A traditional pre-season top 25? They’re fairly ubiquitous this time of year. Everyone has one, but from Duke to Mississippi Valley State and in between, there’s a lot of intriguing teams for the upcoming college basketball season.
In ascending order of squads that pique our interest, our list consists of teams with a rare chance to make noise, have a lot to prove, quirky schedules, or are just named Kentucky.
Follow along. Story lines aren’t just for the nation’s elite.
It has been nearly 20 years since Florida State joined the Atlantic Coast Conference. During that span the Seminoles have reached second round of the NCAA Tournament a grand total of three times. Of course, that feat hasn't even happened since 1998.
But a funny thing has been happening over the past few years in Tallahassee. With Duke and North Carolina doing their best to hoard all the headlines, Florida State has been sneaking up on the rest of the conference. Led by veteran coach Leonard Hamilton, this program has averaged 21.6 wins per season over the past five years and is on a crash course with their sixth straight postseason tournament berth (NCAA / NIT). Hamilton's roster, peppered with former three, four and five-star prospects, is brimming with potential.
The days of shrugging the Seminoles off as a non-contender due to lack of postseason success might be long over. Inconsistency will likely remain an issue, but this is definitely Florida State's year to throw their weight around in the ACC and carve out a niche as a top five program.
What happened this summer?
Junior Chris Singleton put in work with Team USA. Departed big men Ryan Reid and Solmon Alabi were each selected in the second round of the NBA Draft. Assistant coach Stan Jones, who doubles as a Ricky Gervais look-a-like on the weekends, was properly acknowledged.
Games that really matter
- 11/28 vs. Florida
- 11/30 vs. Ohio State
- 1/8 @ Virginia Tech
- 1/12 vs. Duke
- 1/29 @ Clemson
- 2/6 @ North Carolina
- 2/23 @ Maryland
- 3/6 @ North Carolina State
Most intriguing player
(6’5" guard; sophomore) – The No. 2 shooting guard in the '09 signing class according to Rivals.com, Snaer was a bit of a disappointment during his freshman season. His 8.8 points per night ranked third on the team, but no FSU player turned the ball over more frequently on a per minute basis (every 9.4 min.). Confident that he's turned a corner in his mental preparation, Snaer dropped some interesting quotes in a recent chat with AOL Fanhouse. The 21 year old said he "expected college to be a lot harder than it was," and vowed to be "one of the best in the country at what I do." Who says kids don't aim for the sky these days? Prediction: Snaer ends up being 80% of the player he thinks he is and still goes down as one of the most improved sophomores in the country.
What’s on the line?
A third straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Assuming they still have their dancing shoes on, the Seminoles would be wise to peak at the proper time in order to avoid falling into another dreaded 8/9 game. Tough scheduling might be one of the root causes for FSU's postseason struggles, but that sort of thing happens when you do stuff like lose to an 11-seeded North Carolina State team in the ACC Tournament. A respectable showing in this year's conference tourney would go a long way towards getting Florida State into a favorable matchup in the opening round.
For as talented as Leonard Hamilton's team might be on paper, the ACC has a knack for overwhelming hopeful squads and spitting them out at the bottom of the standings by mid-February. And with Clemson, Virginia Tech, Duke and North Carolina State kicking off their conference slate, the Seminoles need to come out swinging to avoid falling into an early trap in their quest for a regular season title. Still, if the trio of Singleton, Snaer and Kitchen can live up to the hype then you might be looking at a legitimate sleeper candidate come March.
- Conference: 5th
- Postseason: NCAA second round