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StLouHoo's Preview:

Keeping it Going in Coral Gables

Miami FL Hurricanes

Virginia looks to keep its focus after the big Duke win (I refuse to call it an upset) and extend its current winning streak to seven games as it flies to Miami for a late mid-week tip. The Canes, like many bottom-half ACC teams, have proven feisty at home this year, and will hope to catch UVA in a letdown game mentality. How will UVA manage the road environment?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Wednesday, March 4th, 9:00 pm ET
Location:Watsco Center, Coral Gables, FL
TV:ACCN

 

What 'They' Say

Vegas:Virginia -1.5, O/U 118, equates to ~60-58 Virginia win
Torvik:Ranks UM #105, predicts a 58-56 UVA win, 60% confidence
KenPom:Ranks UM #106, predicts a 59-58 UVA win, 54% confidence

 

Depth Chart:

Starters
PG#0 Chris Lykes, 5'7" 157, JR
30.3 mpg, 15.2 ppg, 2.5 apg, 37.9 3P%
SG#2 Isaiah Wong, 6'3" 170, FR
20.0 mpg, 7.6 ppg, 0.9 apg, 40.0 3P%
SF#1 Dejan Vasiljevic, 6'3" 184, SR
33.9 mpg, 13.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 41.1 FG%
PF#4 Keith Stone, 6'8" 244, SR
21.4 mpg, 4.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 33.8 FG%
C#14 Rodney Miller Jr., 7'0" 255, JR
24.9 mpg, 7.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 58.3 FG%
Key Reserves
G#5 Harlond Beverly, 6'4" 185, FR
20.5 mpg, 7.6 ppg, 2.5 apg, 25.0 3P%
G/F#23 Kameron McGusty, 6'5" 192, JR
29.4 mpg, 13.0 ppg, 1.7 apg, 32.7 3P%
F#11 Anthony Walker, 6'9" 210, FR
13.0 mpg, 3.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 40.3 FG%
PF#21 Sam Waardenburg, 6'10" 216, JR
28.2 mpg, 6.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 43.6 FG%

 

The ABC's of Miami FL:

A) Their defense is in disarray. It's been their Achilles' heel all season long, regularly giving up in excess of 80 points in a game. They rank second-to-last in the ACC in defensive efficiency, subpar in just about every defensive category. Their zone and man defenses both give up way too many open 3's that opponents easily capitalize upon (ACC's 14th in 3P% defense), but teams still manage to convert inside as well (11th). They don't block a lot of shots (10th) or generate many turnovers (13th in steal rate). They rarely foul, to their credit, but beyond that teams have moved the ball well on them all season long. Unfortunately for Virginia, maybe their weakest area defensively has been in transition defense, nobody in the ACC gives up a bucket faster than Miami does, but obviously the Hoos aren't necessarily configured to capitalize on that.

B) They're playing more twin-towers. Miami welcomed grad-transfer big man Keith Stone from Florida this offseason, a strongly-built 4-man with a little bit of stretch game (over 40% at UF). Injuries have limited him to only 15 games this season, and his 3-point shot has failed to find consistency this year (17%), but over the last few weeks Larranaga has elected to get him into the starting lineup alongside traditional 7-foot bruiser Miller. With junior New Zealander Waardenburg coming off the bench, it's allowed Larranaga to play more of a throwback 2-big lineup for most of the game, giving them some size to account for the fact there isn't a modern combo-forward type on this year's roster and Deng Gak was lost for the year during the non-conference. Miller is truly paint-bound offensively and Stone usually is, meaning in theory UVA will get to keep its shot blockers home in the paint in this one, as well as potentially get good time from Caffaro.

C) The live and die with their guard play. At the end of the day, the identity of this Miami team is tied up in its guard play. Lykes has had the reins of this team since he beat out Ja'quan Newton two years ago, and he's as hot/cold as ever. Maybe the only guard in the ACC smaller than Kihei, he's improved his 3-point shooting to 38% this season, but is arguably too ball-dominant; the floor general leads the team in shots per game (13.1 in ACC play), but sports just a 2.4:2.2 A:TO ratio in conference games. Australian gunner Vasiljevic is the same efficient shooter he's always been on the wing, and he's got three new reinforcements this season. Oklahoma transfer Kam McGusty provides good size at the 3 (and sometimes small ball 4) while handling volume scoring responsibilities, while true freshmen Wong and Beverly have seen fairly standard inconsistent, if sometimes encouraging, rookie years.

