One team enters today's contest between Florida State and Miami on a lengthy hot streak that includes a victory at Duke's notoriously hostile Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The other is hoping to bounce back from a puzzling and disappointing loss.
It's a bit of a role reversal for the Seminoles and Hurricanes.
Just a few days ago, FSU was the Atlantic Coast Conference's hottest team and one of the nation's surprise stories, having reeled off seven straight conference wins and posting victories over North Carolina and Duke.
But a 64-60 loss to Boston College, the conference's last place team, quickly brought what was shaping into a dream season back down to earth.
Meanwhile, under first-year head coach Jim Larranaga, Miami got off to a solid if unspectacular start, dropping four of five at one point late in non-conference play and eventually starting 0-2 in the ACC.
But when the two rival programs tip off today at 1 p.m. (ACC Network/ESPN3), the Seminoles could be in for a harsh reality: with five straight wins – including their own win at Duke – the Hurricanes could be the conference's new rag-to-riches story.
And, if nothing else, they figure to have no shortage of confidence coming into the Civic Center.
“Miami is a very good basketball team. They've been playing very well as of late,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “They're coming in now with confidence they've been playing well … they feel like [today's] game is just as important to them as we feel it's important to us.”
The Hurricanes (15-7, 6-3 ACC) feature four players that average at least 12 points per game, but none that have cracked 13 points per game. Junior guard Durand Scott (12.6 ppg) is the team's leading scorer, and 6-10 center Reggie Johnson, the team's top rebounder (7 rpg) is not far behind him on the stat sheet.
“Their guards are really good. They shoot the ball well and can penetrate,” FSU guard Michael Snaer said. “Especially when they got hot. Once their shooters get going, one through four, they can all shoot the '3.'”
Nearly 48 hours after their visit to Chestnutt Hill, the Seminoles were clearly still perturbed by their performance. But the season has hardly careened off course, either.
Thanks to Duke's last-second victory over North Carolina just hours after FSU's loss, the Seminoles are still atop the ACC standings via tiebreakers obtained in wins over the Blue Devils and Tar Heels. And with a return trip from Duke later this month, FSU still controls its own destiny in its quest for its first ever league crown.
Senior guard Deividas Dulkys said that the Seminoles are hoping to learn from their setback and rally around it for the season's final seven games.
“We can either go downhill or up, from now,” Dulkys said. “Now we're going to see that we have to play together to win these games. We can't have individual efforts … We have to be unselfish, not just in taking shots but making the right decisions to better this team.”
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