Inside a school that is obsessed with football, praising the likes of Jameis Winston and the reigning national champions, the Florida State Seminoles still have a basketball team, and they aren't that bad either.
Entering his 12th season as head coach, Leonard Hamilton has installed a level of consistency since he took over in Tallahassee. Seven 20-win seasons and 10 postseason appearances, four of those being in the NCAA tournament, he has led the Seminoles to a decade of mediocrity, and this year should be no different.
After losing two of their three top scorers, the Seminoles look to replace them with a mix of recruits and a couple of players that were not able to play last year for various reasons. Here is a look at a team that will most likely find itself in the middle of the ACC pack once again.
2013-14 Record: 22-14 (9-9)
Last Time We Saw Them: Not too long ago, relatively speaking. The Orange and Seminoles matched up in the last regular season game of 2014 for both teams, the Orange coming out on top 74-58 in Tallahassee.
Season Summary: The Seminoles started off 2013-14 slightly inconsistent, setting the tone for their season. They won their first four games, then dropped three of four after that. They entered conference play at 9-3, going 2-2 against ranked opponents in non-conference games.
The inconsistency continued on into conference play, as they went 9-9. They actually lost more conference games at home (5) compared to on the road (4). After finishing 7th in the conference, the Seminoles won their first ACC tournament game but fell the next day to eventual conference champion Virginia. The Cavaliers beat the Seminoles all three times they met last season.
This brought the Seminoles to the NIT, where they made it all the way to the semifinals in Madison Square Garden just to lose to Minnesota in overtime. Another regular year for Hamilton and his squad.
Aaron Thomas (14.5 PPG/4.2 RPG/1.8 APG). As the team leader in scoring and minutes last year, it will be a surprise to see his role reduce as a junior this season. He is an impact on the defensive end as well, averaging 1.6 steals per game. The Seminoles will be hoping for a better performance from the guard against the Orange this year, though, as he shot 4-14 from the field and 0-6 from three last March when the two met.
Devon Bookert (8.5 PPG/3.2 RPG/2.8 APG). The starting point guard should have an enhanced role this season. He was fourth on the team in scoring and tied for the lead in assists on a team that ranked 299th in the nation in that category per game. As he becomes more experienced, the amount he gets his teammates involved will need to increase, so we will have to wait and see if he can do so this year.
Boris Bojanovsky (5.9 PPG/4.0 RPG/1.9 BPG). Look for the 7'3" junior to have his best year yet. I would think that the Seminoles, especially after losing their best big man in Okaro White, will need to rely on Bojanovsky to play more than the 20 minutes per game he played last season. The big man is extremely efficient, hitting on 58 percent of his shots, and with some more time on the court he could reach three blocks per game this season. This guy will be a focal point on the defensive end.
Personnel Changes: The Seminoles lost their second and third leading scorers from last season, Ian Miller (13.7 PPG/2.5 RPG/2.8 APG) and Okaro White (13.6 PPG/6.8 RPG/1.1 BPG), and Robert Gilchrist to graduation. All three of these players made an appearance in each of the team's 36 games last season, so there are some big shoes to fill.
On the flip side, there are plenty of feet to fill those vacancies. The most notable of additions with be Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a 6'4" guard from Canada who was their top recruit in the class of 2013. He was ruled ineligible due to academic issues stemming from high school, but the 44th ranked player in his class by ESPN and former teammate of Andrew Wiggins is set to play this season and make a difference for the Seminoles. Center Kiel Turpin, whom we last saw in 2012-13, was granted a sixth year of eligibility and will play for the Seminoles this season after missing all of last year due to a leg injury. They also added recruits Phil Cofer and Dayshawn Watkins. Cofer is the Seminoles' top recruit in the class of 2014, a four-star forward from Georgia. Watkins, a three-star recruit from Arkansas, will add depth to the point guard position.
2014-15 Potential: It is tough to say after losing three key players and gaining some subpar recruits. With a lot of returning players and the additions of Rathan-Mayes and Turpin, a lot of guys should continue to progress. I see them finishing around the middle of the conference pack yet again, sitting on the borderline of the NCAA tournament and NIT.
Orange Match-Up: The Seminoles have some solid players in both their front court and backcourt. It seemed as though Thomas struggled against the zone defense last season, so that will have to change, or the Seminoles will try to attack the inside of it with their bigs. White had a monster game against the Orange last season, putting up 20 points and 11 rebounds in the loss. With him gone, Bojanovsky, who had five points, six rebounds, three assist and two blocks in 24 minutes in last year's game, will have to step into that role for the 'Noles if they want to have a chance at victory.
As I mentioned before, these guys struggled passing last season, and if that does not improve I feel like they will struggle against the Orange once again, as you can't really break down a zone defense if you can't pass or take care of the ball.
The Orange shot fairly well in this matchup, hitting 48 percent of their shots in the March game, which is saying a lot for a team that struggled offensively all season long. Trevor Cooney, however, shot 3-13 from the field and 2-8 from three. Look for him to play a little better next time around. Combine that with the superior talent on the Orange roster, this should be a win for Syracuse.