Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton still is trying to get a feel for how new players on his team fit together early in the 2020-21 season.
The No. 20 Seminoles (1-0) should get more answers when they host Indiana in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday night for their first big test of the season.
“Starting off this way, this early with the kind of schedule we’re facing is somewhat challenging,” Hamilton said. “To be very honest, I can’t even worry about the schedule much as I have to concern myself with our team and where we are in relation to our preparation for the season.”
Florida State opened its season with an 86-58 win over North Florida on Dec. 2, with M.J. Walker scoring a team-high 17 points and highly touted freshman guard Scottie Barnes finishing with eight points, six rebounds and six assists in his collegiate debut.
“He’s made a tremendous amount of progress from being a versatile guy who plays a whole bunch of positions to my primary point guard,” Hamilton said of Barnes. “That says a lot about him.”
Coming into the 2020-21 season, Florida State lost three key players from a team that finished 26-5 and was poised to make a Final Four run before the postseason was curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to losing point guard Trent Forrest, the Seminoles lost guards Patrick Williams and Devin Vassell, who were picked fourth and 11th in the 2020 NBA Draft, respectively.
“Last year’s team had some intangible strengths in terms of confidence, in terms of guys who really got better in stressful moments,” Hamilton said. “That’s a special mindset that athletes develop …
“I can’t say that about this team yet, but physically in terms of running, jumping, quickness, speed, athleticism, I don’t know if we have totally replaced it, but I feel that if we grow and mature mentally and emotionally, we have a chance to be a pretty good team.”
The game is a rematch of last year’s battle that the Hoosiers won 80-64 in Indiana behind a career-high 30 points from Devonte Green.
Indiana (3-1) no longer has Green but returns four starters from last year’s squad, including sophomore Trayce Jackson-Davis, who is coming off a career-high 31 point game against Stanford in the Maui Invitational.
Jackson-Davis (21.5 points, seven rebounds per game) has already posted one double-double in four games this season and has 13 double-doubles in his career. He was named Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 20 points and 5.7 rebounds in three Maui Invitational games.
“He’s a mature, confident guy,” Hamilton said. “He’s a handful. I haven’t seen anybody keep him from doing what he does. He’s just efficient. No wasted motion.”
Indiana is looking to build off its third-place finish in the Maui event at Asheville, N.C., which included wins over Providence and Stanford and a loss to then-No. 17 Texas. The Hoosiers have been solid defensively so far this season, holding opponents to 61.5 points per game on 31.8 percent shooting from the floor.
“When you play against this field, to get two (wins) at least, to me, really (is) going to pay some dividends in our improvement and also (show) what we need to do to get better,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said.
–Field Level Media