After a great start to their season, the Florida State Seminoles men's basketball team has struggled of late. Since starting Atlantic Coast Conference play, the 'Noles have lost four of their six games in the league.
In the six games against conference opponents, it hasn't been the bench that is to blame for poor play. In fact, Mfiondu Kabengele has been the best player on the team over that stretch while coming off the bench.
Kabengele shines through as the lone bright spot over the team's first six ACC games. In the first 13 games this season, he averaged 11.8 points and 4.5 rebounds. Thanks to his six-game ACC run of 15.3 points and 6.5 rebounds against conference opponents, he now leads the team at 12.8 points and is third on the team at 5.2 rebounds per game.
The biggest issue for the 'Noles right now is the lack of consistency from several players. Yes, any player could play great and lead the team in any game, but there have been multiple games when no one does that.
There are seven players that currently average at least 7.4 points with Kabengele and Terrance Mann (11.4 ppg.) leading in double figures. But with how productive Kabengele has been, it is odd that he is just tied for fifth on the team in minutes.
He hasn't been the only player off the bench to help the team, though. David Nichols, in his first season as a 'Nole since transferring from Albany, is averaging 7.5 points per game this season. Although when the 6-foot-1 guard is able to score in double figures, Florida State is 6-0. In the two ACC games he has scored at least 10, they won.
In their Jan. 22 game against Clemson, Kabengele and Nichols combined for 30 points compared to 32 points for the entire starting five. This shows that the success of this team is going to rely on the success of their bench.
The good news for the team is they have two of their most difficult opponents behind them in Duke and Virginia. There are still some tough games ahead with North Carolina, Virginia Tech, NC State, and Louisville who are all ranked, but three of those four games are being played at home inside the Donald L. Tucker Center.
But down the stretch of this season, two of head coach Leonard Hamilton's most important players will be Nichols and Kabengele.