There are a lot of teams across the country that rely on the success of one or two players. They live and die by the playmaking ability of their leaders, but that is not the case for the Florida State Seminoles men’s basketball team.
There is no one player the Seminoles live and die by. Terrance Mann may lead the team in scoring through the start of the season, but he isn’t always the go-to player in crunch time because there isn’t always a certain guy that needs the ball. It has been a group effort in winning moments, and this team is setting up for a deep run with this formula in place.
There are three big advantages to having a group of players who can get hot and take the lead on any given night, but there is still one major setback by playing a team game like this.
1. Find the Hot Hand
When a team is full of good players who can score in various ways, each player can get hot at different times against certain teams. MJ Walker or PJ Savoy may find gaps against a zone so they can hit open threes. Mann may find space in the paint over a smaller team. Mfiondu Kabengele could find space anywhere. Trent Forrest might have a matchup on a smaller guard and drive into the paint.
Five different players have led the team in scoring in various games so far this season, and they have done a great job at getting the ball to whoever is feeling it. Three players sit at just over 11 points per game after the Florida State’s 9-1 start. Mann(11.4 ppg) leads the parade while Forrest (11.3) and Kabengele (11.2) are just behind him. Walker (9.3 ppg) and Savoy (7.8 ppg) are serious threats to put up points in bunches at any point, too.
Oh, and Phil Cofer just returned to play his first game of the season against Southeast Missouri State. Cofer led the Seminoles in scoring last season at 12.8 points per game and also was second in rebounding at 5.1 boards a game. He only played five minutes and didn’t make any of his four field-goal attempts in his first game, but that’s because he’s getting back into game shape.
The perfect example of finding the hot hand was against LSU. Walker had been on fire all night and finished with a game-high 21 points. He made a few huge threes down the stretch and in overtime, but the ‘Noles didn’t just force him the ball because they also had other options who seemed to score at will.
Forrest had eight points in the final seven minutes against LSU, including a layup to tie the game with two seconds left in regulation, and they continued to give him the ball. But they also got the ball to Kabengele, who had his best scoring game of the season with 15 points and made two of his three makes from behind the arc on the season. They were pretty confident in him when they gave him the ball in the corner with time winding down, but a great bounce gave the ‘Noles a three-point lead and eventually the win.
2. Defenses Can’t Target One Player
A defense may shade a double-team towards a dangerous player with the help coming from a less threatening offensive player. But what if every player on the court is at least a decent threat to score? That is what teams have to deal with against Florida State.
With such a well-balanced team from a scoring standpoint, a defense has no single player to key on. Forrest has been the best playmaker on the team with 3.4 assists per game on top of his 11.3 points per game, which ranks second on the team.
The ‘Noles are 78th in the country in scoring offense through 10 games, which is really good considering there are 351 teams. Many of the teams ahead of them are lower tier schools who put up triple digits on even smaller basketball programs.
With the addition of Cofer, they now have six players who have led the team in scoring. So at any time, there are at least few players on the floor who are capable of scorching a defense. If one player doesn’t play up to expectations offensively, it doesn’t kill the team.
3. One Player Won’t Derail a Game
If someone has a bad night or maybe has to leave a game early, it doesn’t mean an immediate loss. If Terrance Mann has a night where he wouldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat, Florida State will still compete.
Against Troy, the team’s season leader in scoring struggled, making just one-of-six shots from the field for three points, over eight points under his season average. But others picked up the slack and the Seminoles won by 16 points.
Savoy (16 points) and Walker (14 points) almost doubled their season output of 17.1 points per game combined with 30 points against Troy. Forrest added 13 points and Kabengele rounded out the scorers in double-figures with 10 points.
With a well coached team, which this group appears to be, it could be tough to stop a squad that plays together and relies on each other and not one guy. But it is nice to have that one dude who always seems to come up big when it matters. The leader who is just unstoppable. Does this team have that? It is tough to say. Forrest has made a bunch of shots in key moments, but they are also willing to spread it around to find the best basketball play.
Florida State’s Achilles Heel
In an absolutely dire situation where you have to get a bucket, who gets the ball? It would obviously depend on how many points are needed, how much time is on the clock, who is being guarded by whom, and how everyone is shooting. But those are a lot of factors to consider in crunch time.
So far this season, it seems like Forrest is the go-to guy when two points are needed. But it just doesn’t feel like THAT guy is on this team. The ‘Noles still need the guy with a “Killer Kobe” mentality who leads the team through tough stretches. The one who everyone turns to and knows he is “the guy.” It is tough to figure out who that is when it changes every night.
At the same time, this team does seem a little different compared to others teams that are just mediocre and rely on team play. They are a squad of extremely capable hoopers with at least six guys who could realistically put up 20 on any given night. Who knows, there may be more with the likes of Christ Koumadje or David Nichols that could have a big night and emerge as Florida State’s unquestioned leader when ACC play begins.