Florida State isn’t just a football school anymore. The men’s basketball team is on the hunt for a NCAA Tournament berth. And while they might not be the favorites to end the season as National Champs, they will feature a promising roster worthy of your attention.
Florida State came so close to earning a NCAA Tournament bid last season. However, a late season collapse saw the Seminoles drop five straight games in ACC play, preventing them from hearing their names called on Selection Sunday.
During the off months, Seminoles guard Malik Beasley opted to enter the NBA Draft. The teams second leading scorer, Beasley was a permanent fixture in the rotation. And while that might seem like a major blow to some, it might be a blessing in disguise for the Noles.
Like Beasley, Dwayne Bacon was also a highly touted freshman going into last season. Unlike Beasley, Bacon decided to stay in Tallahassee for at least one more year, giving Florida State a much-needed shot of adrenaline.
Bacon was the teams leading scorer last season, averaging 15.8 points per game. Also, he also contributed 5.8 rebounds per contest, also a team high. His second season with the Noles will see him grow into his game even more. And without Beasley, Bacon will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself.
If Bacon’s return to school wasn’t enough, Florida State also returns Xavier Rathan-Mayes, the dynamic junior point guard who got lost in the shuffle of the Beasley-Bacon combo. With Beasley gone, Rathan-Mayes can regain the form he had during the 2014-15 season when he recorded an ACC freshman record of 30 or more points three times.
With the returning Bacon and Rathan-Mayes, Florida State already features at least two players that can lead the team through the season, but some newcomers will significantly impact the roster as well.
The new additions to the team are headlined by freshman, Jonathan Issac and Junior College transfer Brian Angola-Rodas. Both come highly regarded; Issac was a top-10 High School recruit and Angola-Rodas was a JUCO first team All-American.
Playing in the ACC will provide its challenges for Florida State. Arguably the toughest conference in all of the college basketball, the Noles will play Duke, Miami, and Clemson twice and North Carolina on the road. There is no rest for the weary in the ACC. For Florida State to enter the NCAA Tournament, they need to win conference games, and not suffer another lengthy losing streak.
The Seminoles should be a top-25 team to start the season. While they lost Malik Beasley, the return of Bacon and Rathan-Mayes and the addition of Angola-Rodas and Issac will make the Seminoles a tough task for any opponent. And while it’s too early to predict anything, if all goes according to plan, Florida State should be competing for the ACC crown, and maybe, just maybe, a National title.
Follow Daniel James Gentile on Twitter @dgentleman9288