Last Year: Florida State was one of the surprises of the conference, going 20-10 overall and 9-7 in the ACC. A first round tournament loss to Wake Forest shuttled them off to the NIT, where an overtime loss in the second round to South Carolina ended their season.
FSU was they very model of a statistically average team, falling in the middle of most categories. The lone exception was their opponent's free throw opportunities - the Seminoles sent opponents to the line more often than anyone else in the league, almost every other time down the court. If I have time I may try to correlate their conference wins and losses with their opponents free throw percentage.
Comings and Goings: The Seminoles lost two starters and a couple of role players off of last year's team. The starters, point guard Todd Galloway (7.5 ppg, 3.1 apg) and center Alexander Johnson (13.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg) will be missed, especially Johnson, who left early for the NBA only to fall to the second round and eventually signing with the Memphis Grizzlies. The losses of Diego Romero (3.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg) and Andrew Wilson () will cost the team some points, but nothing they can't eventually make up.
Of course, the engine driving this team is Al Thorton (16.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg), All-Pretty Much Anything Candidate for this year and probably the biggest contender behing Hansbrough for ACC Player of the Year. The question that remains to be seen is how well he can perform without Johnson to draw some of the pressure in the paint. Johnson's replacement Uche Echefu (2.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg) wasmore highly heralded than Johnson, but has yet to step up to his predecessor's level of play. Not that defensive pressure in the frontcourt alone will shut down Thorton - he's one of the league's better three-point shooters, as well.
The other returning starter, shooting guard Isaiah Swann (8.4 ppg, 2.9 apg) is known more for spectacular highlights than consistent play, but is still a player to be reckoned with, offsetting his height with a quick step and great leaping ability. He'll be joined in the backcourt by a rotating crew of talented guards, including Ralph Mims (3.8 ppg, 1.7 apg), probably the purest point guard on the team, Jason Rich (10.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg) the defensive leader, and Toney Douglas, the Auburn transfer who sat out last season and has immediately jumped into a starting role. Douglas' success will go a long way in propelling this team to the upper levels of the ACC.
The Seminoles continue to not be particularly deep. Behind the six already mentioned, there's Casaan Breeden (2.8 ppg, 1.2 rpg) a sophomore forward and Jerel Allen (3.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg) a senior guard, who will get most of the minutes spelling the front six. Of the three freshman, only Ryan Reid, who'll be gunning for the Thorton role after he graduates, looks to contribute this year. The other two players, both guards, will probably be redshirted given the talent already in the backcourt.
The Outlook: FSU was burned last year by a poor schedule, and did bring in a team or two to beef it up. The team is guard-rich and height-poor, so success will come from outrunning the bigger, bruising teams they've signed up, and showing more consistency than they did against SMU. They should be succesful enough that to remain in the same ranking against a rising tide of ACC talent, at least.
Preseason Poll Finish: 5th in the ACC
Carolina March Forecast: 9-7 in conference, right where everyone's expecting them.