FSU Basketball: First half breakdown

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Ian Miller and Florida State are 11-4 at the midway point of the 2013-14 season. (David Manning-USA TODAY Sports)

A look back of the first half of Florida State’s 2013-14 season

Following Sunday’s 85-61 victory at home over Maryland, the 2013-14 regular season has hit the midway point for Florida State. The Seminoles are 11-4 overall on the season and 2-1 in ACC play. Upcoming for FSU however, is a very key stretch as the Seminoles play four of their next five games away from the Donald L. Tucker Center.

Florida State hits the midway point of the season on a two-game winning streak defeating Clemson and Maryland after dropping its ACC opener to Virginia. Overall, FSU has won six of its last seven games and is currently tied for fourth in the ACC with Clemson. Florida State also boasts a RPI in the low 30s.

With still half the season to go which will feature 15 games within the ACC, there is still a lot of basketball to be played. The Seminoles still have games on the horizon against Duke, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and North Carolina, but Florida State will play none of those teams more than once. Looking back on a very good first half of the season, here is a glance at what individuals stood out for FSU:

First Half Team Awards

MVP – Ian Miller, G
After his worst season as a Seminole a year ago, Ian Miller has risen to the occasion as a senior. Miller leads Florida State averaging nearly 14 points-per-game and four assists despite coming off the bench. Miller has led FSU in scoring in each of its two ACC victories this season and has already hit the 20-point mark on three occasions this season — all victories for Florida State.

Rookie of the Year – Jarquez Smith, F
The only newcomer in head coach Leonard Hamilton’s rotation, Jarquez Smith has been efficient in his limited playing time this season. In 12 minutes-per-game, Smith is scoring better than three points-per-game and shooting a solid 47 percent from the field. Smith is going to provide FSU with a long frame throughout his Florida State career and a lot of athleticism.

Most Pleasant Surprise – Aaron Thomas, G
When Aaron Thomas came to Florida State, many had expected big things, but his improvement from his freshman year has been immense. Despite coming off the bench like Ian Miller, Thomas is second on the team in scoring averaging 12.5 points-per-game while shooting better than 50 percent from the field. Thomas has more than doubled his scoring average from his freshman year, but where he has improved most may be on the defensive end as Thomas leads the Seminoles notching better than two steals per contest which ranks fourth in the ACC.

Biggest Disappointment – Xavier Rathan-Mayes, G
While it’s hard to find a player that has underachieved on the Florida State roster to this point, the fact that freshman guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes is not with the team has to leave a sour taste in Leonard Hamilton’s mouth. Rathan-Mayes was ruled academically ineligible prior to the season and was the most heralded signing of last season’s recruiting class.

Best Win – December 22nd in Sunrise: #22 UMASS 55, Florida State 60
Against a ranked and undefeated Massachusetts team in the Orange Bowl Classic, Florida State scored the game’s final six points to hand the Minutemen their first and only loss of the season. Despite a poor shooting day, two free throws from Ian Miller with just over a minute to play put the Seminoles ahead for good. Aaron Thomas led FSU that day with 18 points while forward Okaro White added 10.

Worst Loss – January 4th in Tallahassee: Virginia 62, Florida State 50
In its ACC opener against Virginia, Florida State laid an absolute egg. FSU was held to 31 percent shooting from the floor and through 29 minutes, the Seminoles had just 23 points and trailed by nearly as many, 22. The effort for Virginia came despite losing senior guard Joe Harris two minutes into the contest. Okaro White was the lone bright spot that day for the Seminoles finishing with 15 points and 7 rebounds.

Overview
Head coach Leonard Hamilton certainly has to like where his team is at this point. The sophomore-laden Seminoles have all shown dramatic improvement from a season ago and the defensive intensity that had become a staple of Florida State basketball has returned. The Seminoles are once again very deep even without center Kiel Turpin in the lineup and seniors Ian Miller and Okaro White have each done their jobs in leadership roles.

If the NCAA Tournament began today, Florida State would most definitely be part of the 68-team field. FSU has impressive non-conference victories over Virginia Commonwealth and Massachusetts which could be huge by the time Selection Sunday rolls around. With the exception of the game against Virginia, Florida State has been competitive every time it has stepped on the court and Hamilton still doesn’t believe that his team has put it all together just yet.

At 11-4 and 2-1 in conference, Florida State is in a very good position. If the Seminoles can play .500 ball in the ACC, they should garner some NCAA Tournament consideration. Anything above that and FSU would almost certainly be a lock to be in the field of 68 for a fifth time in six years.

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