Miami Hurricanes Basketball: Three Things to Know Before Miami Travels to Florida St.

Jan 9, 2016; Coral Gables, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Sheldon McClellan (10) dribbles the ball as Florida State Seminoles guard Montay Brandon (32) defends during the second half at BankUnited Center. The Hurricanes won 72-59. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; Coral Gables, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Sheldon McClellan (10) dribbles the ball as Florida State Seminoles guard Montay Brandon (32) defends during the second half at BankUnited Center. The Hurricanes won 72-59. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

On Sunday night, the Miami Hurricanes will take the trip up north to Tallahassee to take on a Florida St. Seminoles squad not only looking for a win over their biggest rivals, but a victory to inch them that much closer to an NCAA Tournament bid.

The two teams met just over a month ago in Coral Gables where the Hurricanes dominated their northern rivals for 40 minutes and came away with a 72-59 victory. Despite that win earlier this year, the Canes found out last season just how tough an environment the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center can be in a 55-54 loss. Considering Miami’s road struggles in ACC play, we could be in for a close one come late Sunday night.

With the season’s second edition of this big rivalry just a few days away, here are the three things you need to know:

After a slow start in the ACC, Leonard Hamilton has the Seminoles on the fringe of an NCAA Tournament bid.

In a deep league like the ACC, it’s hard for any team to recover from an 0-3 conference start. While the Florida St. Seminoles aren’t completely out of the woods yet, Leonard Hamilton’s team has had at least given themselves a chance to play in that third week of March.

After opening their ACC slate with losses at Clemson and Miami as well as a home defeat to North Carolina, the Seminoles have won six of their last nine including a very impressive 69-62 win over Virginia. While their 0-3 start has kept the Noles in the bottom half of the ACC for most of the season, their 16-8 overall record and 6-6 conference record isn’t too shabby. That win over the Cavaliers will certainly carry huge weight for Florida St. when it comes time for the selection committee to whittle down the field to 68 teams, but they also hold victories over both VCU and Florida.

At the time of writing, the Seminoles currently reside in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology as one of the last four teams in, but following their loss at Syracuse, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Noles as one of the first four teams out the next time a projection is released.

With the Seminoles fighting for their tournament lives, playing their biggest rival who beat them once already and coming off a disappointing loss at Syracuse, it’s hard to think Leonard Hamilton’s team won’t be at their best come Sunday night.

Miami will have to hope they can once again contain Florida St.’s “Big Three”.

When you think of Miami’s “Big Three” of Sheldon McClellan, Angel Rodriguez and Ja’Quan Newton, you think they do almost all of the Hurricanes scoring. When looking at those three players, they combine for 50.1% of Miami’s points and while that is a pretty sizable number, it’s still less than that of the combined numbers from Florida St.’s “Big Three”.

Coming into their matchup with Miami, the trio of Malik Beasley, Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes all average at least 11.7 points a game and combine for 57.2% of Florida St.’s scoring this season. To say these three are dangerous scorers is an understatement.

Now this isn’t a referendum on the fact that Florida St.’s top three players are better than Miami’s, but it does show the fact that the Noles rely much more heavily upon their “Big Three”. As we saw in the last matchup between these two teams, the Canes held Beasley to just 13 points and Bacon as well as Rathan-Mayes to just 10 points. The result you may ask? A season-low 59 points.

If Miami can limit Florida St.’s “Big Three”, they’ve got a pretty good chance of coming away from Tallahassee with a season sweep of the Seminoles.

The Hurricanes can’t rest on their laurels after their thrilling win against Pitt, especially on the road.

It doesn’t get much more captivating and exciting than Miami’s 65-63 win over Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. While that win was certainly fun and showed the grit of this team, they’ve now got to completely erase that victory from their memory.

When they travel to Tallahassee, the Canes will be looking to avenge a poor loss last season in Florida’s capital when they blew an 11-point halftime lead and fell 55-54 to the Noles. If last season’s loss isn’t a large enough reminder to the Canes that they need to focus for the entire 40 minutes, they can look at their 7-7 road record in the ACC over the past two seasons. If the Hurricanes are still reminiscing about Rodriguez’s tip-in around 6:30 pm on Sunday night, they might find themselves in a hole early.

Now this isn’t a must-win game by any means, but with their NCAA Tournament bid all but locked in, the Canes need to continue to pile up wins and avoid bad losses to climb up the S-curve. In 2012-13, there’s no doubt that team was phenomenal and while they earned a No. 2 seed, they very easily could have been a No. 1. Losses at lowly Wake Forest and home to Georgia Tech late in the season hurt Miami’s resume and considering the team went on to win the ACC Tournament, they could have been a No. 1 if they maybe just pulled out one of those losses.

This year’s squad may not be in a discussion for a No. 1 seed at the moment, but with this wacky season taking its toll across the NCAA, Miami could find themselves in that talk. Chances for quality wins against North Carolina, Louisville and Virginia still exist in the regular season and of course the ACC Tournament could provide that kind of opportunity as well.

We’ve gotten far ahead of ourselves, but the point is this team still has time to climb up that S-curve and possibly find their way into a 1 or 2 seed. If that’s to happen, wins against teams like Florida St. are a must.