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Game Preview: FSU Basketball vs. Miami

The Seminoles look to knock off another undefeated team in conference play.

Both of these teams are coming off of big wins, but no win will be bigger than the one Miami picked up Sunday night. They went into Cameron Indoor Stadium, went toe-for-toe, and won 76-74 against #2 Duke. And they got the nice little Duke bump because of it, appearing in the "Receiving Votes" section of the AP Poll despite being 80th in the NCAA's NET Rankings. 

Florida State is coming off a big win in their own right, a 79-70 victory over Louisville, who came into the game 4-0 in ACC play. Caleb Mills and Matthew Cleveland came to play, being the only Seminoles in double figures. They'll now look to make it two ACC wins in a row as they try and gain quality wins to put together a tournament resume. 

FSU leads the all-time series 45-30, and has won the last 7 in a row in this series, all by an average of 12.6 PPG. Safe to say, Miami will be looking forward to bouncing back in this series and will want to start it tonight. 

This game will be at 8pm on the ACC Network live from the Donald L Tucker Center. 

Miami Hurricanes (13-3, 5-0) Breakdown

The Hurricanes enter this game having won 9 straight games and being a perfect 5-0 in the ACC. Before their Duke win, they hadn't really beaten anyone of note in the ACC: Clemson, NC State, Syracuse, and Wake Forest. Good teams, but no one terribly impressive. Then they go up to Durham and punch Duke right in the mouth. Let's take a look at the box score and see what happened. 

miami duke box

Looks pretty normal to start... there's a huge turnover difference though. a 17-5 turnover differential is not normal, something that's going to have to change if FSU wants to win. Especially with Miami being a poor rebounding team, that kind of turnover differential is a great way to steal a game. Let's keep looking down... holy points in the paint. 52 points in the paint is ABSURD, especially when they scored a total of 76 points. So Florida State is likely going to plan to crash in on drivers, and hope Miami doesn't make their 3s. 

So far this season, it's been hit or miss. They started slowly this season, with 4 games below 30% from 3 in the first 5 games, but have shot much better in conference play. They're shooting 41.7% from distance against conference opponents, and hadn't had a game below 36% before Duke held them to 25%. So when FSU crashes in on drives, they're going to have to recover fast out to shooters. Everyone should be considered a threat to shoot, even if a couple of guys aren't the most efficient. 

This is a really good offense overall. They're 52nd nationally in effective field goal percentage, 24th in KenPom's offensive efficiency, and top-10 in lowest turnover percentage. You look at their shot breakdown on Synergy SportsTech, and it's a lot of Excellent ranks; 83rd percentile in spot-up shots, 93rd percentile in transition, 97th percentile in pick-and-roll, 83rd in isolation. They know how to score and how to do it well. It'll be interesting to see how FSU's switch everything policy on defense will affect Miami, especially in the pick and roll. Is it going to be a lot of isolating against the big and drawing mismatches? Or will FSU be able to slow down the pick-and-roll some. 

The reason they've lost 3 games and are not very highly regarded in analytics is their defense. It's borderline horrendous. They're 200th in KenPom's defensive efficiency ranking, 312th in opponent effective field goal %, 263rd in offensive rebounding rate allowed, and teams are shooting a blistering 37.1% from 3 against them. Maybe this is the game FSU needs to find their rhythm from 3. The one thing they can do defensively is force turnovers. Miami isn't elite with forcing turnovers, but they really turned Duke over, forcing 17. They just don't want to foul. They really only play 6 guys, and if any of them get into foul trouble, it's a steep drop off to the next bench guys. 

I was very close to making Isaiah Wong my ACC Preseason Player of the Year, but I went with Buddy Boeheim due to his strong run in last year's NCAA tournament. Wong is doing everything he can to prove me wrong this season. He's currently averaging 16.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 2.2 APG on 48.5/28.8/71.2 shooting splits. He's not the most effective from behind the arc, but he's more than capable. Where Wong is the most dangerous is in the pick-and-roll, he's scoring 1.121 points per possession, top-100 amongst all players in college basketball. I'd worry about him when someone like Naheem McLeod switches onto him on screens, but hopefully the rest of FSU's wings will be able to hold the challenge. 

Kameron McGusty has also been very, very good this season, leading the team in scoring with 18.1 PPG on shooting splits of 50.3/39.1/82.8. He's going to garner some All-ACC attention if he keeps it up throughout the season. He's scoring 1.357 PPP on spot-up chances, which is in the 96th percentile amongst all of college basketball. The 5th-year Senior has given FSU some fits in the past too, scoring 12 points or more in any game he's played more than 8 minutes against the 'Noles. 

Charlie Moore transfers over from DePaul and has had a big impact for the Hurricanes, averaging 12.1 PPG. He's undersized at 5'11", so it'll be interesting to see how he plays against a tea like FSU that is the tallest in the nation. Good distributor with a 3.8 to 1.8 assist to turnover ratio, and can make you pay from 3, shooting 38.9% from distance this year. 

Jordan Miller started off the year slowly after coming in from George Mason, scoring 10 points or more in just two of the first 12 games. In his last four, he's been 10+ in every one, maxing out at 25 against NC State, and coming off of 17 against Duke. He was a career 13 PPG at George Mason, so he knows how to fill up the basket when needed, and he seems to be coming along at the perfect time for Miami. 

