The Florida State Seminoles had one of their best seasons in program history. Despite the early exit from the NCAA tournament, the ‘Noles still managed 25 wins in the 2011-2012 season. The Seminoles earned 12 conference wins, four of which were against Duke and North Carolina en route to their first ever ACC Championship. The support for the basketball program enterring the postseason was at it’s peak and the Seminoles made national headlines.
Go back in time just a few seasons and the Florida State men’s basketball program had no national relevance. In Leonard Hamilton’s first six seasons at Florida State, the ‘Noles never made the NCAA tournament and finished with a conference record above .500 only once. Nobody showed up to basketball games and nobody around the nation ever mentioned the Seminoles after football season ended.
The winning ways suddenly began during the 2008-2009 season. The ‘Noles were selected to their first NCAA tournament in over 10 years after finishing 4th place in the ACC with a 10-6 conference record. In 2009-2010 the Seminoles also finished with a 10-6 record, but this time they finished 3rd in the ACC. Both seasons the Seminoles lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament though.
The rising ‘Noles continued to improve in the 2010-2011 season when they reached 11 conference wins and advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament. Then in 2011-2012, the Florida State men’s basketball program made history when they collected 12 conference wins in the regular season and then won the ACC tournament for the first time in program history. The success earned the ‘Noles a #3 seed in the NCAA tourament and a top 10 ranking in the AP Poll. Suddenly, Florida State basketball was trending.
However, moving forward, the Seminoles will have to jump some hurdles to continue having success on the basketball court. There were six seniors on this season’s team, including four starters. That is a lot of minutes and experience to replace in one offseason. Michael Snaer, Okaro White and Ian Miller are the key players who’ll return next season in addition to an injured Terrance Shannon.
Just when the Seminoles become a much younger and inexperienced team, the ACC becomes much more talented. Programs like NC State and Georgia Tech have been down in recent seasons but have been bringing in enough talent to make a run in the ACC the next few seasons. In addition to these programs, Syracuse and Pittsburgh will soon join the conference and make the ACC even more challenging.
How will Florida State continue to compete on the hardwood with a bunch of basketball schools? It is a great question that Florida State fans need to begin asking themselves. The success of the past four seasons isn’t normal in Tallahassee, which is why it was the winningest four-year span in program history. But how can one expect the success to continue if the resources, money and recruiting just isn’t there?
Don’t get me wrong, Coach Hamilton has done a great job of recruiting for coaching at a program like Florida State. However, FSU will never win recruiting battles over schools like North Carolina and Duke. It’ll just never happen no matter how many times FSU reaches the NCAA tournament. That’s why Florida State must continue to find unconventional recruits, such as foreign players (Dulkys, Alabi, Echefu) and military veterans (Bernard James).
The money that is put into the basketball program is a complete joke. Comparing to the funding that goes into football and basketball is like day and night. While the entire football staff gets a pay raise for not even winning the Atlantic Division, the basketball staff probably won’t see much of a raise after winning the conference. Programs all across the country are able to afford better coaches than Florida State. Fans in Tallahassee are lucky the ‘Noles landed a guy like Hamilton because he is the most they can afford.
The facilities for basketball are also pretty bad. Just take a look at the Tallahassee Leon County Civic Center and compare it to other NCAA arenas around the nation. It is at the bottom of the ACC and near the bottom among the major conferences in division 1 basketball. There’s a reason why recruits are taken to Doak Campbell Stadium and not the Civic Center. The weight facility and training center also aren’t on par with other programs and neither is the pay scale of the training staff or strength and conditioning staff.
It’s no secret that Florida State is a football school that has had basketball sucess the past four seasons. Suddenly all the fans in Tallahassee and people around the nation expect the Seminoles to compete at a national level on a yearly basis now. You can’t win the ACC and suddenly not have high expectations. The unfortunate part is that Florida State shouldn’t be expected to win the ACC or even finish in the top 3 or 4 of the conference. Given the money, resources and recruiting abilities, the Seminoles should really finish in the bottom half of the ACC rather than near the top. It is amazing how much success has been generated the past four seasons.
If the athletic department doesn’t do something soon to assist the basketball program at Florida State, the current success of the program will quickly go away. Coach Hamilton will get better job offers (Illinois is reportedly interested in him already) and the program will revert to the way it used to be. You can’t expect a program with poor funding and facilities to continue to compete with programs like Duke and North Carolina. There is finally some pressure from the fan base to develop a pretty good basketball program, now let’s see if the administration can respond.