The Daily Nole

FSU Basketball: 2018-19 Preview and Predictions

Mike Olivella/FSU athletics

Much like the 2017-18 Florida State athletics season, fans had to suffer through the bad before they could see the good. If you’re tired of seeing football struggle once again, have no fear: FSU basketball season is in sight.

The Seminoles’ 2017-18 season could not have turned out any better. A solid regular season was followed up with a spectacular postseason which saw FSU go all the way to the Elite Eight before falling to the national runner-up Michigan Wolverines. Even more encouraging, the team did not have a truly glaring weak spot, and it returns a majority of its production from last year.

We broke down that returning production here. Though the “games started” column might look bleak, keep in mind that three players who recorded less than five starts averaged at least 15 minutes per game: Trent Forrest, M.J. Walker, and Mfiondu Kabengele. That still doesn’t include senior 3-point specialist P.J. Savoy. Of the four players mentioned, at least two will be opening day starters against Florida.

Now, it’s about the consistency. Florida State has the talent and experience to repeat its success. The non-conference schedule is a bit more difficult, but for the most part, this is a 2018-19 season that will give the Seminoles every opportunity to excel. Can head coach Leonard Hamilton and crew turn into the best sports team on campus?

The Daily Nole has been keeping our readers updated throughout the offseason with the happenings around the program. We now have our predictions for the results of the upcoming season. Contributing to this article are editor Mike Ferguson and staff writer Clint Eiland:

Offensive MVP

Clint: Trent Forrest effectively grabbed a starting spot by the end of the 2017-18 season, going for more than 25 minutes in 11 of the final 14 games. He impressed observers with his fluid offensive attack and speed around the court, going for more than 10 points in eight of those same 14 games. Forrest has seemingly improved each week in his college career, and now he gets the chance to be a full-time starter. History says that this is the year where he breaks through on the national stage.

Mike: Despite being a wing player with limited outside range, Terance Mann led Florida State in scoring for most of last season and finished the season as the team’s top rebounder. Now a senior, Mann will be the focal point of the offense early on with forward Phil Cofer out. Not only has Mann seen his scoring average increase each season, but he’s done so efficiently. Mann is also good on the offensive glass and an underrated passer.

Defensive MVP

Clint: Terance Mann has the ultimate mix of experience, talent, and production. The senior guard has played in over 100 games during his career and started 65 of those. Thanks to Hamilton’s coaching, Mann has turned into a defensive stalwart in the backcourt. He’s totaled 87 steals and 22 blocks in three years and finished in the top three for defensive win shares in his sophomore and junior seasons. It’s not difficult to see why: his length and frame make him an imposing defender on smaller guards, and it allows him to even switch off effectively on other wing players. His senior season will be his best yet in this regard, as he’ll stifle opposing offenses up and down the court.

Mike: Trent Forrest was arguably Florida State’s best offensive player from February forward last season but what seemed to go unnoticed about Forrest was his defense. At 6-foot-4, Forrest is a big guard with good lateral quickness who can guard either guard position and some smaller forwards. Despite sharing time with C.J. Walker and Braian Angola, Forrest led the team in steals with 1.6 per game last season and is likely to spend more time on the floor this season.

Breakout Player

Clint: RaiQuan Gray greatly benefited from a redshirt last year. Accurately described as a point forward coming out of high school, Gray needed to cut some bad weight and add muscle before contributing at the next level. Offseason reports confirm that Gray succeeded in doing so, and his style of play looks that much better because of it. He’s a versatile forward who can force a defense to defend him away from the paint, opening up the offensive opportunities down low. The departure of Ike Obiagu and injury to Phil Cofer mean that Gray will get his chances early on.

Mfiondu Kabengele averaged 7.2 points and 4.6 rebounds for FSU as a redshirt freshman last season. (Mike Olivella/FSU athletics)

Mike: As mentioned above, the losses of Ike Obiagu and injury to Phil Cofer will open things up for Florida State big men, including Mfiondu Kabengele. The 6-9 nephew of NBA Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo, Kabengele was a major contributor last season and still has a world of potential. As a redshirt freshman, Kabengele averaged 7.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in less than 15 minutes per contest. Offensively, Kabengele has the ability to play on the block or knock down the outside shot. Defensively, Kabengele is a wide body but deceptively athletic and pretty good post defender. With a bigger role this season, it wouldn’t be unsurprising to see Kabengele average in double-figures scoring.

Most Glaring Question

Clint: Can the Team Stay Focused?
Emotional highs can extend far beyond the game immediately afterwards. Florida State’s improbable Elite Eight run was a stunning display of defensive resurgence and offensive firepower, both of which clicked at exactly the same time. It meant the world for the team, for the program, and for the fans. But now the Seminoles have put last season behind them and attempt to live up to expectations this year. In 2015 and 2016, they failed to do so. This season will be all about maintaining that drive and that desire to elevate the program with another national success story. Will Hamilton be able to do that? Or will his team suffer a “sophomore slump” of sorts?

Mike: Can FSU Be an Elite Defensive Team?
Leonard Hamilton was long regarded as a defensive mastermind but that perception has changed in recent years as FSU has become more talented offensively and looked to run more. Last season, FSU was nothing special on the defensive end of the floor, but that changed during the NCAA Tournament as no single opponent scored more than 70 points against the Seminoles. FSU has talent, but relative to the rest of the ACC, it’s not in the upper echelon. If Florida State is to live up to its top-20 national ranking, it will need to play with the defensive intensity that it did in March.

Bold Prediction

Clint: Mfiondu Kabengele Becomes a Top-3 Scorer
Kabengele seems to be the forgotten factor of the 2017-18 team. The power forward/center played in 34 games last season and proved to be an emerging offensive threat (7.2 points per game). In addition to his more refined scoring touch around the rim, Kabengele was a productive rebounder (4.6 rebounds per game) and showed growth as a defender. He hasn’t reached his ceiling yet, but Kabengele will turn out to be the best overall post player on the team. He’ll continue to ride his strong postseason performance into a top-3 scorer for FSU.

Mike: Terance Mann is First-Team All-ACC
Despite a breakout year last season, Terance Mann garnered only ACC Honorable Mention and was nowhere to be found on this season’s preseason All-ACC team. Mann has improved every season and if that trend continues, FSU could have a player that averages better than 15 points, six rebounds and shoots somewhere in the 55 percent range. It’s also expected that FSU will make more noise in the regular season than last. If that happens, Mann could be one of the household names in basketball’s premier conference.

Season Prediction

Clint: 25-11 (11-7 ACC), Sweet 16 appearance
The Seminoles do not take a huge leap forward, but they maintain their deadly offense throughout the year and finish the regular season with a 22-9 record. The defense takes a step back due to the loss of Obiagu and the reliance on younger players for rotational minutes. The key for Florida State is the ACC regular season record, as it improves on last season’s tally and secures an NCAA Tournament spot thanks to in-conference success. The Seminoles add on a win in the ACC Tournament and grab anywhere from a 5-seed to a 9-seed nationally. Their offense lets them breeze past the first two rounds before falling in the Sweet 16.

Mike: 25-11 (11-7 ACC), Sweet 16 appearance
The non-conference for Florida State isn’t particularly daunting, but the Seminoles will continue to have success in conference play. FSU will minimize bad losses and mix in some signature wins, entering the ACC Tournament as one of the top five or six teams in the conference. A modicum of conference tournament success will give FSU an NCAA Tournament seed somewhere in the No. 4 to No. 6 range. Florida State uses last season’s tournament success to again advance past the first weekend.

One Comment

  1. finance85

    November 6, 2018 at 11:14 am

    Great article, guys.

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