 

Their Season To Date

Miami is 14-14 on the year, 6-12 in the ACC. In non-conference play they notched a noteworthy road victory over now-20-9 Illinois but got crushed by both Florida and UConn (both neutral site games). They struggled out of the gate in conference play as three of their first four ACC games were against Duke and Louisville. After an 8 point home win over Pitt, the Canes would lose seven of their next eight games before snapping off three wins in a row over BC (by 27), Wake (by 17), and at VT (in 3OTs). However, last week, Miami dropped a pair of road games, first by 16 in South Bend and then by 6 at GT on Saturday.

 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Control the glass. The Canes are not a good rebounding team. The space-eating Miller does what he can, ranking just inside the Top 20 in the ACC in both OR and DR rates, but he's not getting a ton of help. Stone and Walker (when they're healthy) hustle on the offensive end but have poor discipline defensively. Miami's guards don't do much rebounding on either end. UVA's big lineup has an opportunity here to tip the matchup in the Hoos' favor by staying disciplined on defense against Miami's bigs and then stealing extra possessions on the other end against the undisciplined Canes.

2) Make them a jumpshooting team. Miami's a bad-shooting team, worst in the ACC. They would far rather get into the lane where between their slashing guards and their competent bigs, they can score better around the rim. The Pack Line must be locked in on paint denial, trusting Miami's not a team to make all those extra passes required to generate truly open shots against the quickly-rotating Pack Line (Miami's low assist numbers speak for themselves). Lykes and Wong are solid shooters, so certainly they must be respected, and Vasiljevic ostensibly has it in him (41% from 3 as a sophomore, down to 34% this year), but Miami is going to have to perform well above its mean from deep for it to carry the offense.

3) Get Tomas going. In nine of Miami's 12 ACC losses, the Canes' opponent shot 40% or better from 3 on double-digit attempts. In their six ACC wins, teams shot shy of 29% from 3 against them. The Hoos' 3-point "resurgence" has been built on the hot streaks of Tomas Woldetensae (40% in ACC play), but he's just 3-of-15 (20%) over his last three games. Miami is a team that plays uninspired defense and doesn't have a lockdown wing defender, and may even throw some zone at us). Given his size, he should have little problem shooting over the likes of Lykes, Vasiljevic, or Wong, especially if you give him a good drive-and-kick action or pin-down screen to free him. If Tomas can get his shooting back on track, snap his mini-funk, we'll be in good shape to get the whole offense rolling.

 

 

Predictions:

In 2013 UVA scored a major home victory over Duke on the last day of February, cementing their place as the ACC's 4th-place team, and spurring a feeling of "we've made it" all around Charlottesville. Three days later they dropped a winnable game at then 12-16 (4-11) Boston College, precipitating a slide off the Bubble in the season's closing weeks.

Are these two teams the same? Of course not. UVA's learned a lot about how to win in the last seven years, and UVA's 2020 resume feels NCAAT-safe (that 2013 team had non-conference losses to ODU and Delaware that just weren't going to be overlooked). But I think the core message is the same here... UVA can't stay caught up in Saturday's moment because Miami, despite playing out the string on another lost season, isn't going to lay down for UVA. On the contrary, they'll be hunting pelts to soothe their egos going into the off-season, and UVA's their best shot at giving Larranaga a marquee win to build upon.

Bottom line, UVA needs to come out as focused and hungry as they were all February. The computers show this as a 1-2 point game for a reason; Virginia still plays to the level of their opponents for better or worse, and as recently as a week ago needed to survive tight battles on the road against Miami's peers VT and Pitt (Miami and VT both sit at 6-10, Pitt at 6-11 in ACC play). Hoos have won just one game comfortably in the last ~8 weeks, so the safe bet is to predict us to be faced with a battle again, though of course it's hard to pick against UVA they way they've been consistently winning the last month.

Hoos Win 58-55