Florida State Seminoles basketball is officially back.
After a duo of exhibition games against Flagler College (90-74) and Valdosta State (90-67), the Seminoles are set to open the season at home tonight against the Kennesaw State Owls.
Kennesaw State already has one game under its belt — a 93-46 win over the Oakwood Ambassadors (an NAIA program).
It’s just the second time that Florida State and Kennesaw State have ever met on the court — the last time was in 2017, a 98-78 Florida State win.
Florida State is looking to bounce back after a season to forget in 2022-23, where the Seminoles, hampered by depth issues, suffered a program-record 23 losses.
From Tomahawk Nation‘s Matt Minnick:
What happened last year?
Pain. So much pain. There was literal pain with injuries to multiple guys expected to be key contributors and there was figurative pain with Florida State’s play. Well, maybe watching that induced literal pain, too? The ‘Noles lost their opener to Stetson 83-74 and somehow that wasn’t even the worst non-conference loss. FSU started the season 1-9, went 7-7 over the next month and a half, and then went 1-8 to close things out. Yikes. However, the Seminoles managed to sweep the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Louisville Cardinals, so that should give you an indication of how bad the ACC was. Let’s just move on.
Who did FSU lose?
The college sports landscape has become one of immense season to season turnover and FSU was no exception. Caleb Mills, Matthew Cleveland, and Naheem McLeod all transferred, with two of them heading to fellow ACC schools (Cleveland to the Miami Hurricanes and McLeod to the Syracuse Orange). But just how big of losses were they? Meh.
Mills had his moments, such as a 27 point, 7 rebound, 3 assist performance against the Boston College Eagles, but he never seemed to truly fit into FSU’s offensive system and was hit or miss on defense. He did get to the free throw line a ton, so that’ll be something that needs replacing.
Cleveland was Mr. Double-Double for a long stretch, but he was also the least efficient offensive player on the team among players who played at least 25% of possible minutes.
McLeod had a few stretches of thunderous dunks, but was often a net-negative with FSU’s staff insisting on switching every screen on defense.
On top of those players, FSU also lost assistant coach R-Jay Barsh to Gonzaga. Barsh was only in Tallahassee one season, so it’s hard to say how much impact he truly had. All in all, the sum of the losses very well might end up being less than the individual parts.
Florida State was active in the portal, bringing in Jamir Watkins from VCU, Josh Nickelberry from La Salle, and Primo Spears from Georgetown—although it remains to be seen if Spears will be eligible (due to multiple transfers). The Seminoles also welcome blue chip freshman Taylor Bol Bowen, out of Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, and essentially are “adding” Jaylan Gainey, a two-time Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year who missed all of last season with a knee injury.
To replace Barsh, Hamilton brought in Kevin Nickelberry from the Georgetown Hoyas. Prior to that he spent three years at LSU.
So what do these newcomers bring? We’ll certainly learn a lot more over the next few weeks when we finally get a chance to see them in garnet and gold, but at a minimum they bring length, athleticism, and some badly needed skill-sets.
Watkins, in particular, might be an immediate impact player. Playing on a 27-win VCU squad, the bouncy 6’7, 210 pound wing was the team’s best defensive rebounder, among its leaders as a shot-blocker and theft-man, drew over 4.5 fouls per 40 minutes, and shot 34% from three on more than 100 attempts.
Nickelberry will instantly upgrade FSU’s perimeter shooting, making 38% of his 366 attempts from deep over the last two seasons. This will take a big burden off Darin Green Jr., who at times last year was the only three point threat on the court.
Spears is a player who has similar qualities to Mills, except that when Spears dribbles, he’s typically attacking the hoop, as opposed to just dribbling into traffic. Unfortunately, Spears is a two-time transfer and given the NCAA’s supreme crack down on granting those waivers, it seems likely he may not be eligible this season.
Bowen is a classic Leonard Hamilton recruit. 6’10, long arms, very good lateral quickness, and a desire to lock people down. He legitimately could be FSU’s most disruptive defender from day one, not to mention a terror in the open court.
According to DraftKings, Florida State is a 10.5-point favorite over the Owls, with the over/under set at 154.
