Following Sunday's 61-56 loss to the Mercer Bears, you can officially say the now 4-3 Florida State Seminoles are in rebuilding mode. That would be the now 4-4 Mercer Bears whose biggest win prior to the contest with FSU was a blowout win over Furman.
With so many newcomers and losing so much experience you probably should have expected the trials and tribulations that plagued the 'Noles in the last two games. But Leonard Hamilton openly praised his team before the season setting up some hopeful expectations from the fan base.
Now Hamilton never promised anything. He simply stated that he felt this team had a lot of talent. And that may very well turn out to be true. But it is clear it will be some time before that talent meshes into a unit that understands everything the coaching staff wants it to do. Hamilton and his coaches have a lot of work to do.
But to quickly sum up Sunday's loss, it was a close contest the entire game. Just when it looked like FSU might be opening a gap at 19-12, Mercer closed it, took a brief lead, and went into the locker room tied at twenty seven all at the half.
When you hoped that the Seminoles would show a little more life to start the second period, instead what you got was a quick 35-30 deficit.
That's when Michael Snaer who sat most of the first half due to two quick fouls took matters into his hands, erasing Mercer's lead.
It wasn't enough however and the two teams went back and forth.
What followed was a shooting display where the film should be burned. Point blank shots, three pointers, jump shots, whatever FSU put up would not go down.
FSU looked like they lacked any confidence in their shot. And it was not confined to just one player. Okaro White, Terrence Shannon, Ian Miller, and Snaer all clanged them.
And if it wasn't missed field goal attempts it was mistakes, as in offensive rebounds being stolen away or a turnover.
Fittingly the game ended with Montay Brandon attempting a long inbound pass only to throw it right to a Mercer player who dribbled out the clock.
Amazingly with FSU trailing 59-56 and twenty three seconds left, the 'Noles had a chance to tie the game. Mercer, of course, knew that and guarded the three point line extremely well, resulting in an off balance three by Miller that, of course, caromed off the rim.
The box score will tell you that it was a tight game ... an ugly game, as both teams shot poorly, FSU 35% to Mercer's 37%. And both teams connected on 6 threes. Everything was nearly identical with one exception .... free throws. Florida State was 16-26. Mercer missed just four on twenty three attempts.
Accenting that differential was Shannon at the line with half a minute remaining and a chance to tie it at 57 all. He made the first but not the second and the 'Noles were forced to foul an 84% free throw shooter. Not hard to figure out what happened there.
More troubling than the poor shooting, though, was the type of shots taken. Frankly they weren't good shots at all. And not to pick on Kiel Turpin because they all did it. But Turpin found himself quickly on the bench midway through the first half after putting up his second questionable shot in a row. He wasn't alone in poor shot selections.
Why is that happening? There is a lack of cohesiveness in moving the ball on anything resembling a consistent basis. Then add to that, I'm certain Hamilton at halftime stressed more ball movement to the point where players were hesitant to take a shot. Even Snaer showed a lack of looking for his own shot in crunch time.
And even more troubling is the defense. Teams (and Mercer was no exception) are driving the ball in deep rather easily, breaking down the defense. With Hamilton's system of help defense the collapsing on the ball leaves numerous players open all over the floor. Had the Bears been able to shoot the ball better it would have definitely been a margin of defeat of more than five points.
What ended up occurring in Sunday's game was FSU players scrambling to recover to find the man with the ball. A clear example of that was Snaer positioned near the left block with his head turned away from the ball not recognizing that Hall was driving right at him for the easy layup. That is not Snaer-like defense.
Stopping the ball and staying in front of the man with the ball are fundamentals that are not being executed very well at all right now.
Hamilton relied on his vets down the stretch. He has no choice to do otherwise at present. But he doesn't have enough of them and they are struggling in the last couple of games. Case in point, Shannon was 1-7 from the floor. Snaer 2-6. Bruise aside, Miller was 1-4.
Hate to say it, but with Florida coming to town on Wednesday (that would be the 7th ranked Florida team) it could be a real lesson to this team in how far they have to go and how much they have to learn.
This is not to sound like a doom and gloomer. It's just the reality of this team right now. It's young and it is inexperienced. Some VERY inexperienced, as is the case with Michael Ojo, who played in just his 21st career game.
Don't be surprised if it's an ugly outcome by about 9 PM on Wednesday. But if it isn't, maybe FSU learned something in a loss to a team they shouldn't have lost to. And they know they shouldn't have lost to the Bears.