When almost every opponent you face is deeper and/or more talented, there are a few things you can do to try and overcome those issues. One, you limit the possessions by playing slowly. The more possessions there are in a game, the greater the likelihood that the better team will prevail (see FSU vs BC in football. Had each team gotten six possessions in that game, BC wins). A second tactic is to employ an unusual defensive scheme. Colleges are extremely limited in practice time, and since basketball teams play twice a week it only leaves a couple of practices and a walk-through to prepare for the intricacies of any one opponent.
With those two points in mind: meet the 2013-14 version of Miami basketball.
The reigning ACC champs were decimated by graduations, early entries, and injuries. They lost six of the top seven players from their rotation, and then had a highly ranked recruit go down for the season. Coach Larranaga did do a great job gobbling up transfers, but only two are available for this season. So to compensate for these shortcomings, the Miami staff has implemented a stalling offense and a matchup zone that is different from every defense FSU will face this season.
The Hurricanes (9-6, 1-2) began the season by dropping their home opener to St. Francis (NY), and then needed overtime three days later to beat an absolutely horrible Georgia Southern team. The rocky start continued through home losses to UCF and Virginia Tech, which bracketed a very competitive game vs Arizona State. After the Hokies loss (and foreshadowed by the Arizona St game) things got a lot better. At that point Pomeroy had them at No. 120 in the country, but Miami reeled off three straight wins before battling at undefeated Syracuse in a game that wasn't decided until the final minute. That's when Miami went full slowdown mode, limiting ‘Cuse to a ridiculous 49 possessions in a game that should be sent to every NCAA rules official who is contemplating shortening the shot clock.
Bolstered with a little confidence, Miami then went to North Carolina and won. Now they're all the way to No. 65 in the Pomeroys (FSU is No. 18).
The Canes offense - in addition to being slow - also just isn't very good. They're 163rd in the nation in efficiency (12th in the ACC), 230th in 3-pt%, and 227th in 2-pt%. Barring some of their shooters going into FSU vs Maryland mode, the Noles defense should be able to contain them.
Miami's defense, however, is very much the opposite of their offense. It's really good. It's not elite like FSU, Virginia, or Clemson, but is only one step down. Their matchup zone keeps pressure on the ball at all times, and then the rest of the defense collapses into the middle. They are a very difficult team to score inside against. Like the Maryland game, expect FSU to attempt a greater than average amount of 3s (average 14 attempts per game).
An FSU win will keep them one game behind the conference leaders Syracuse and Pittsburgh. A loss will drop them into a sixth place tie with Duke and Maryland.
The game tips at 9pm and will be broadcast regionally on the ACC Network and also on ESPN3. Vegas has FSU as a 1 to 1 1/2-pt favorite, while Pomeroy has FSU -2.