We mentioned previously that Florida International managed to lose by 18 points to a Division-II school by the name of Nova Southeastern, who had only one win all year before that game. The Golden Panthers have since rebounded on Saturday with a win over a now-reeling Florida Gulf Coast (losers of three straight), but it obscures a larger issue - the absence of Raymond Taylor and what that will mean for the team going forward.
Taylor spent his first three collegiate seasons starting for Florida Atlantic, and it was three seasons that saw his offensive production drop across the board, from 14.2 points and 5.9 assists per game (.385/.386/.732 FG/3PT/FT), all the way to 8.9 points and 4.5 assists (.333/.289/.673) all while seeing his touches per game decline as well.
A transfer to FIU for his senior season would see him pair up with fellow transfer Rakeem Buckles (late of Louisville) and Tymell Murphy, the lone returning senior. Things started off well, as Taylor sat against Warren Wilson College but otherwise played the rest of the Golden Panthers' first six games, and appeared to be clicking with the group as his 12 points and six assists per game, along with only two turnovers per contest, would indicate.
However, it turns out that Taylor entered his name in last year's NBA Draft and did withdraw his name before the NBA's deadline to retain eligibility, but did not remove his name prior to the NCAA deadline to keep his eligibility. Why these two deadlines are not on the same day is an entirely different bag of donuts, but it means that Taylor, as of right now and for the foreseeable future, is no longer playing for the Panthers this season.
How is that going to affect the Panthers going forward? If the data so far is any indicator, pretty mightily unless they get their act straight. On the surface, it might look like those picking up the slack (Murphy and Buckles) aren't doing too poorly:
First 7 games
Murphy: 13.5 points, 9 rebounds
Buckles 15.5 points, 9 rebounds
Last 5 games
Murphy: 20 points, 7.6 rebounds
Buckles: 13.4 points, 13 rebounds
There are more numbers, but Murphy has started regularly attempting three-point shots and is heading to the free throw line about twice as often (and shooting better when he gets there). Buckles has seen a bump from 25 to 36 minutes per night and is producing fairly similar numbers.
The big change, obviously, is switching from a steady diet of Taylor at the point to a true freshman in Jason Boswell. What has happened here? Boswell is now the guy, as his 30 mpg (after recording 105 total in the first seven games) would attest, and the results haven't been great: 7.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.6 turnovers per game.
It's no surprise that a freshman would struggle, especially when he didn't start the season in the starting lineup or rotation. Even so, it's a big drop from a point guard with an assist to turnover ratio of 1.8 to one of a paltry 0.92, and the entire team has struggled, not just Boswell. Prior to Taylor's departure, Murphy and Buckles turned the ball over 22 times in seven games; they've done so 31 times in five games since.
The same holds true for the team at large - 70 turnovers in six games with Taylor, 102 in six games without him. They managed to just barely survive Georgia State despite coughing it up 21 times, but 23 more were their undoing against Nova.
That kind of sloppy play is just not going to cut it against better teams like Charlotte and Southern Miss, let alone their upcoming games against Louisville and Georgetown. Add in the fact that there have been rumors of some sanctions for Taylor's situation which may involve forfeiting some or all of the wins he was present for, and this year could turn ugly in a hurry for the Panthers.