SCOUTING REPORT: The Seminoles played more than half their season much like past years. They would out-defend opponents, seize upon turnovers, get points in transition and try to out-will everybody with their relentless defensive style. It often made for some ugly basketball. But in the final month, the backcourt got hot, led by junior guard Michael Snaer, and suddenly this is a much different team. Florida State has developed into a solid 3-point shooting squad with guards Ian Miller, Deividas Dulkys, Luke Loucks and Snaer all having signature games to prove they can hit shots. The team still works hard to remain one of the nation's best defensive teams, but it's the scoring punch from the perimeter that has changed.
FUTURES WATCH: The Seminoles will build next season around their backcourt tandem of Snaer and Miller. After regaining eligibility in late December, Miller became a vital player in this team's offensive turnaround. He has scored in double figures in five of FSU's last six games, including matching a career high with 18 points in the ACC Tournament quarterfinal win against Miami. He had 10 points in the title game win against North Carolina. Combined with Snaer, he gives the Seminoles the added perimeter shooting threat they have sorely lacked the last couple seasons.
The Seminoles are losing six seniors, including four starters, off this team. But all is not lost. They will get forward Terrance Shannon back, who dislocated his left shoulder in a nasty fall against UConn on Nov. 26 and was lost for the season. He was one of the top players on last year's team. His return, along with Okaro White's, will provide a solid frontcourt. Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton will have to sign another big man or two, maybe from the JUCO ranks. The toughest replacements will be the defensive stars, Loucks and Dulkys.
REGULAR SEASON REVIEW: Even with lofty preseason expectations, the 'Noles exceeded anyone's forecast by winning the ACC Tournament and earning a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. But how this all happened for FSU makes the achievement more noteworthy. On Jan. 7, following a 20-point road loss to Clemson in the ACC opener, the 'Noles were 9-6 and going nowhere. They had a soul-searching meeting that ignited motivation.
Their early-season schedule had gotten the best of them. First, they suffered through an anemic shooting performance in a loss to Harvard in a tournament in the Bahamas. The next day, they lost an overtime game to UConn (78-76). Four days later, on Nov. 30, they were blown out at Michigan State by 16 points in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. Before the New Year began, they looked bad in losses at Florida and a triple-overtime loss at home to Princeton.
The Clemson loss continued the despair. But from that point, a changed team emerged. The backcourt got better and FSU racked up a school-record 12 ACC wins, including signature victories against North Carolina and Duke. After a horrific effort in a road loss to Boston College, the Seminoles won their next three ACC games to seal an NCAA Tournament bid and winning record in the ACC. They ended the regular-season schedule with two wins and have now won five ACC games in a row.
Loucks set the ACC Championship Game assist record with 13, complementing the 11 points he scored. ...
Senior F Bernard James' five blocked shots against North Carolina in Sunday's championship game were the second most in the history of the ACC Tournament. ...
The Seminoles do not have any injury issues heading into the NCAA Tournament. They were able to play 10 players in Sunday's ACC title game, including freshman G Terry Whisnant, who did not play at all in four of the previous five games.