ACC Game of the Weekend: Florida State at Miami

Florida State (19-8, 10-3) at Miami (16-10, 7-6), 6:00 PM, ESPNU

Florida State's Bernard James (left) against Miami's Reggie Johnson (right) is a fantastic battle of elite big men.

Miami hasn’t beaten Florida State since 2009, losers of six in a row in the in-state rivalry. But this game is important for different reasons. With Virginia’s loss, Florida State has all but locked up a top four spot in the ACC Tournament – the Seminoles would have to lose out to lose that spot. But Virginia’s loss also opened the door for Miami to creep into the top five: the Hurricanes are tied with the Cavaliers in the loss column but with games at NC State and Boston College remaining, a win tonight would give them a leg up.

Key to the game: Remembering the inside game. Both Florida State and Miami have a tendency to ignore their excellent big men at times in favor of jacking up jump shots. FSU’s Bernard James had 18 points in the first meeting with Miami, tied for a season high. But Xavier Gibson and Okaro White combined for 10 points. And FSU forgot all their big men against Duke at times in the second half, which was particularly egregious when Duke’s entire front line was in foul trouble. But all the Seminole big men need to show up when called upon, particularly if Miami’s Reggie Johnson is still hobbled.

In the first meeting with FSU, Johnson and Kenny Kadji combined to attempt just 12 shots. Miami’s starting big men have attempted fewer than that just once in ACC play (against Clemson). Their 18 combined points against FSU were tied for their fewest in ACC play. Miami cannot win a game like this without Johnson and/or Kadji having a big game, but the Hurricanes attempted nearly 40% of their shots from three-point range against FSU the first time around. It’s hard to score inside on FSU, but MIami has to try.

Random stat: Florida State and Miami have the second and third-highest scoring benches, respectively, in the ACC. (Duke’s bench is No. 1 at 24.9 points a game overall and 25.6 ppg in the ACC.) Florida State’s bench is averaging 24.6 points on the year (24.2 in league play) and Miami’s averages 19.3 points (17.5 in ACC play).

Prediction: Florida State 71, Miami 67

 

Last week: 10-3

Season: 123-43 (59-24 ACC)

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