For the first time in a quarter century, Florida State basketball reached the Elite Eight on the hardwood. The Seminoles, the No. 9 seed in the West Region, watched their improbable run come to an end with a hard-fought 58-54 loss to third-seeded Michigan.
The best NCAA Tournament run since 1993 has fans optimistic for next season. The Seminoles will have some attrition to deal with, but nothing like what was handed to them this season when they were forced to replace top three scorers, Dwayne Bacon, Jonathan Isaac and Xavier Rathan-Mayes – all of whom played in the NBA this season.
Running it back
FSU could return as many as 11 of 13 scholarship players. Braian Angola has graduated and CJ Walker has been released from his letter of intent. The big question will be whether senior forward Phil Cofer is given a fifth year of eligibility.
As a senior this past season, Cofer led the Seminoles, averaging 12.8 points per game. As a sophomore however, Cofer appeared in just 11 games and averaged just 12 minutes per contest before going down with a season-ending injury.
Cofer made tremendous strides this past season after averaging less than three points per game as a junior. If he is given another year of eligibility, FSU would return each of its top two scorers and top two rebounders as Terance Mann is expected to return for a senior year as well.
Angola was the third-leading scorer for the Seminoles this past season, averaging 12.5 points per game, but was inconsistent for the second half of the season. Walker will transfer after seeing his role diminish late in the year in favor of a surging Trent Forrest.
Next in line
Forrest and MJ Walker are the two players who will likely ease the void of losing Angola and CJ Walker. Forrest averaged 7.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and a team-high 4.1 assists, but from February on, was arguably the Seminoles’ best player.
From Feb. 14 on, Forrest averaged 12.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists and two steals per game while shooting better than 55 percent from the field. MJ Walker was a McDonalds All-American who didn’t quite live up to his billing as a freshman. If Walker can play to his potential, he should easily score in double figures next season.
The frontcourt is also very promising as the Seminoles return the trio of Christ Koumadje, Ike Obiagu and Mfiondu Kabengele. Koumadje, who will be a 7-foot-4 senior, made strides offensively this past season, but the other two came on strong late.
Obiagu could arguably be the greatest shot blocker in FSU history and by improving his offensive game, an All-ACC performer. Kabengele on the other hand is a big body and a fringe NBA player.
Sharpshooter PJ Savoy will return as will a trio of players redshirted this past season. Anthony Polite, Wyatt Wilkes and RaiQuan Gray will all be redshirt freshman next season and candidates to contribute.
Whether or not Cofer returns, the experience from the past season could be enormous in helping the Seminoles mount another deep run. FSU grew as a team late in the season and were outstanding defensively after ranking last in the ACC in points per game allowed at the conclusion of the conference tournament. If the team is willing to buy in defensively, it has the potential to be special next season.
The last time FSU had this much coming back was the 2011-12 season when it won its first ACC title. The Seminoles then were also coming off a deep tournament run as they reached the Sweet 16 before falling to Virginia Commonwealth in overtime.
This team may actually be more talented. From the 2011-12 squad, Bernard James, Chris Singleton and Okaro White all went on to play in the NBA, but none of the three were overly productive at the next level. White was a sophomore that season and was just fourth on the team in scoring. Mann, Forrest, Walker, Obiagu and Kabengele all have fringe NBA potential for the Seminoles this coming season.