Florida State ranks third in the nation in height with three centers over 7-feet tall and six players who top 6-7.
The Seminoles also have Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who scored 30 points in under five minutes against the University of Miami last season, and a pair of speedy freshmen who like to race up and down the court at breakneck pace.
A year ago, Hurricanes forward Ivan Cruz Uceda found such a matchup daunting. The 6-10 Spaniard was making the transition from junior college and missed the first 16 games because of a suspension for transfer complications. And, in hindsight, he concedes he was overweight and out of shape.
But now, after slimming down 20 pounds and reducing his body fat from 24 percent to 9 percent, Cruz Uceda relishes the challenge he will face Saturday as the 12th-ranked Hurricanes (12-1) play the Seminoles (10-4) at a sold-out BankUnited Center.
He runs faster, jumps higher and defends better than he did a year ago. His weight is down from 237 to 217 pounds, but every other number is up.
His three-point shooting has improved from 33 percent to a team-high 52 percent, and he scored a career-high 20 points in just 18 minutes against La Salle.
“When I came from Spain to Philly [to Harcum College], I didn’t adjust well to the food here,’’ Cruz Uceda said. “In Spain I ate very healthy, but here I started eating a lot of pizza, donuts, frozen foods, packaged foods. I got fat. Once I got to Miami, I realized my body was not good enough for the ACC. I couldn’t jump, couldn’t keep guys in front of me. I completely changed my eating habits, started running on the beach, and I’m a different player now.’’
The Hurricanes could use a good game from Cruz Uceda against FSU. His three-point shooting ability forces opponents to chase him to the arc, opening up the inside for UM center Tonye Jekiri and for guards Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan and Ja’Quan Newton, all of whom like to drive to the basket.
“They are the most talented team we will have faced so far,’’ UM coach Jim Larrañaga said of the Seminoles. “They have three guards that are bound for the NBA. They’ve got more size than any team we’ve played. They start a 7-3 center [Boris Bojanovsky] and come in with a 7-4 center [Chris Kamoudje]. You don’t see that very often.”
Larrañaga compared FSU’s tempo to that of North Carolina and Michigan State.
“We’re going to have to have our track shoes on and really be good at running in both directions,’’ he said.
“Anybody who was here last year saw Mayes … if anybody can score 30 points in four minutes and 38 seconds, you’ve got to concern yourself. Now you have two freshmen high-octane guards [Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley]. That means you have three guys like that, plus [Devon] Bookert playing well off the bench. So, you have a four-headed monster and these huge guys up front.’’
FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, who coached at UM from 1990 to 2000, said he has “many fond memories’’ of Miami but doesn’t have time to get nostalgic this weekend.
“I have to treat it like a business trip,’’ Hamilton said.
“This is a very, very important game for us. I won’t have time to lollygag or visit with friends. That has to wait until summer.”
He said his team, unlike UM, is not loaded with veterans, and the immaturity has “reared its ugly head’’ at times.
The Noles are still seeking inside-outside balance, and he expects Miami to be in top form.
“They deserve their lofty ranking,’’ Hamilton said. “They’re one of the better teams out there. They’re extremely talented, don’t make many mistakes and Jim has done a great job coaching them. He is to be commended.’’
Dick Vitale will be calling the game for ESPN2 and said he “can’t wait to see the Hurricanes in person.”
He has been impressed with what he’s seen thus far.
“Jim has totally revitalized the UM program, and if they keep going like this, I’d say they’re in the mix when I think of teams that are Final Four-caliber. This team could do big things,’’ Vitale said.
Saturday: No. 12 UM men vs. Florida State
When, where: 5 p.m.; BankUnited Center.
TV, radio: ESPN2; WQAM (560), WFTL (850), WVUM (90.5 FM).
Records: FSU 10-4 (0-2 ACC); UM 12-1 (1-0).
Scouting report: When these teams last played, on Feb. 25, 2015, the Hurricanes narrowly escaped with an 81-77 victory after FSU’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes exploded for 30 points in the final 4:38. He finished with 35 points. … FSU’s frontcourt includes 7-3 Boris Bojanovsky and 7-4 Chris Koumadje. … FSU freshmen Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley both average 17 points.
FIU men at Marshall
When, where: 7 p.m.; Cam Henderson Center, Huntington, West Virginia.
TV, radio: None.
Records: FIU 8-7 (2-0 Conference USA); Marshall 6-9 (2-0).
Scouting report: FIU is on a four-game win streak, with a late comeback from an eight-point deficit at Western Kentucky on Thursday night producing the latest victory. … Wins against Western Kentucky and FAU comprise Marshall’s two-game winning streak. Before that, the Thundering Herd lost to Maryland and Grand Canyon and opened the season with six consecutive losses.
Marshall at FIU women
When, where: 2 p.m.; FIU Arena.
TV, radio: None. Live stream at fiusports.com.
Records: Marshall 10-3 (0-2 Conference USA); FIU 2-11 (0-2).
Scouting report: Based on the records, this looks like no contest — a Marshall rout. Comparing recent scores also says “no contest” — but as an FIU rout. Each team has lost its first two conference games to Western Kentucky and FAU. But FIU lost by only five to FAU and by two to Western Kentucky, while 17 FAU three-pointers sank Marshall by 11 on Thursday, and Marshall lost by 29 to Western Kentucky last week.