Miami vs. Florida State Could Be a Worthy ACC Undercard TonightPosted by Jimmy Kelley on February 13th, 2013
Jimmy Kelley is a columnist for the ACC microsite. Follow him on Twitter @DevilsInDurham
When rivalry week rolls around each February the attention shifts toward the major games: Duke vs. North Carolina, Michigan vs. Michigan State, Kentucky vs. Florida, Syracuse vs. UConn, and other games of that ilk. However, some of the other games on ESPN’s slate are worthy of attention and one such game is Wednesday’s match-up between #3 Miami and Florida State. Long the football-playing athletic younger brother of Florida State’s disciplined teams, Miami has flipped the script this season with its play and crushed the Seminoles in Coral Gables, 71-47, earlier this season. But it is rivalry week and at this time of year records mean less than they otherwise would, so Miami could be in for a fight in Tallahassee tonight.
Florida State may lack the same toughness and leadership that sparked them to last year’s ACC Tournament championship but they return enough players with pride that they aren’t keen on allowing a repeat of this season’s first game or last season’s game in Tallahassee — a 16-point Miami win — come to pass. “Why not?” FSU guard Ian Miller told the Orlando Sentinel when asked if the Seminoles could win. “Why not go out and do something special?” That sentiment, if felt throughout the team, could be enough to push the Seminoles over the top tonight. But if they are going to score the upset they will need players like Miller and star guard Michael Snaer to come through with a pair of seas0n-best performances.
Miami is strongest in two areas: post play and veteran experience. When Kenny Kadji, Julian Gamble and Reggie Johnson are clicking and bringing their individual strengths to the table, Miami is nearly impossible to beat. Last time these teams met the senior trio forced their will upon the Seminoles, combining for 23 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks. While those numbers may not blow anyone away, they do flesh out how Miami was able to make such easy work of FSU. Additionally, veteran wings Durand Scott and Trey McKinney-Jones combined for 26 points on 10-of-21 shooting while keeping Snaer to a paltry four points on just five shots. Altogether, the five seniors scored 49 of Miami’s 71 points and spent the last few minutes on the bench together reveling in and enjoying the victory.
So where does Florida State start when looking to slow down an unstoppable force? The first place is the most obvious: Michael Snaer. The senior guard needs to make more of an impact than the four points in 18 minutes he logged the last time these teams met. Yes, Scott and Jones are athletic defenders and Snaer still has to devote some energy to the defensive end too, but without his offense the ‘Noles are utterly and completely hopeless. Snaer needs to get going early and Leonard Hamilton needs to figure out a way to keep him fresh without sacrificing too much on the defensive end of the floor. This means players like Miller, Terry Whisnant II, Montay Brandon, and Aaron Thomas will be called upon to defend the bigger wings and make life easier for their star player.
The next place is to look is on the FSU interior. Okaro White, Kiel Turpin and Robert Gilchrist are the three bigs who must match up with and contain the Miami trio and neutralize that area of the game. White and Turpin, the starting frontcourt, played a combined 33 minutes against Miami last time out. Kadji is a match-up nightmare and while he didn’t exploit it to the same level he has in other games, he will likely be looking to change the Seminoles look by getting their post players in some early foul trouble. If one or two of those guys have to spend long spans of time on the bench, Miami’s rebounding advantage will be much larger than the +5 margin they enjoyed on January 27.
With these things in mind, is it even possible for Florida State to pull off the upset? Only a near-perfectly played game will push the Seminoles past the Hurricanes and if there was ever a time and place for such a performance, Rivalry Week would be it.