StLou's Previews: Miami Hurricanes

Miami Hurricanes

Virginia looks to bounce back from its first ACC loss of the season, sporting a fresh #1 ranking, as it travels south to Miami. The Canes are playing winning basketball and looking for statement wins to improve March seeding. Are the Hoos ready to get back in the W column?

Game Details:

Date/Time: Tuesday, Feb 13th, 9:00 PM EST
Location: Watsco Center, Coral Gables, FL

What 'They' Say

Vegas: Virginia -5.5, O/U 118
TAPE: Ranks Miami #22, predicts a 65-60 UVA win, 68% confidence
KenPom: Ranks Miami #36, predicts a 59-54 UVA win, 68% confidence


Depth Chart:


PG #2 Chris Lykes, 5-7 160, FR
19.9 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 2.2 apg, 36% 3P%
SG #1 Dejan Vasiljevic, 6-3 198, SO 
24 mpg, 9.4 ppg, 0.4 apg, 39% 3P% 
SF #4 Lonnie Walker IV, 6-4 192, FR 
25.6 mpg, 11.3 ppg, 1.8 apg, 35% 3P% 
PF #3 Anthony Lawrence II, 6-7 210, JR 
30.4 mpg, 9.4 ppg, 2.3 apg, 48% 3P% 
C #20 Dewan Huell, 6-11 220, SO 
26.5 mpg, 12.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 59% FG% 

Key Reserves


#0 Ja'Quan Newton, 6-2 187, SR
26.3 mpg, 8.7 ppg, 2.8 apg, 16% 3P%
F #21 Sam Waardenburg, 6-9 205, FR
11.8 mpg, 3.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 44% FG% 
F/C  #15 Ebuka Izundu, 6-10 231, JR 
13.8 mpg, 4.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 0.6 bpg 


The ABC's of UM:

A) They're a roster in flux. Starting wing Bruce Brown went down with a broken foot a couple weeks ago and triggered a shuffling of the depth chart by coach Larranaga. Early in the season this team had a real focus on defense, with the offense being the liability. This was evident in an ugly loss at Georgia Tech, where they scored 54 points on 70 possessions. Both Brown and PG Newton were defense-first starters, neither a scary 3-point shooter (a combined 19-77 on the year). Star freshman guard Lonnie Walker took Brown's place in the starting lineup and is giving up more on D, but bringing a more well-rounded game on O. At the same time, Larranaga sent his senior PG to the bench in favor of freshman dynamo Chris Lykes, the 5'7" sparkplug who can both knock down 3's (36%) and get into the lane to create (12th best assist rate in ACC play). The end result is that Miami's offense is getting more diverse and dangerous (topping 80 points in 3 of their last 5 games) while their defense has become more average, such as giving up 81 to Wake Forest last week at home.

B) By the numbers, it's a pretty average offense. They're the #6 offense in the ACC, and are pretty close to the mean in a lot of statstical categories, including turnovers (16.9%, 7th), 3P% (36.7%, 7th), 2P% (49.4%, 6th), O-Reb % (30.2%, 6th), and FT rate (33.4%, 5th). So there isn't a real weakness to exploit, nor a strength to game plan against. Instead, they're just balanced, with a lot of players who can play both inside and out. Vasiljevic qualifies as a gunner, 133 3PA this year vs only 52 from 2. And Newton is a pretty downhill player on offense, only 1-5 from 3 throughout all of ACC play, but everyone else is very capable of spreading the damage around. Our defense should be okay in this one assuming it can stay fresh and focused, it's not much different than the VT offense we just held to 49 points in regulation, when in the half-court. They rely a fair bit on generating fast breaks off steals, but given our traditionally excellent ball protection, this hopefully won't become a major factor.

