TALLAHASSEE — Florida State has every reason to lose tonight's home game against third-ranked Miami.
Losing, particularly in big games at home, has been part of the Seminoles' lackluster personality this season. In three previous games against ranked teams at the Tucker Center, they have lost every time.
Add to the mix that Miami (19-3, 10-0 ACC) is scorching hot, and it becomes painfully evident that FSU (13-10, 5-5) faces a big challenge.
Still, the Seminoles are talking about winning.
"Why not?" FSU guard Ian Miller said Tuesday. "Why not go out and do something special?"
If the Seminoles can secure an upset, they will split the season series. Miami beat FSU in Coral Gables, 71-47.
"We're kind of wanting to get — I don't want to say — 'payback' for how poorly we played," FSU junior Kiel Turpin said. "We're just wanting to play well and win any way that we can. I don't think a lot of us have thought about us being the underdog. Yeah, they're ranked third in the nation, but to us, it's just another game that we have to win."
As more NCAA Tournament projections begin excluding the Seminoles, every game becomes increasingly important, Turpin said.
When the 7-foot center and his teammates take the floor tonight, a seemingly incongruous mix of youth and experience, inefficient defense and proficient offense will tiptoe onto the court, too.
Hampered by injuries and attrition, the Seminoles are vastly inferior to the team that captured the country's attention ahead of last winter's ACC championship run. They lack the size, length and leadership that made the 2011-12 group a defensive force.
Helped by age and adept ball movement that begins with sophomore point guard Shane Larkin, the Hurricanes are built on scoring quickly and often. Miami's veteran post players can bang in the paint or make long-range jump shots.
"They're playing as well as anybody that I've seen," said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, who once coached at Miami.
Hamilton doesn't believe the Hurricanes will fall into the trap of being upset in a rivalry setting.
"They have the experience and also some wisdom and understanding of the pain that they've had to endure in the past by not making the NCAA Tournament. It's motivating to them," he said. "So they don't have that lack of focus that some teams may have because they're trying to get that monkey off their backs."
Miami coach Jim Larranaga said the Hurricanes can't be overconfident: "It's rivalry week. Florida State's our biggest rival. All the previous games we've played, they played, are meaningless when it comes to the Miami-Florida State game."
"They're going to have a chip on their shoulder because we beat them pretty solidly at home," Larkin said. "They probably want to do the same thing to us."
Miami played spoiler late last season when it beat the Seminoles by 16 at home. This year, FSU finds itself trying to sour the Hurricanes' run. Miller said his team will have to play 40 minutes of high-energy ball to make that happen.
"Your pride starts kicking in," Miller said. "If we have pride, we'll come out and play. … I'll be juiced up. I just hope the guys follow my lead."