Game Preview: at Miami

Well, would you look at that. Florida State is back in 1st place in the ACC. The world is right again.

Now, Florida State has entered the home stretch with 4 games remaining, and will likely need to win all 4 to win the conference and it starts with a road game at Miami.

Miami is on the struggle bus right now. Since the last time we’ve seen them, they’ve been 1-4, including a 12-point home loss to Wake Forest, a 27-point home loss to Georgia Tech, and a home win over Duke. Miami has been at home for a lot of games recently, and it continues tonight.

Meanwhile, FSU is 3-1 since the last time they played Miami, including a 21-point drubbing of Virginia and took the lead in the conference.

This game will be at 8:30pm EST from the Watsco Center in Coral Gables on the ACC Network.

Miami Hurricanes (7-13, 3-12) Breakdown

As usual with these repeat games, CLICK HERE for a link back to the first game preview for player breakdowns and an overall team breakdown.

I won’t go into too much depth here, mostly since FSU just played Miami five games ago and stats and style of play haven’t changed much, and because there is only one way to describe Miami right now: depleted. They will have 6 available scholarship players, and their leading scorer is limited after exiting their last game with an ankle injury. According to Coach Larranaga though, Wong is usually a quick healer from ankle sprains and will likely give it a go. If you’re wondering about everyone else, it’s in the Injury Report section.

Their last game against Georgia Tech was an absolute embarrassment. They were down at halftime by 30. It was 48-18 at HALFTIME. GT just coasted the rest of the game on defense and Miami was able to make it *just* a 27-point game. Walk on Willie Herenton played 19 minutes due to injuries. When this team is fully healthy, they’re actually pretty solid, but I couldn’t tell you the last time that was, it’s likely been years.

If you want to know what they’re good at, well it’s not fouling. They’re 3rd nationally in fewest fouls per game, behind two other ACC schools in Notre Dame and Virginia. They’re top-5 nationally in fewest free throw attempts allowed per game. Even with that, they still allow 70.9 PPG. They’ve been forced to focus all of their energy on the offensive end, and are lackadaisical on defense. Teams are shooting 36.6% from 3 against them, which bodes well for an FSU team that is shooting almost 40% from deep as a team.

They do have some talent offensively. Isaiah Wong is top 5 in the conference in scoring, while Kameron McGusty and Anthony Walker are both capable of getting 15+ on any given night. They just have zero depth right now. There’s no random bench player that’ll explode for 6 3-pointers like Wake Forest had, they have no dominant low post threat like a UNC, it’s just a couple of guys that you really have to worry about with them. I imagine they’ll try and play zone if FSU is cold shooting the ball, just to try and save some legs for the whole game, but if FSU starts lighting the nets like last game between these two and they’re forced to play some man, it’s going to be a long game for Miami.

#11 Florida State Seminoles (13-3, 9-2) Breakdown

This is turning into an FSU team we’ve never seen before, one that is incredible offensively without a major star. Florida State leads the conference in scoring at 79.3 PPG, yet doesn’t have a single player in the top-20 of the conference in scoring. MJ leads the team with 13.1 PPG which is good for 23rd in the ACC. Despite all of that, FSU has 8 players averaging 5 PPG or more, and 5 players averaging 9 PPG or more: Walker, RaiQuan Gray (11.7), Scottie Barnes (10.3), Anthony Polite (9.3), and Balsa Koprivica (9.1).

The one “disappointment” has actually been the defense. They still sit 40th in defensive efficiency, but have the players capable of being great individual defenders. RaiQuan Gray should be in contention for ACC DPOTY, Anthony Polite is an on-ball pest, MJ Walker and RayQuan Evans are absolute dogs on that end, and Scottie Barnes’ biggest asset as a player are his defensive abilities. It just hasn’t been as elite as some of these other teams. They get beat in the pick-and-roll more than most teams, but that’s because they just switch the big one and the ball-handler will hit tough pull-ups. If a team wants to continue relying on 16-footers over length, go ahead.

FSU is a great rebounding team, a great defensive team, and an elite, bona fide Top-10 offense in the country. That’s a great recipe for success. The fact they were able to win at Pitt without their leading scorer having a single point is an amazing feat, and they kept Pitt at arms length most of the way. The only thing they can’t do is get complacent. Keep having a hungry mindset and keep feeling disrespected, and they’ll go DEEP into March.

Also, MJ Walker still sits 7 points away from 1,000 career points.

Injury Report

MJ Walker didn’t practice leading up to the Pitt game, which is why he wasn’t as effective as we’re used to. He’s still been limited in practice this week, but should still play.

Chris Lykes is likely out for the season for Miami after he re-injured his ankle in practice.

Star freshman Earl Timberlake is still out for the season.

Harlond Beverly is out for the remainder of the regular season with a back injury.

Matt Cross left the team following the last FSU game.

Sam Waardenburg is out for the season.

Leading scorer Isaiah Wong left in the first half of their last game against GT with an ankle injury and didn’t return. His status is in question, but I think he’ll give it a go.

Projected Starters


G: Isaiah Wong

G: Kameron McGusty

G: Elijah Olaniyi

F: Anthony Walker

F: Nysier Brooks

Florida State

G: RayQuan Evans

G: MJ Walker

F: Wyatt Wilkes

F: RaiQuan Gray

F: Malik Osborne

Keys to the Game

Contain the Guards

Isaiah Wong is 5th in the conference in scoring, McGusty is a capable scorer, and those two can give you some serious buckets. If you can contain those two from their normal outings, you’re going to have a good game. Anthony Walker is a solid player as well, but I don’t expect him to have the same impact as he did last game against FSU since RaiQuan Gray has been playing at an All-ACC 1st Team level over his last 8 games.

Focus, Focus, Focus

FSU will likely need to win out if they want to win the ACC. Every game needs to have laser sharp focus with the mindset that they need to end the game early, take away any momentum. Pitt was a great hurdle considering FSU had only won at Pitt once before. Last season at Miami, the Hurricanes gave the ‘Noles everything they could handle, and FSU needed OT to take the win. That can’t happen this time.

Use Depth and RUN

Miami will have 6 available scholarship players, and 1 of them, being their leading scorer, may be limited with an ankle injury. I expect Miami to try and slow the game down when possible and play zone to try and give their guys a breather occasionally. FSU should want to do the exact opposite: run, use your depth, and shoot the lights out. Force Miami out of a zone by shooting like this team is capable of, and then just run up and down the floor. Because FSU has so much depth, and even some great shooters at the end of the bench, use these guys to your advantage and wipe Miami off of the floor.

Game Prediction

Florida State opened as a 12-point favorite, with an over/under of 143.

I was actually going to take Miami to cover, since they seem to play up to competition at home, before I realized how depleted they were. They have 6 healthy scholarship players, and one of them will be limited with an ankle injury. As long as FSU can contain their guards, Miami won’t have much of an offense.

I’ll take FSU 82-60.

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