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ACC Preview #6 - Florida State

Leonard Hamilton’s formula works, but not so much in the post-season.

Pittsburgh v Florida State
TALLAHASSEE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: Head Coaches Jeff Capel of the Pittsburgh Panthers and Leonard Hamilton of the Florida State Seminoles talk before the game at the Donald L. Tucker Center on February 18, 2020 in Tallahassee, Florida. Florida State defeated Pittsburgh 82 to 67.
Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

In a lot of ways, Florida State is the easiest ACC school to analyze: interchangeable wings, several guys 7-0 or taller, run and press, minimal concern with turnovers and clock out at about the Sweet Sixteen.

We’ll have to wait to see about turnovers and the Sweet Sixteen, but the basic formula is in place again.

Let’s start with who's not coming back, for whatever reason:


  • Scottie Barnes
  • Balsa Koprivica
  • Raiquan Gray
  • Sardaar Calhoun
  • Nathanael Jack
  • Travis Light
  • Justin Lindner
  • Will Miles
  • MJ Walker

Scottie Barnes, Balsa Koprivica and RaiQuan Gray are off to the NBA. Sardaar Calhoun left for Texas Tech and Nathanael Jack will be in Cameron this fall with Cleveland State.

Obviously Barnes, who was the #4 pick in this summer’s draft, is a major loss and Gray was a real contributor. Koprivica showed a lot of potential but may have left too early. We’ll see.

MJ Walker, Travis Light, Justin Lindner and Will Miles graduated or are out of eligibility. Of those, only Walker will be missed, at least on the court.

Here are the players Leonard Hamilton has coming back:


  • Anthony Polite 6-6, Senior
  • Malik Osborne 6-9, Senior
  • Tanor Ngom 7-1, Senior
  • RayQuan Evans 6-6, Senior
  • Wyatt Wilkes 6-8, Senior
  • Quincy Ballard 6-11, Sophomore
  • Harrison Prieto - 6-8, Sophomore
  • Cleveland Yates 6-2 Sophomore

And the transfers in:


  • Caleb Mills - 6-3,Houston - 6-3 JR
  • Cam’Ron Fletcher - Kentucky, Sophomore
  • Naheem McLeod 7-3, Junior, Chipola College

And finally the freshmen:


  • Jalen Warley 6-4
  • Matthew Cleveland 6-6
  • John Butler 7-1
  • Barrett Waldrop 6-7
  • Isaac Spainhour 6-3

The first thing you’ll notice is that the NCAA scholarship roster limit is exceeded. Obviously some of these guys are walk-ons but they aren’t clearly identified as such on FSU’s Web site.

The second thing is that the interchangeable parts are present again: Polite, Osborne, Evans, Wilkes, Mills, Fletcher, Waldrop, Cleveland and Warley will move in and out, probably Yates too.

Warley and Cleveland are both highly rated recruits which at most places would mean they’d be in the starting lineup. At FSU? Maybe, maybe not, doesn't much matter. That’s just the way Hamilton does things.

As for the big guys, there are plenty of those again: Ngom, Butler and McLeod are all at least 7-1 while Ballard is 6-11.

The thing we liked about Koprivika was that he broke the mold somewhat. Most of Hamilton’s bigs over the years just had to be big. Their job is to clog things up inside and rebound and if Ngom can’t do it, Butler’s up. If he gets in trouble, then McLeod. And if they all strike out, well, Ballard is just 6-11 but he’ll do.

We have no idea who will get the most minutes, but it doesn’t much matter.

We’re not sure who’s going to run point but there’s a good chance it’s Warley. One of the ways Hamilton is different is that he doesn’t use his point guards the way a lot of coaches do.

Pitt’s Jeff Capel says that point guard is the only position left. When Tre Jones was a sophomore at Duke, he played 35.4 minutes a night. Last year, Jose Alvarado pulled 37.1 for Georgia Tech. In his last season at UNC, in 2017-18, Joel Berry got 33.1. In 2019, Ty Jerome averaged 33.9 for Virginia.

Last season, Walker got 28 mpg.

That’s partly because of Hamilton’s philosophy of constantly substituting of course and partly because Scottie Barnes was such a good assist man.

Still, it’s an unconventional approach. Most high-level teams prefer to keep their point guard on the floor as much as possible, until he becomes a diminishing return.

Walker was also underwater with 2.6 turnovers to 2.5 assists, which isn’t that surprising at FSU. For whatever reasons, turnovers are a constant issue. Is it because there’s not normally a strong, traditional point guard? Could be.

It might also have something to do with the poor performances in the postseason.

Hamilton, a border-line Hall of Fame coach, has never been that great in the post-season.

At Oklahoma State, he made the NIT twice. At Miami, he made the NIT twice, then lost in the first round and the second round before getting to the Sweet Sixteen in his final year.

In his first six seasons at FSU, Hamilton made the NIT five times and got to the quarterfinal once. He also made the NIT in 2003-04, 2005-06 and 2006-07 and got to the second round, the Quarterfinals and lost again in the first round.

As for the Big Dance, it’s not a great record.

  • First round losses: 2008-09, 2009-10
  • Second round losses: 2011-12, 2016-17
  • Sweet Sixteen 2018-19, 2020-21
  • Elite Eight: 2017-18

FSU missed the postseason completely in 2004-05 and of course the postseason was canceled in 2019-20.

Leaving his previous stops out of it, in 19 years, Hamilton has three decent NCAA runs. Toss out his six building years and giving him the universal pass on last season and he’s got three good runs in 12 seasons.

At Florida State, that’s good enough. For Duke, UNC, Virginia and some other ACC teams, it would be deflating.