TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For the first time since starting ACC play, there won’t be any shades of blue on the opposing bench when the Florida State men’s basketball team next takes the court.
But as far as FSU coach Leonard Hamilton is concerned, discussing the No. 24 Seminoles’ next opponent, the Miami Hurricanes, might as well be the same as discussing Duke or North Carolina.
Miami brings into Sunday night’s matchup at the Watsco Center (6 p.m., ESPNU) a No. 15 national ranking, a well-regarded head coach and talented players across the roster.
Which means that if the Seminoles were expecting anything resembling a reprieve after starting the conference slate with the Blue Devils and Tar Heels, they’d best think again.
“We very well could’ve been talking about Duke. We very well could’ve been talking about North Carolina,” Hamilton said. “We just have to change the name on the jersey of the team we’re playing. But the beat goes on.”
No kidding. FSU’s visit to UM marks its third straight game against a top-15 opponent, and its third in a run of five games against hoops heavyweights Duke, UNC, Miami, Louisville and Syracuse.
It’s a challenging stretch, but one that could also make for a small blessing.
After all, if there’s one thing Hamilton can say for sure, it’s that each of those opponents will have has his team’s full attention.
“They’re all deep, they’re all talented and they’re all well coached,” Hamilton said.
But, as a close loss at Duke and a win over North Carolina suggest, so too are the Seminoles.
Even better, this isn’t their first time going through a stretch of the schedule like this.
A year ago, the Seminoles played six straight games against ranked ACC opponents. They went 5-1 during that run and reached as high as No. 6 in the national rankings.
While many of the key pieces from last year’s team have moved on, several more – such as key contributors Terance Mann, Braian Angola and CJ Walker – have all carried that experience into this season.
“It is crazy,” Walker said. “And it’s helpful at the same time, knowing that you have to keep focus. There’s no layoffs. … And it’s kind of like motivation. We want to keep proving to people that we can play at this level with a young team.”
Miami, meanwhile, is about to embark on a difficult run of its own. The Canes will play their next three games against No. 24 FSU, No. 25 Clemson and No. 2 Duke.
And, after starting the season 10-0, the Hurricanes have found something of a rough patch lately. They’re just 2-2 in their last four games, with losses to New Mexico State and Georgia Tech and difficult wins over Middle Tennessee and Pittsburgh.
The Seminoles, however, don’t expect Miami to stay down for long.
For one thing, the Hurricanes are back home for the first time since Dec. 5, a span of five straight games and more than 15,000 miles of travel.
More importantly, despite playing primarily with four guards and one center, the Canes have balance in their starting lineup – no one scores more than 10.9 points per game or less than 8.1 – and a pair of projected first-round NBA draft picks in sophomore guard Bruce Brown (10.9 PPG, 7.3 RPG) and freshman guard Lonnie Walker IV (8.4 PPG, 2.7 RPG off the bench).
“They’re really good ball-handlers,” Walker said. “They can attack the rim really well. They’ve got good shooters on their team as well. Being able to contain the dribble, hold them in transition and win the half-court defense will be important.”