There is a buzz surrounding the Florida State men’s basketball team for the first time in a while, and it goes back to last season.
Junior guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes started it when he scored 30 points in the final four minutes of a game against the University of Miami. Dwayne Bacon, a 6-7 freshman added to it when he won the Slam Dunk Contest at last spring’s McDonald’s All-American game.
The Seminoles are now in the national discussion picking, up 25 votes in the USA Today preseason coach’s poll.
“I haven’t been this excited for a team in a long time,” Rathan-Mayes said. “Just the camaraderie we have; not just on the court, but off the court as well is something that is really really special. I definitely see us doing big things this season.”
A lot has changed from a year ago. Last season, the offense looked inept at times, and depended solely on Rathan-Mayes, who averaged 14.9 points and 4.3 assists. He scored 26 straight points against Miami — and the Noles still lost.
“I was in a special zone, but that’s not something you really ever plan for, it’s just something that happened,” Rathan-Mayes said. “It was just a special moment, but hopefully we won’t have to be in that situation again.”
Rathan-Mayes won’t need to carry the team after FSU landed the 11th ranked recruiting class in the nation, according to ESPN. Bacon, a five-star recruit, headlines a class that features four-stars Malik Beasley, Terance Mann, and Jean Marc Christ Koumadje.
“I think we have a great supporting cast with the younger guys,” Rathan-Mayes said. “Malik is one of the best spot up shooters I’ve seen, and Terance can get in the lane and push our breaks.
“Bacon is just a big time scorer. He’s a guy that’s going to relieve pressure and be able to help get us a basket when we need one. They all bring something to the table that is special.”
It’s easy to become intoxicated by the talent and athleticism of the newcomers, but in order to compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Florida State will need to see improvement from key returners.
Senior centers Boris Bojanovsky and Michael Ojo came to Florida State as projects, but have yet to develop into reliable rim protectors and rebounders expected of a pair of 7-footers. Shooting guard Montay Brandon led the team with 5.5 rebounds a game last season.
Add to that the fact that Ojo recently underwent surgery for a torn meniscus, and that could open the door for smaller, more athletic lineups. With Jarquez Smith and Phil Cofer down low, expect the Noles to play a faster pace and push the ball in transition.
“We have more guards than we do big men, so we’ll be doing a whole lot more of everything,” said coach Leonard Hamilton, in his 15th season at Florida State. “The perimeter is where I think we’ve gained our biggest strength.”
In addition to the senior big men, senior guards Brandon and Devon Bookert have yet to taste the success of their predecessors. Florida State is in the midst of a three-year NCAA tournament drought, which comes after a run of four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.
“We feel like we should be in the tournament every year at Florida State,” Rathan-Mayes said. “We expect to win an ACC championship and make a deep run in the tournament. The guys that we have now definitely feel that is goal that is reachable.”
The new faces on campus have injected a lot of excitement into the program. Even more than that, they have the Seminoles believing they can compete in the relentless ACC.
F Brandon Allen, Jr., 6-6, 209;
G Dwayne Bacon, Fr., 6-7, 221;
G Malik Beasley, Fr., 6-5, 196;
G Benji Bell, Jr., 6-4, 204;
G Robbie Berwick, So., 6-4, 188;
C Boris Bojanovski, Sr., 7-3, 248;
G Devon Bookert, Sr., 6-3, 198;
G Montay Brandon, Sr., 6-8, 229;
F Phil Cofer, So., 6-8, 218;
C Jean Marc Christ Koumadje, Fr., 7-4, 233;
G Terance Mann, Fr., 6-6, 204;
G Michael Ojo, Sr., 7-1, 304;
G Xavier Rathan-Mayes, So., 6-4, 208;
G Michael Saxton, Sr., 6-5, 213;
F Jarquez Smith, Jr., 6-9, 236;
Nov 15 vs Nicholls State 3:00pm
Nov 17 vs Jacksonville 9:00pm
Nov 20-23 U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam
Dec 2 @ Iowa (Big Ten/ACC Challenge) 9:15pm
Dec 6 VCU (@ Atlanta, GA) 6:00pm
Dec 13 vs Southeastern Louisiana 3:00pm
Dec 16 vs Mississippi State 9:00pm
Dec 19 Florida Atlantic (Orange Bowl Classic) 5:00pm
Dec 21 vs Charleston Southern 2:00pm
Dec 29 @ Florida 7:00pm
Jan 2 @ Clemson 12:00pm
Jan 4 vs North Carolina 7:00pm
Jan 9 @ Miami 5:00pm
Jan 13 @ NC State 9:00pm
Jan 17 vs Virginia 6:30pm
Jan 20 @ Louisville 9:00pm
Jan 23 vs Pitt 4:00pm
Jan 26 @ Boston College 7:00pm
Jan 30 vs Clemson 12:00pm
Feb 1 vs NC State 9:00pm
Feb 6 @ Wake Forest 12:00pm
Feb 11 @ Syracuse 7:00pm
Feb 14 vs Miami 6:30pm
Feb 17 vs Georgia Tech 9:00pm
Feb 20 @ Virginia Tech 3:00pm
Feb 25 @ Duke 7:00pm
Feb 27 vs Notre Dame TBA
Mar 5 vs Syracuse TBA
Mar 8-12 ACC Tournament
Mar 17-Apr 4 NCAA Tournament