Top 68 Team Previews: #24 Florida State Seminoles
Leonard Hamilton led the Seminoles to the Sweet 16 last season. (Icon SMI)
By Mark Cunningham
Monday, October 03, 2011
Florida State Seminoles
Last Season: 23-11 (11-5 ACC)
Key Losses: Chris Singleton, Derwin Kitchen
Head Coach: Leonard Hamilton
PG: Jeff Peterson 6-1 Sr.
SG: Michael Snaer 6-5 Jr.
SF: Okaro White 6-8 So.
PF: Bernard James 6-10 Sr.
C: Jon Kreft 7-0 Sr.
Key Reserves: Ian Miller 6-3 So. PG, Deividas Dulkys 6-5 Sr. SG, Terrance Shannon 6-8 Jr. PF, Xavier Gibson 6-11 Sr. C, Luke Loucks 6-5 Sr. PG, Antwan Space 6-8 Fr. SF, Terry Whisnant II 6-3 Fr. SG
No Chris Singleton. No Derwin Kitchen. No problem for Leonard Hamilton and Florida State fans.
Most programs suffer a setback after losing their top two scorers. Singleton left a year early and was selected 18th overall by Hamilton's former employer, the Washington Wizards. Kitchen finds himself in Israel playing alongside Joe Crawford (Kentucky) and Brandon Bowman (Georgetown).
Believe it or not, Florida State might be a tougher test for opponents this winter.
"We have an experienced group returning -- six 6 seniors and five juniors -- that we expect to get tremendous leadership from," Hamilton said. "I think they have responded in an appropriate manner from the loss to VCU (in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament)."
The Sweet 16 appearance was a first for the Seminoles since Sam Cassell, Charlie Ward and Bob Sura were running the Donald L. Tucker Center floor in 1993. However, Pat Kennedy, Steve Robinson and Hamilton only guided the ‘Noles to the NCAAs once in the next 15 seasons. A similar drought is not in the future for Hamilton and Co.
Why is the mood in Tallahassee so positive despite a 2-2 football team? One reason is that their hoops team might have its best point guard since Kerry Thompson in the late 90s. (Of course, that's not saying a whole lot.) Jeff Peterson is his name and if that sounds familiar, you might have seen him play for Iowa or Arkansas. The 6-foot-1 guard transferred out of Fayetteville after head coach John Pelphrey was replaced by Mike Anderson. Since his undergraduate studies are complete, Peterson will be eligible to play from the get-go. However, he is only a 1-year rental player.
Hamilton felt obligated to bring in Peterson with uncertainty around Ian Miller, one of the best guards in the class of 2010. If he can stay eligible, Hamilton will have a hard time keeping him off the court if the sophomore buys into the coach's defensive philosophy. Even dating back to his days at Miami (Fla.) and Oklahoma State, Hamilton has always orchestrated one of the nation's best defenses.
Although he has only been around the team for a few months, Peterson knows the offense begins and ends with the frontcourt.
"They are so big," Peterson said. "I've never seen anything like it. I'm by far the shortest player on the team."
NCAA tournament pressure didn't get to senior power forward Bernard James last year. The All-American candidate was stationed in southern Iraq at Camp Bucca as a member of the Air Force Military police that helped the Army keep watch on 22,000 detainees just four years ago. Now 26 years old, James gradually blossomed last season and is ready to take the ACC by storm. He shot 68.2 percemt from the field in the three tournament games and 65.7 percent playing 21.1 minutes per night last year. James didn't make enough field goals to qualify, but that field goal percentage would have ranked him first in the country. With increased playing time, expect the Air Force vet to continue to drop in high percentage shots.
Small forward Okaro White is the only projected starter who is not an upperclassman. While not as sound defensively as Singleton (who is?), White possesses a more lethal mid-range jumper. Freshman Antwan Space is poised to come in and add depth to the position.
Before ACC play gets underway, Florida State could potentially meet the defending champs, Connecticut, in the inaugural "Battle 4 Atlantis" title game down in The Bahamas. Michigan State, Florida and Auburn highlight the non-conference slate. A mid-January visit from North Carolina will bring College GameDay to the Tucker Center for the first time ever.
It's not too far-fetched to believe that the Seminoles can compete with Duke for the 2-seed in the ACC tournament. While the offense does run through the bigs, off-guards Michael Snaer and Deividas Dulkys will be relied upon to knock down more shots from outside the perimeter. Last March, Florida State busted brackets by upsetting Texas A&M and Notre Dame. Expect a repeat Sweet 16 appearance, but fans will have them penciled in before the tourney this time around.