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Mike Lopresti | | January 19, 2022

Miami and Florida State stand in the way of Duke men's basketball winning the ACC

Andy Katz ranks the top 10 surging teams in men's college basketball, right now

Remember when there was genuine doubt about the depth and quality of the ACC beyond Duke? Who would co-star with the Blue Devils, given the wobbles at Virginia and Louisville and Syracuse and North Carolina?

Tuesday night provided a suggestion.

Look to the state of Florida.

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Tobacco Road took a curve into the Sunshine State, and it wasn’t pleasant. First, North Carolina was blown away 85-57 at Miami – the new ACC juggernaut nobody saw coming. Then, No. 6 Duke became the latest name on Florida State’s Amazing Overtime Victim’s List. When the evening was over, there were many numbers to notice, and maybe a new message from the league.

9 – Turnovers combined by Miami and Florida State in their victories. Miami had had only four against North Carolina and outscored the Tar Heels 30-5 in points off turnovers. Florida State had five against Duke in 45 minutes. On defense, the Hurricanes and Seminoles combined for 19 steals.

49-22 – Miami’s lead after one half, matching the worst halftime deficit in North Carolina history. Four Hurricanes had done all the scoring. The Tar Heels’ implosion included five turnovers in a span of 2:08 in the first half, followed by missing nine shots in a row. As his teammates rushed up 3-point attempt after 3-point attempt, Armando Bacot – the current national player of the week – did not get a shot in the first seven minutes. “I’m shocked,” coach Hubert Davis said on his postgame radio show. “First place was on the line. That has meaning. For us to come out with a lack of energy and lack of toughness is very shocking.”

3 – Miami had three players go for 20-plus points, with Isaiah Wong’s 25, Sam Waardenburg’s 21 and Kameron McGusty’s 20. The trio outscored the entire North Carolina team 66-57.

14-4 – Miami’s record, including a league-leading 6-1 mark in the ACC. The Hurricanes were picked to finish 12th in the preseason ACC poll. That’s because last season was so ugly; a 10-17 record with a roster so depleted and injury decimated, Miami played several games with only six scholarship players. Matter of fact, the Hurricanes’ mark the past three years is an unsightly 39-51. That carried over early into this year; a loss at home to UCF, a 16-point mashing by Dayton, a 32-point wipeout against Alabama.

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Then things changed. They have won 10 of their past 11 games, and their only loss since Thanksgiving weekend was a one-point defeat at Florida State. Included in that spree is a two-point win over Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Tuesday’s romp had to be a nice change. Their three previous games had been decided by a total of four points.

“My attitude has always been positive,” coach Jim Larranaga said. “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it. I share that my staff and with my players.

“Our guys have fought through a lot of adversity. But they’re becoming better for it.”

Miami has revived its program with a veteran four-guard lineup that includes all-ACC pick Wong, sixth-year seniors Waardenburg and McGusty, and transfers Charlie Moore (DePaul) and Jordan Miller (Georga Mason). “The beautiful thing about this team,” Larranaga said, “is they’re very committed to each other.”

14-17 – Larranaga’s coaching record at Miami against North Carolina and Duke. Before he arrived, the Hurricanes were 4-31 all-time against the two powers.

31 – Miami’s position in last week’s Associated Press rankings, behind BYU, Davidson and San Diego State. Yeah, it might be time for the Hurricanes to crack the AP Top 25. “He might win the league,” Mike Krzyzewski said of Larranaga, “That’s going to be an NCAA tournament team and he’ll be a tough out for whoever’s playing them.”

13 – Florida State’s 79-78 win over Duke pushed the Seminoles’ remarkable overtime winning streak to 13 games, going back to 2018. It has come against 11 different teams. To put the difficulty of that run in perspective, Krzyzewski is 34-31 in overtime games.

4 – Florida State’s winning streak after struggling to a 5-4 start this season, which included three losses in a row and a 28-point thrashing at Purdue. Leonard Hamilton had to work in a revamped roster with an assortment of transfers and freshmen. Now the Seminoles are second in the ACC with wins over Duke and Miami by a combined three points, showing the poise to win the tough games. There were 19 lead changes Tuesday, seven in overtime alone. The Blue Devils shot 49 percent, 43 percent from the 3-point line, and had 20 assists on 27 field goals. Freshman Paolo Banchero had his fourth 20-plus scoring game in a row. The Seminoles won, anyway.

“We are trying to learn a system, trying to learn how to take advantage of the strengths of your teammates, adjusting minutes, sharing the ball,” Hamilton said. “When you have seven first-year guys, they all come from places where they have been the man. Now we are asking them to be one of the men.

“We play with an unselfish spirit. We are in a good place right now and growing in confidence.”

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7.1 – Florida State’s RayQuan Evans may be the most dangerous player in college basketball with a 7.1 scoring average. His bank-shot runner with one second left forced overtime against Duke, and his free throws with 12 seconds left won it. He had only six points all night, but personally did in the Blue Devils. “A really tough shot to tie the game, but that’s what he does,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s a veteran with a big-time shot.” Just seven days earlier, Evans made two free throws with 0.8 seconds left to beat Miami.

74, 77, 72 – The ages of the past three coaches Hamilton has beaten: Krzyzewski, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and Larranaga. Then again, Hamilton is 73. The ACC is indeed a country for old men.

8 – Florida State has beaten Miami eight times in a row. The two will be together again Saturday in Miami.

“We have a little grudge to get off our chest,” Wong said.

“Hungry is the word,” Waardenburg concurred.

Two dangerous teams. Which is why the trip back home on Tobacco Road was so long Tuesday night.

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