C) Their defense has been perimeter oriented. With smaller guards, the Canes have been focused on putting pressure on the perimeter, both trying to disrupt ball movement (4th in the ACC in steals) and contest 3's (holding ACC opponents to 36.1% from deep, 7th). But once teams reach the paint, they're scoring at a healthy 52% clip, 3rd highest in the ACC. They're doing okay contesting those shots, middle of the pack in block rate, but teams are still getting open looks; that perimeter pressure means guards are getting into open space if they can turn the corner. Miami is fouling at a high rate, but I'd be surprised if we find a way to capitalize on that. Despite the smaller lineup, the Canes are effective at controlling their defensive glass, so don't expect UVA to see a lot of second chances.

Their season to date:

Miami is 18-6 on the season, 7-5 in ACC play. Their best wins are over FSU (by 6) and Louisville (by 3 in OT) at home, and on the road at VT (by 9). Their worst losses are to Georgia Tech (by 10) and BC (by 2) on the road. 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Make real use of the bench. We've been running our starters into the ground through a recent grind of top-half ACC teams (Clemson, @Duke, Louisville, @Cuse, @FSU, VT) and frankly it's starting to show. We go effectively 8 deep but don't always make good use of it. This is a game we should. Miami is a solid matchup, on paper at least, for both of Mamadi and Nigel (every game is a good matchup for Hunter). For Nigel, as our smallest and fastest player, he's a solid 1-for-1 against both of Miami's PGs, Lykes and Newton. His ability to challenge their ball handling and stay in front of them will be a benefit. Mamadi is the kind of long athlete that should be more than capable of staying with Miami's long, perimeter oriented 4's in Lawrence and Waardenburg. Add in a favorable matchup for Salt (both Huell and Izundu are traditional big men, neither has made a 3 this year) and that means that our starting guards should all be able to afford 10 minutes on the bench and be fresh for the closing stretch. Miami goes 8 deep as well, so we should aim to have the same energy they do in the final minutes.

2) Pay attention to the drive-and-kick. Miami's offense is very traditionally PG-driven. Lykes and Newton play about 47 minutes a game combined, meaning one of them is on the floor at any moment orchestrating their offense, and in ACC play they're doing so at a 5.8 assist per game combined clip. These two are very downhill oriented with the ball in their hand, looking to run a ball screen action to turn the corner and then either find the screener on a pick-and-pop/roll, or to collapse the defense and kick to a shooter. Neither are elite finishers in traffic (their 2P%s inflated by fast break lay-ins, and Miami as a team is 11th in the ACC in getting shots blocked), so when they drive, the defense needs to be attuned to the passing lanes and the shooters moving into position for the kick, moreso than being focused on helping against the driver. A defense can turn their guards over... 7 TOs between them in last week's loss at BC, 7 in the win at VT, so hopefully our defense can do some damage here clogging up their offense.

3) Force the issue with paint offense. Miami is really susceptible in the paint. ACC squads are shooting 52% from 2 against them, which is the 3rd highest rate in the conference. Expect to see a lot of similarities to the VT approach here. Like VT, Miami runs out one true post with 4 guard/wings, and has struggled to shut down the paint as a result over the season. But VT was able to gum up our offense by clogging the paint with help defenders, and our guards were ill-prepared to force the issue. I'd be shocked if Miami doesn't do the exact same, having their off ball defenders look to sag more than they typically do. Offenses generally work best when there are paint touches involved, because they force defenses to react from multiple directions, whether that paint touch is feeding a big man on the block, hitting the high post gap in a 2-3 zone, or a dribble drive at the rim protection. When I say force the issue here, I mean find creative ways to get paint touches however the defense is playing us. Ball screens are going to be a must. Clearing a side and finding a way to dump to our 4-man. Or just use our size... Hall and Jerome are both bigger and stronger than Miami's guard rotation and should't be afraid to just take it at them. Then use those paint touches to manufacture offense around the floor... kick to shooters, dump to big man on the baseline, or get a help defender in the air and get a whistle. If we take half our shots from the perimeter again, especially without that shot coming off a paint feed, we deserve to lose.

