Game Preview: at Miami

Florida State is currently in a three-way tie for the ACC lead, and with a win Saturday, they can move up into a two-way tie for first. On deck is our conference rival from down south, the Miami Hurricanes.

Miami is… not great. They’re 10-6 with wins over Illinois (good win), Clemson (eh), and Temple (super eh), and losses to Louisville (twice), Duke, Pittsburgh, Florida, and UCONN by an average of 19 PPG. If the laws of “We beat so-and-so who beat Miami” applied, this would be an easy win. However, college basketball has made little sense all year, so anything can happen, especially in a road game like this is for the ‘Noles.

You can watch the game at 1pm (NOTE: it was originally 12pm) on the ACC Network.

Miami Breakdown

Much like coach Roy Williams called out his UNC team for lack of talent, Miami’s head coach, Jim Larranaga, has called out his squad for their embarrassing effort on defense this year. Despite their record, they’re allowing more points (72.6) than they’re scoring (72.1). Not a great recipe for success in an ACC that is already wacky enough.

The one thing Miami does have is great discipline; they don’t turn it over or foul much at all (top-15 in both categories, nationally). The ‘Canes are also pretty good offensively, shooting 44.8% from the field, 35.0% from 3, and 72.3% from the FT line, all well above the national averages. When teams are shooting 45.1% from the field against them, though… that causes issues.

Part of those defensive issues are because of their leading scorer, 5’7″ Chris Lykes, who has the worst Defensive Box +/- on the team. Lykes is averaging 15.6 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 2.8 APG, and 1.2 SPG on a 43.9/34.2/85.2 shooting split. I expect a similar gameplan against Lykes with what FSU had against Virginia’s Kihei Clark, and that is just to harass him as much as possible and make him give the ball up. He can shoot from several feet beyond the arc, and his quickness allows him to be shifty in the lane, so he’s going to be the main attention of FSU’s defense.

Just behind Lykes in scoring is Kameron McGusty, the Oklahoma transfer who sat out last season. He’s a very talented scorer, averaging 14.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 1.8 APG on a 44.4/34.6/73.2 shooting split. He leads the team in turnovers, so pressuring him will be a priority as well.

Their last scorer averaging double digits is Dejan Vasiljevic, who I swear has been there since John Salmons was there. The sharpshooter is averaging 14.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 1.1 APG on a 45.8/41.7/97.1 shooting split. He’s had some big games against Florida State, and can absolutely not be left alone behind the arc.

Other names to watch out for are Sam Waardenburg (who can stretch out and hit the 3), Rodney Miller (7-foot center averaging less than 1 block a game), and Harlond Beverly (backup PG who is 4th on the team in scoring).

Defensively, they run more man-to-man than they have in the past, and that lets teams pick on Lykes a lot. He doesn’t have great off-ball presence, and gets caught sleeping when an off-ball screen comes, and even gets abused in on-ball screen scenarios too. I’m expecting Florida State to run a play or two to get Trent Forrest matched up in the post against Lykes for an easy bucket. Miami does run some 2-3 as well since their frontcourt is fairly depleted.

Florida State Breakdown

The ‘Noles are coming off of their 8th straight win, a tightly contested game against Virginia. Both Devin Vassell (18) and Anthony Polite (14) scored career highs, and delivered some clutch plays down the stretch. Vassell is now leading the team in scoring at 12.6 PPG.

FSU has been known for their depth, but it’s been tested recently due to the injury to freshman center Balsa Koprivica. Only 7 players are making a major impact: Trent Forrest, Vassell, Polite, RaiQuan Gray, Malik Osborne, MJ Walker, and Patrick Williams, with Dominik Olejniczak and RayQuan Evans chipping in occasionally. Wyatt Wilkes checked into the game against the Cavaliers after Williams got into foul trouble, and Gray needed a break, but didn’t score.

This team runs on its defense, but is “only” 19th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency ranking. They’re exceptional at forcing turnovers, but since Miami is great at taking care of the ball, we might have an interesting matchup on our hands.

Injury Report

Florida State

Balsa Koprivica is expected to be out with a back injury.


F Deng Gak is out for the season with a knee injury

F Keith Stone is expected to be out with a knee injury.

Projected Starting Lineups

Florida State

G: Trent Forrest

G: MJ Walker

G: Devin Vassell

F: RaiQuan Gray

F: Malik Osborne OR Dominik Olejniczak


G: Chris Lykes

G: Dejan Vasiljevic

G: Kameron McGusty

F: Sam Waardenburg

C: Rodney Miller

Keys to the Game

Force Turnovers

Florida State is going to pressure the ball, that’s no secret. Whether that gets Miami out of their comfort zone or not will be a telling sign on how the game will go. If FSU isn’t forcing those turnovers and getting those steals, then they’re going to get caught out-of-position and Miami is going to get some easy looks. If the ‘Noles are getting those turnovers, then it could turn into a long game for the ‘Canes.

Attack Chris Lykes

Florida State doesn’t have a regular rotation player under 6’4″, a full 9 inches taller than Lykes. I’m expecting a lot of whoever offense against Lykes until Miami goes into a 2-3 zone, and even then I’d try getting him out of position with off ball screens and movements. Lykes was horrible in his last game against FSU, going 0/12 from the floor. I’m sure that’ll be in the back of his mind.

Wait For Open Looks

As bad as Miami is defensively, open shots are going to come eventually. Florida State suffers from bad shot selection and hurried shots from time to time, so being patient against Miami is going to be key. There needs to be a lot of off-ball movement to create confusion for the ‘Canes defense, and maybe force their bigs into foul trouble since they’re really thin there.


Florida State opened as 7-point favorites… and I’m not sure how to feel about it. I was expecting them to open around 4.5-point favorites, and as weird as college basketball has been this season, there’s no telling what will happen in this game. It’s a rivalry, it’s a conference game, it’s another top-10 team going against an unranked opponent on the road.

I’m going to take Miami ATS, but Florida State will still win in a fairly high scoring affair for them… something like a 76-71 score. I know Miami has been blown out in every loss, but I just have a weird feeling about this game.

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