FSU vs. Kennesaw State: How to stream
Friday, November 10
ESPN+ (ACCNX) (Ariya Maddoudi, Jack Kavovit, Alexandra Decapua)
Seminoles Radio Network, SiriusXM RADIO FSU Broadcast: CH. 119 or 193
Game notes, via FSU Sports Info
FLORIDA STATE OPENS SEASON AT HOME AGAINST KENNESAW STATE
Florida State commences its 76th college basketball season hosting Kennesaw State from the Atlantic Sun Conference on November 10, 2023, at 6:00 pm in Tallahassee’s Donald L. Tucker Center. The Seminoles and the Owls previously met on November 22, 2017, resulting in a 98-78 victory for Florida State. The upcoming game follows Florida State’s trend of success, having won 18 of its last 21 and eight of its last 10 season-opening games. After facing Kennesaw State, the Seminoles will host Central Michigan in the Sunshine Slam tournament on November 13.
FLORIDA STATE USA KENNESAW STATE – CONNECTIONS
Florida State’s season opener against Kennesaw State on November 10, 2023, holds significance as the second meeting between the two teams. It also marks Florida State’s first season-opener against a Georgia team since 2002. Kennesaw State’s head coach, Antoine Pettway, previously faced the Seminoles as an assistant coach at Alabama. Robert Kirby, an assistant coach at Kennesaw State, has coached against Florida State during his career. Willie Watson, in his first season at Kennesaw State, was a team manager at Alabama when the Seminoles defeated the Tide in 2009. Donovan Kates, another addition to Pettway’s staff, played against Florida State for Manhattan in 2014. Mark Wasik, Kennesaw State’s Sports Information Director, is a Florida State graduate. Milton Overton, the Director of Athletics at Kennesaw State, previously served as the AD at Florida A&M.
GREEN JR. ON THE CUSP OF 300 CAREER 3-POINT FIELD GOALS MADE
Darin Green Jr., Florida State’s second-year guard, enters the 2023-24 season with 299 career 3-point field goals made. Just one more 3-point field goal will bring him to the 300 made mark for his career. Green Jr. has showcased his prowess, making 90 or more 3-point field goals in a single season and maintaining a .374 shooting percentage from the 3-point line. Over the last two seasons, he has averaged 89 made 3-point field goals.
• Darin Green Jr. (fifth year) finished as one of three players in the ACC with 90 or more 3-point field goals made and averaged 34.1 minutes played per game.
• Over the summer Baba Miller was invited to his home country Spain in July to train with Spain’s National team as it prepared for the FIBA World Cup championships.
• Cam’Ron Fletcher (10.8 ppg and 7.5 rpg) was well on his way to an All-ACC type season before injuring his knee during the December 3 game at Virginia and missed the remainder of the season. He is looking ahead to a promising 2023-2024 season.
• Coach Hamilton commented on Darian Green’s leadership among the team stating “he is giving us more leadership, and he is challenging himself to play hard on every possession. That type of effort and enthusiasm is contagious.”
• Newcomer for Florida State Josh Nickelberry (97 career games played) is a graduate student playing 2 seasons at Louisville (2019-20, 2020-21) and averaged double-figure scoring in the last 2 seasons (10.9 ppg) at La Salle.
• Jalen Warley is ranked in the ACC’s top 10 for career steals having 78 in total and averaging 1.2 per-game career steals.
Game notes, via Kennesaw State Sports Info
• It was a successful debut for the Antonie Pettway era at Kennesaw State, as under their first-year head coach, the Owls showed they are ready to play at last year’s championship level as they raced out to a 20-4 lead less than six minutes into the opener on the way to a 47-point win over Oakland on Tuesday night.
• For the first time in school history, the Owls enter the season with a target on their backs, coming off the first-ever winning season in the school’s Division I history. KSU finished off 2022-23 with a 26-9 overall mark, shattering the previous record for most wins in a season by 12 (14). The Owls also won the first-ever Atlantic Sun Conference regular season and tournament titles in school history, while reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time at the Division I level as well.
• Pettway took over as the Owls coach in April of this year, and is in his first year as a head coach after spending the past 15 years on the Alabama coaching staff. He quickly got the Owls ready for a title defense after bringing in a four-member freshmen class that ranked in the top 65 in the nation and easily was the top in the ASUN. Highlighting the class was four-star recruit RJ Johnson.
• In addition, Pettway brought in four Division I transfers in Rongie Gordon (UAB), Jamel King (West Virginia), Delaney Heard (Alabama) and Jusaun Holt (Georgia).
• KSU is looking for its first win over a Power 5 team in 13 years, and its second-ever when it takes on the Seminoles on Friday night. Though the Owls are 1-10 all-time against the ACC, they posted a school record 10 road victories a season ago, and held leads late in the second half at both Indiana and VCU. The Owls’ last Power 5 win was 80-63 at home over Georgia Tech on Nov. 15, 2010.