Miami-Florida St. Preview

The Associated Press

Before Florida State can even think about winning its first ACC tournament championship, the Seminoles need to focus on avoiding a third straight early exit.

The No. 17 Seminoles will need to be at their best Thursday night when they open tournament play with a quarterfinal matchup against Miami in Atlanta.

With a 12-4 conference record that included a 33-point home win over top-seeded North Carolina and a three-point victory at second-seeded Duke, Florida State (21-9) might have the best chance of any team to knock off either of the perennial ACC powers this weekend at Philips Arena. However, the third-seeded Seminoles need to exorcise some tournament demons from the past in order to get that shot.

Also the third seed in each of the previous two seasons, Florida State lost 58-52 to N.C. State in the 2010 quarterfinals and 52-51 to Virginia Tech in its 2011 opener.

"We definitely want to get that out from under us,'' said Seminoles guard Michael Snaer, averaging a team-leading 14.1 points per game. "We're tired of losing that first game.''

The Seminoles should have some momentum after they bounced back from a 78-62 loss at Miami (19-11) on Feb. 26. Though it wasn't easy, Florida State posted a last-second 63-60 victory at then-No. 24 Virginia, then almost blew a 16-point lead in an 80-72 win over Clemson on Sunday.

"We have found a way to win regardless of our strengths and weaknesses,'' coach Leonard Hamilton said.

The Seminoles were unable to do that at Miami last month, when they shot 40.7 percent and were outscored 54-42 in the second half for only their second defeat in their last 13 meetings with the Hurricanes.

Florida State beat Miami 64-59 at home Feb. 11.

"It's our rivalry game, and we definitely want to win," said Miami guard Durand Scott, who had a team-high 17 points in the win over the Seminoles. "The first time, they got us. The second time, we got them. You could be prepared for both teams going head-to-head. Very physical basketball. We're going to play our hardest and do what our coach tells us to do. And may the best team win."

After reaching the round of 16 in last year's NCAA tournament, Florida State is headed back to the field of 68. Miami, however, likely needs a deep run this weekend to make its first NCAA appearance since 2008.

The sixth-seeded Hurricanes lost four of their final seven regular season games, but overcame a 33.3-percent shooting effort to beat Georgia Tech 54-36 in Thursday's first round. Shane Larkin had 12 points and Scott added 11 as Miami used an 18-0 run to outscore the Yellow Jackets 35-16 in the second half.

"We were really get excited to get to this ACC Tournament," Hurricanes guard Malcolm Grant said. "We wanted to play well. Once we calmed down, we were able to pull away."

Scott totaled 29 points and 12 rebounds in the two games against the Seminoles this season.

Snaer scored 20 while shooting 7 of 13 in last month's loss to the Hurricanes.

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