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Game Preview: FSU Basketball vs. Miami Hurricanes

The Seminoles wrap up the regular season with senior night against Miami.

We've reached the last day of the regular season. Even if both of these teams have fallen well short of their ultimate goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament (barring an ACC Championship next week), there is still a lot to prove with Matthew Cleveland making his return to the Tucker Center. 

Both teams have struggled since meeting in late January. If there's any game to try and correct some things before the ACC Tournament next week, a meeting with your rival is a good way to do it. Despite FSU's struggles in recent years, the 'Noles have still won 10 of the last 11 games in this series and 12 of the last 14. 

This game will be at 4 PM on ESPN2, live from the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Florida. 

Miami Hurricanes Breakdown (15-15 Overall, 6-13 ACC)

Miami's loss to Florida State on January 17th started a stretch of basketball where they've been 3-10, with wins only coming at Notre Dame and home against Pitt and Virginia Tech. It's been over a month since any of those wins happened as they've now lost 8 straight games. 

So what's happened? 

In their first 16 games this season, Miami scored 83.7 PPG while allowing 72.3, shooting 40.7% from 3 and 49.2% from the floor. In their last 14 games, which starts with that first matchup against FSU, they're scoring just 67.5 PPG to their opponents' 74, shooting 32.3% from 3 and 41.2% from the floor. They just cannot efficiently score game-to-game anymore and even when they do, their defense has been porous. Miami has had five losses since mid-January where they've scored over 70 points because their opponent scored an average of 80 points. 

Some of those numbers are weighed down by the abysmal 60-38 loss to Virginia, but there have been enough games outside of that to know that this offense isn't operating at the same level. 

This brings us to old friend Matthew Cleveland, making his first return to the Tucker Center since transferring to Miami from Florida State. In his first 16 games, he averaged 16.4 PPG and 5.6 RPG, while shooting 56% from the floor and 45.5% from 3. Since putting up just 2 points in the first game between these two teams, he's averaged just 9.6 PPG and 6.8 RPG, while shooting 36.7% from the floor and 23.5% from 3. His production has fallen off a cliff and it's a big reason why Miami just can't win games. He's disappeared in some of their bigger games and has also missed some time with injury. 

I'm sure Cleveland will want to come into the Tucker Center and make a statement. In fact, it's been the game he's been looking forward to the most this season. 

I'm also sure the fans will be letting him know exactly how they feel about his decision to go to Miami. Even with Florida State not having their best season, I'm expecting a reaction we haven't seen towards a player since Duke's Grayson Allen was in the Tuck in 2017. 

Wooga Poplar is another player that has cooled off considerably. Heading into the FSU game in January, he was shooting a blistering 49.3% from 3. Since then, he's at just 30.8%. He's another player who's missed some time with injury recently, as is Nijel Pack, whose status is up in the air currently for this game. 

Kyshawn George has emerged as a potential NBA lottery pick, shooting 41.5% from 3 at 6'8", giving me some Cameron Johnson vibes. He doesn't score as much as he probably could, but he's been solid for them as a freshman. 

Norchad Omier has stayed dominant, but when he deals with foul trouble the depth behind him is poor. Michael Nwoko and AJ Casey have just not been able to fill that role. Florida State is likely going to do what it takes to try and get Omier in foul trouble, but at the very least, they have to limit his deep paint touches. 

Florida State Seminoles Breakdown (15-15 Overall, 9-10 ACC)

Saturday will be Florida State's senior day, so I'll be doing my tradition of posting my favorite play of each player's FSU career of the guys getting honored. 

Darin Green Jr's was simple. He's quietly been second on the team in steals this year, and I thought this play against Wake Forest at the 3:01 mark encapsulated it: get the deflection, hustle out to get the steal, and hit the tough 3 in transition. A very strong play. 

It's tough to pick a play for Gainey, considering he's been banged up for most of his career. I did find his first points wearing a Florida State uniform to be funny though. I wouldn't be surprised to see him explore a waiver for missing the 2020-21 season while at Brown as the Ivy League sat out athletic competition. 

No offense, this might be the only positive play Josh Nickelberry provided this team all season. 

I feel horrible for Cam'Ron Fletcher and wish we got a chance to see more of him. Back-to-back season-ending knee injuries is not the way anyone envisioned his college career going, even if he gets a waiver. It was good to see him back on the floor this year, even if it was only for a few games. 

Jamir Watkins will be going through Senior Day, even if his next step hasn't been decided yet. I absolutely loved this monster finish over Norchad Omier against Miami earlier in the season and then followed the game by trolling Matthew Cleveland on Instagram. Even if this is his last game in the Tucker Center, he left a serious impression on Florida State fans. 

There will also be walk-ons Sola Adebisi, Max Thorpe, and Isaac Spainhour being honored before this game. 

Injury Report

Cam'Ron Fletcher is out for the season with a knee injury. 

Miami's Nijel Pack had missed four games heading into their previous game against Boston College with knee soreness. He'd leave the game scoreless and having played just 14 minutes after banging knees with someone else and didn't return to the game. Nothing has been announced about his injury yet, but I'd be surprised to see him play, personally. 

Christian Watson has missed the last few games with an undisclosed injury. 

Projected Starters

Florida State

G: Jalen Warley

G: Darin Green Jr. 

F: Josh Nickelberry (Senior Day Starter)

F: Jamir Watkins

C: Jaylan Gainey (Senior Day Starter)


G: Bensley Joseph

G: Wooga Poplar

G: Matthew Cleveland

G: Kyshawn George

F: Norchad Omier

Keys to the Game

No Deep Paint Touches for Norchad Omier

Omier has such quick hands around the basket and is a crafty finisher when he's deep inside the paint. Florida State has to do everything it can to push him up the paint, limiting how often he's right next to the rim. Because of how often Miami shoots from 3, it'll keep the help defenders from sinking in, so the guys that switch onto Omier are going to have to battle. 

Miami Will Shoot a Lot of 3s, Limit the Clean Looks

Despite shooting 32.3% from 3 since the middle of January, Miami is still averaging over 26 3PA over that time frame, which would be top-50 nationally if expanded over an entire season. Florida State has to do what it can to limit how clean those looks are. If they're shooting over high hands and good contests, you live with that, but you can't allow them to get wide-open looks all game. With Omier on the inside, the temptation will be to sink in to provide help, but this can't be a game where Miami is making 10 or 11 threes. 

Attack the Rim

Miami is 250th nationally in opponent 2PT% and Florida State was able to win in Coral Gables by hitting 29/51 2-pointers, the most attempted against Miami all year. They don't have a true shot-blocker, with Omier standing at just 6'7", and if attacking the basket leads to fouls on Omier, even better. 

Game Prediction

Florida State is favored by 3 points with a projected total of 152. 

A close game would surprise me in this one. I think whoever wins does so by double-digits. If Miami is to win, it's Matthew Cleveland coming in and finally making a big statement in a big game. Florida State is going to want to prove once again that Cleveland made the wrong decision. I'll lean the 'Noles. 

Florida State 81, Miami 70

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