Sam Waardenburg has never scared me. He's a lanky guy that can stretch it out to 3, but in his career against Florida State, he's only scored when he's gotten to the free throw line. 14 of his 44 points against FSU have come at the line, which sounds like a lot until you realize he's played FSU 5 times and plays a lot of minutes. A career 35% shooter from 3, so you do have to respect him from distance. 

Anthony Walker is someone this team has high hopes for, and he's had his moments in the past, especially against FSU with 13 and 12 points in his last two games against FSU. He can't really shoot which is his biggest Achilles heel; just a career 21.8% from 3. But he's got good size at 6'9", so he'll be able to match up well against FSU. 

Those are really the only guys that Miami plays. No one else for the team plays more than 12 minutes per game, and those two (Wooga Poplar and Bensley Joseph) combine for 6.8 PPG. FSU will hope to wear them out with their depth, but these guys are used to playing this way. 

Florida State Seminoles (8-5, 2-2) Breakdown

It goes without saying that FSU desperately needed the Louisville win Saturday night. It gives them some confidence going forward with a much tougher slate than they originally expected coming onto the season. Their next four games: Miami, Duke, @ Syracuse, @ Miami. If they can go 3-1 in these next four games, it'll set them up nicely for the rest of ACC play. 

Malik Osborne hasn't been the same player since turning his ankle at the end of the NC State game. He hasn't been practicing, and you can tell he doesn't have the same burst. If the staff wanted to rest him, this wouldn't be a terrible game to do it since Miami has little to no size; I don't really count Waardenburg at 6'10", he's more of a 4, Rodney Miller is hurt, and Deng Gak is unplayable against any team with a pulse. 

Naheem McLeod may get more opportunities with Osborne hurting, and he's been playing better as of late. He can use his size in this game to draw in the defense and get lobs over the top with his massive 7'4" frame. 

Caleb Mills had his best game as a Seminole with 23 first half points on his way to finish with 27. I won't expect him to be in the 20s every game, but FSU needs him to be in the 16-18 range every game for them to have offensive success. He can be just so smooth with the ball. He had a bad game against Wake Forest, then gave everyone a reminder of what he can be against Louisville. 

Matthew Cleveland was also exceptionally efficient, and FSU needs his energy and athleticism. He can get to the basket at ease, and when he's finishing those shots at the rim, he's dangerously good. 

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Florida State will be wearing their turquoise N7 jerseys, mostly because they didn't get to wear them in the Orange Bowl classic like they usually do with the game being canceled due to COVID. 

Injury Report

Harlond Beverly is out for the season for Miami with a back injury. 

Big man Rodney Miller has been out with a groin injury. He is doubtful to play in this.  

Tanor Ngom is out indefinitely with a knee injury for FSU. 

Malik Osborne has been dealing with an ankle injury since the end of the NC State game and hasn't been practicing. I think he'll play, but he may be limited, like he has been the last few games. 

Projected Starters

Florida State

G: RayQuan Evans

G: Caleb Mills

G: Anthony Polite

F: John Butler

F: Malik Osborne


G: Isaiah Wong

G: Charlie Moore

G: Kameron McGusty

G: Jordan Miller

F: Sam Waardenburg

Keys to the Game

Extra Possessions

Miami is one of the worst rebounding teams in the country, and a lot of that is due to their smaller size. While FSU isn't great on the defensive glass, they're very good on the offensive glass. If they can grab a couple of extra possessions here and there, it keeps Miami from being on offense, which is what you want. We'll talk about turnovers here more in a second, but FSU needs as much extra offense as possible. 

Junkyard Defense

Miami has KenPom's 24th most efficient offense in the country, and are 52nd in Eff. FG%. They have a terrible defense so FSU should be able to get their own looks, but they're going to have to lock in on defense, especially against Isaiah Wong and Kameron McGusty, two of the best scorers in the conference. Constant ball pressure, constant hands in the passing lanes... use as much length as possible so they start second-guessing things. You're also going to have to be physical with them and force them from getting to their spots. Miami had 52 points in the paint against Duke. Fifty-two. That's inexcusable, and FSU's helpside defense is going to have to be on point in this. 

Miami does a great job of taking care of the basketball, top-10 in turnover percentage and only 5 games with 10 or more turnovers. This is a good matchup against an FSU defense who is top-25 in defensive forced turnover percentage and top-15 in steal percentage. This is arguably the biggest factor in the game. 

Take Care of the Basketball

Florida State has been much better taking care of the ball this year than in years past, but could still be better. If you look at the Duke/Miami box score, there's one massive reason why Miami won: turnover differential. Miami had just 5 turnovers of their own, but forced Duke into 17. Those Duke turnovers led to 17 Miami points. That's a lot of extra points to give a team. Nothing else about that game stood out: they were 4/16 from 3, 8/11 from the free throw line... not the things you usually see in an upset at Duke. So take care of the basketball, and don't give Miami any extra chances. 

Game Prediction

Florida State opened as 6.5-point favorites with an over/under of 150. A little bit surprised FSU was as big of a favorite in this, but this shows Vegas isn't as impressed with Miami as the AP voters are. Miami is a smaller team, so FSU should be able to use their length to swarm and create defensive opportunities of their own, as long as they take care of the ball on the offensive side. If FSU plays to their strengths, I honestly don't think this will be much of a game, but we'll see how they come out and play. 

Florida State 74-70