D'Angelo: Miami, Florida State set up Saturday showdown with wins over ACC bluebloods

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Two of college basketball bluest bluebloods crossed the state line Tuesday and both returned to Tobacco Road wondering what in the name of Michael Jordan just happened.

North Carolina did its best to desecrate the tradition built and cultivated by Dean Smith and Roy Williams in a stunning 28-point loss at Miami. Two hours later, the state continued to show no respect for the Mike Krzyzewski Farewell Tour as Florida State handed Duke its second ACC loss in an entertaining overtime win. This coming 10 days after Miami was responsible for the Blue Devils first conference loss at then-No.2 Duke.

More: D'Angelo: With a healthy roster, Miami's Jim Larranaga should be dancing into March

Florida State Seminoles forward Malik Osborne (10) celebrates his teammate's basket. The Florida State Seminoles defeated the Duke Blue Devils 79-78 in overtime at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022.

Fsu V Duke Second Half686
Florida State Seminoles forward Malik Osborne (10) celebrates his teammate's basket. The Florida State Seminoles defeated the Duke Blue Devils 79-78 in overtime at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. Fsu V Duke Second Half686

"I'm not sure the Carolina schools want to deal with those dudes anymore," said ESPN basketball analyst Seth Greenberg, a long time head coach with stops at Virginia Tech and South Florida.

Tuesday's results guaranteed Miami (14-4, 6-1) and Florida State (11-5, 5-2) enter their rematch Saturday in Coral Gables occupying the top two spots in the ACC.

This would be like Democrats running 1, 2 in popularity in Wyoming. Or Bill Belichick and Nick Saban topping a poll of the warmest, friendliest, fuzziest coaches in America.

Never in the 17 years that Miami and Florida State have been in the ACC together have the two schools even finished in the top 5. They have had their moments, winning the regular season title and conference tournament once each.

That is one more ACC title than Miami has won in football. And Florida State's football program has had nowhere near the success of its basketball counterpart the last five years.

"We may not be the Tobacco Road of the South ... Carolina and Duke still have their longevity and tradition," Miami coach Jim Larrañaga said. "But I think we're basketball programs that our universities can be proud of and our players can really enjoy being a part of."

To be clear, what is happening is not new to both schools. Leonard Hamilton has built one of the more consistent basketball programs in the country at Florida State, the Seminoles going to four consecutive NCAA tournaments (five if not for COVID) and playing in the Sweet 16 three straight years. Miami averaged nearly 24 wins and went dancing three three times from 2014-15 to 2017-18 before hitting a dry spell the last three years.

But what we witnessed on back-to-back games Tuesday, and to see these two teams both ahead of Duke and Carolina at the top of the standings, is as common as a snow angel contest being held in South Florida.

"You've got really good coaches that have reputations and you have programs that have had success fairly consistently," Greenberg said. "And then if you're in this conference that historically made its reputation in basketball.

"The league is branded, the institutions are branded and they're invested."

Jan 18, 2022; Coral Gables, Florida, USA; Miami Hurricanes forward Sam Waardenburg (21) reacts after making a three point shot against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the first half at Watsco Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 18, 2022; Coral Gables, Florida, USA; Miami Hurricanes forward Sam Waardenburg (21) reacts after making a three point shot against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the first half at Watsco Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Still, Florida never will be considered anything other than a football state, even with the level of play nothing like it was during the heydays of the '80s, '90s and 2000s. Back then the Miami-Florida State football rivalry was every bit as entertaining and spectacular of the Duke-North Carolina football rivalry.

The Florida Turnpike is not Tobacco Road. Never was. Never will be. For every Rick Barry at Miami, North Carolina has produced a Jordan and James Worthy and Phil Ford and Charlie Scott. For every Dave Cowens to come out of Florida State Duke has a Christian Laettner and Grant Hill and Johnny Dawkins. But the state is capable of producing enough basketball players to stock the rosters of its marquee universities.

"Florida's got tremendous hoops," said ESPN basketball analyst Dalen Cuff, who starred at East Lake High in Tarpon Springs before playing four years at Columbia. "People think of it as a football state but they've just got tremendous athletes and a lot of the basketball players that are really good who end up going out of state.

"Anytime you have a game like this with two teams in a state like this it may turn some of the attention on some of those recruits ... to maybe stayed focused on the schools in state."

Miami and FSU have been on a different track in recent years but on a similar journey in 2021-22. Both started slow having lost key contributors and integrating freshmen and transfers into the lineup.

Although neither will receive much of a seedings bump from their non-conference play. Both started finding their mojo as league play began, with help, it must be noted, by a conference that is not as deep or talented as we've been accustomed to seeing.

"I think they'll be competing to the end to win a title," Cuff said. "With Florida State, that's nothing new. Miami hasn't been in this competition in recent years."

Florida State's identity under Hamilton always has been its defense and depth. Krzyzewski called Tuesday's loss the most physical game his team has played in this season. Miami's guard play with Isaiah Wong, Kameron McGusty and Charlie Moore has been the best in the conference, and among the best in the country, which atones for its lack of size.

"No one predicted this," Larrañaga said. "No one thought Miami and Florida State would be in this position. I also caution it's still early in the year. We're not even at the halfway point (of conference play). You really won't know which programs are going to elevate themselves to a consistent level until we get into mid February and early March."

OK, so we'll off on calling Florida a basketball state. But only until March.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Miami, FSU basketball upstaging their Tobacco Road rivals

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