FSU aiming to play spoiler to surging Miami

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As the No. 3 Miami Hurricanes get set to visit the Florida State Seminoles, the roles are reversed from a year ago and it is the Hurricanes that find themselves in the midst of a breakout ACC season. This team has defeated Duke, North Carolina and routed the Seminoles 71-47 in their last meeting.

A year ago, Florida State started slow but went 12-4 in the ACC, using its core group of six seniors to overwhelm North Carolina by 33 points and edge Duke in Durham, N.C. The Seminoles went on to finish 25-10, earning the program’s first conference tournament title.

Miami was sluggish early but is now 10-0 in the ACC, and its veteran-laden roster has helped the Hurricanes steamroll North Carolina by 26 points and Duke by 27 points. The Hurricanes, who are ranked No. 3 in The Associated Press poll, are 19-3 and on the verge of one of the best seasons in the program’s history.

The attention of the ACC and its fans is often Carolina-centric, with many focusing in on the success or failures of teams such as Duke, North Carolina, NC State and Wake Forest. But Florida State last year and now Miami are impressing with their performances.

“The similarities are that both are experienced,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said of the 2012 Seminoles and 2013 Hurricanes. “This is a (Miami) team that is playing on a mission. They don’t get rattled. They don’t have the highs and the lows.”

Miami is playing about as well as anyone in the nation, and the Hurricanes have been untouchable the past 11 games.

The Hurricanes average 70 points per game, and the wealth is spread across the roster. Five players average 9.5 or more points a game, led by Durand Scott (14.0), Kenny Kadji (13.5) and Shane Larkin (13.0).

Larkin, the son of Cincinnati Reds Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, has developed into a star in his sophomore season. He is shooting 43 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, distributing the ball well to his teammates and pulling down 4.2 rebounds per game.

“There is no doubt that they have one of the top two or three point guards in the country,” Hamilton said. “He’s the real deal. And when you are loaded with 3-point shooters at three other spots, and a couple post guys that will make you pay, they are a potent team.”

Six weeks ago, Miami was not ranked after losing two of three games in Hawaii. But after 11 straight wins, the Hurricanes are the class of the ACC and will try to sweep the series from state rival Florida State when the teams play in Tallahassee on Wednesday night.

Miami coach Jim Larranaga said the team is handling the increased attention — both in the stands and in the media — well the past four weeks.

“So far, so good,” Larranaga said. “They have a clear mindset as to what they want to accomplish. They’ve worked very hard. I think when you make a commitment to something and you’re willing to devote a lot of time and energy, then you start to see the results of all your hard work, you feel very, very good about it. … They were pretty hungry to try to do something that they hadn’t done before.”

Larranaga didn’t say what specifically they hadn’t done before. But Miami is certainly building on something here: the team had never won more than nine ACC games in a season until now.

And it’s a season that certainly could end, like Florida State’s a year ago, with an ACC tournament title and a memorable March.