense, while the newcomers at center are unable to contribute at a passable level right away. FSU tumbles to the middle of the pack in the ACC and slimly clings to an NCAA at-large berth. The Noles are early-round fodder in the Big Dance, then return home to news that Andrew Wiggins is headed to Kentucky.
Projected Finish: 21-10 (11-7 ACC)
5th place (ACC season) / Lose in ACC tournament quarterfinals
NCAA tournament No. 7 seed

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