Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
Miami has to lose sometime, right?
Regardless of the extenuating circumstances, no one can consider this FSU season to be a success if they fail to make the NCAA Tournament. That was the expectation at the beginning of the season. Unfortunately, we live in a binary world, so anything not couched as a success will inevitably be labeled a failure. Here at TN we'll wait for the final buzzer to sound before we begin reviewing and grading the season, but for now the same goal exists that existed in November: do enough to dance.
Yesterday Matt described exactly what FSU needs to do in order to meet that goal, and while "beat Miami" wasn't listed as a necessity, it's clear that beating a team which will finish in the top-5 in terms of RPI would go a long way.
The Hurricanes are having a special season. They're the last team from a major conference to be undefeated in conference play. To find the next team you have to drop down to the West Coast Conference (No. 10 according to Pomeroy) where you'll find Gonzaga (who is an underdog at St. Mary's tomorrow night). The Canes have a very good offense (No. 25 nationally), an elite defense (No. 5), and have the oldest starting lineup in college basketball. They've already beaten FSU by 24, Duke by 27, and UNC by 26.
The Canes starting five is exceptionally dangerous because of two players: Shane Larkin and Kenny Kadji. Larkin, who played most of last season looking like a freshman point guard, is one of the most improved players in the country. FSU held him to just 8 points on 9 shots in the last matchup, but his ability to get into the paint was troubling. Larkin can break down a defense as well as anyone in the ACC not named Erick Green, and to top it off he's gone from a bad 3-pt shooter to a 42% 3-pt shooter. Kadji is another problem because of his ability to play outside as a 6-11 guy. Since he has the ability to knock down the three, he has to be chased out past the arc. This opens up driving lanes for guys like Larkin and Durand Scott. The Noles defense has to find a way to cut off those drives.
For FSU's offense it's simple - make shots. Through the first 16 games of the year, FSU was one of the best 3-pt shooting teams in the country. Since then they've only made 25% in the past seven games. Michael Snaer has shot an acceptable 35% over that span, but Okaro White (13%), Ian Miller (22%) and Terry Whisnant (25%) have not. The Canes have only allowed opponents to make 31% of their 3s (37th nationally) but as I've shown on numerous occasions that is a stat ripe for misinterpretation. The more important stat is how many 3-point attempts a team allows, and in that case Miami struggles (259th nationally). In other words, they're due for a come-to-Jesus game in their defensive perimeter.
Considering the Miami's interior defense is remarkably stout, and FSU's post presence is remarkably not, this is a game where FSU has to slumpbust from the arc in a big way. Otherwise, FSU will find itself on the wrong side of the .500 mark in conference and tied with Maryland for 6th in the ACC.
The game tips at 7pm from the Tuck. Xavier Rathan-Mayes will be in attendance, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2. Miami is a 6-pt favorite in Vegas, and Pomeroy has the Canes -10.