Rock those Hurricanes

Updated on February 12, 2018 by Seattle Hoo

The Hoos got rocked on Saturday, and the seniors were not able to prevent it.  Isaiah Wilkins had a very strong defensive game, but his offensive contribution was hampered by the rims' unwillingness to accept his jump hook.  He did some great things passing out of the post, and set his trademark screens.  Devon bucked the trend with a decent shooting performance, although he did not make any forays into the paint, as he had been doing, and that needs to change against Miami.  Nigel came into the game at the wrong time and for some reason never came back, despite the two sophomore guards basically shooting the Hoos out of the game.  It had to be disappointing after sitting out three games to basically sit out a fourth.  I don't know that Virginia can win if he sits out a fifth.  I think major minutes from Nigel are going to be necessary in this one.

A lot will depend on how Miami chooses to defend the Hoos and what Coach Tony Bennett chooses to do in response. Last year, the Hurricanes locked onto our wings with their long defenders and stayed on their tails like air-to-air missiles with missile lock.  Will they do it again?  Will they borrow from Tech's playbook and basically packline the Hoos into jacking up long threes?  Getting into the paint is going to be crucial to victory, and Devon and Nigel are two of the best bets the Hoos have to do that.  One solution will be for Nigel to use his freedom within the offense to call for ball screens and try to get downhill.  Nigel and Devon can present Miami with matchup issues if the offensive game plan calls for it.  If Vasiljevic gets the assignment on Hall, Devon should be able to get by him and force the help, and if Lonnie Walker, IV has the assignment, the freshman should be no match for Devon's experience in using screens and fakes.  

On defense, Wilkins will have some tough matchups.  Anthony Lawrence is a perimeter-oriented pick-and-pop specialist who can also drive and score inside. He's a clever player who has given UVA trouble in the past. When the Hoos go small, Zay could wind up banging with the bigger, bouncy Dewan Huell, a former 5* recruit, or Ebuka Izundu.  Zay has done well in these kinds of matchups all season.  Staying out of foul trouble will be crucial.  Miami will test him with a lot of ball screens.

Walker is Miami's best offensive player and should be Devon's assignment.  The likely matchup between the two players could be what determines the outcome.  Nigel, when he plays, will have the assignment of handling the 5-7 Lykes. Nigel has had some rough moments keeping guards in front of him, and if he's not doing that, he's not really contributing to the defense.  That will be the second part of his challenge.

How will the Hoos respond to in short succession losing a heartbreaker at home to archrival Virginia Tech, being named the presumptive #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and being voted #1 in the AP poll?  A better, tougher effort than Saturday is needed.  Are the Hoos fatigued?  We will see the answer in how they run the offense and how they go after loose balls.  If the cuts are hard, the drives are aggressive, and bodies are hitting the floor for 50-50 balls, we'll know the response is the proper one. The seniors need to set the example.  This is the next chapter in the season.  How will they write it?  Last year in JPJ, Wilkins and Hall combined for 25 points in 80 minutes. Wilkins added 10 rebounds and the two spearheaded a defense that hounded Miami into a horrible shooting night.  That level of defense will be needed again, along with an aggressive offense that challenges Miami's interior defense.  Look for another big game from the senior leaders, who know they have an 8-day break after this one.


Miami is a solidly good team. Not great, but certainly not average either. There's talent, there's depth, and there's coaching all present on this Canes squad. In our favor is experience, as they're starting two true freshmen, two sophomores, and a junior, with Lawrence being the only starter back from last year's squad (Vasiljevic and Huell came off the bench). But I just worry about our endurance right now; we stood around an awful lot on offense on Saturday down the stretch because you could tell the Hoos were just gassed, having been riding the starters hard through a gauntlet of good teams lately. The more Tony can trust Hunter, Mamadi, and Nigel to handle extended stretches, the better I'll feel about our chances in this one. 

I do think the VT loss was a wake up call for our offense, and we'll see a return to the creative, diverse sets that won big games against Duke and Louisville. Revenge is also on the mind given our loss to the Canes in JPJ last season. As such, I think our boys are back into "hunter" mode in this one. It'll be a close game throughout, Miami only has one home loss this year, to Duke, and will make us grind for all 40 minutes. This will likely be a close, low scoring affair yet again, but at the end of the day I trust our D against their young starters.

Hoos Win - 58-55