If you had Miami, yes the one in South Beach, being undefeated in the ACC heading into the last week of February at the beginning of the year, raise your hand. Very few of you, okay. If you had Jim Larranaga as your Coach of the Year, please, raise your hand. None of you, that’s better. The reality is that nobody could have predicted this sort of outburst from Miami’s other team. The Hurricanes enter the last weekend of February at 12-0 in the ACC and 22-3 overall.
So the question now becomes, contender or pretender?
For Miami, it’s a very simple offense but one that is pretty efficient. They love to clear the way for their talented guards Durand Scott and Shane Larkin who are averaging 26 points between them. When they’re locked down, Miami has a beast inside named Reggie Johnson, who is averaging 9.4 points and 8.3 rebounds good for 6th in the conference. Alongside him is Kenny Kadji. To borrow a quote from Moneyball, he’s the Greek God of efficiency, except he’s from Cameroon. Kadji is your do it all guy, someone you can count on throughout the whole game. He averages 12.8 points, shoots 48% from the field and isn’t horrible from beyond the arc, shooting 36%. The three seniors, Larkin is a sophomore, do a great job of carrying Miami. But that’s about where it stops.
Miami is a team that isn’t going to kill you with its athleticism or its depth. Miami probably goes about seven deep, not great for a team competing to win a national championship. The Hurricanes top seven guys, and that’s really it, average between 6.6 and 13.1 points per game. Comparing that to a team like Indiana, the Hoosiers top 6 guys average 71.7 points per game, while the Hurricanes need their entire rotation to get to 70.7. Miami is a team that clearly lacks the star power of an Indiana or a Michigan State.
What Miami does do well is rebound. The Hurricanes are one of the better rebounding squads in America at check in at just over 36 per game, using their size and strength inside to bully other teams around. They also win and not only win, but they find a way to survive and grit out wins. Larranaga’s team has won eight games within ten points and three games within one possession.
Now time for what Miami doesn’t do so well. Where to begin? The Hurricanes are a team that don’t share the ball well. They average a mediocre 11.7 assists per game which is good for 261st in the country. Miami averages less than 70 points which checks them in at 140th in America and five times this year have failed to crack 60 points.
Miami takes good care of the ball, coming in at 20th in the country, but they don’t force many turnovers. The Hurricanes 176th in the nation in steals per game, meaning when they aren’t taking care of the ball, they can’t rely on their defense to get easy points.
Finally, Miami isn’t a team that is going to beat you with the deep ball. The Hurricanes come in shooting just over 35% in three point field goal percentage. A team can drop to a zone and have their way with Miami’s shooters if they wish, which is what a Syracuse would do should they run into the Hurricanes in March.
So back to the original question. The scoring isn’t always there for Miami. In their last two games they’re averaging 49.5 points per game, in two games they probably should have wound up losing. The bench isn’t great, but it isn’t horrible either, it’s just not deep as they only have seven players that contribute. Miami isn’t a team that is going to wow you with their star power either.
For example, if a Michigan comes out, you’re immediately going to be drawn to Tim Burke or Tim Hardaway Jr., just the way you’d be drawn to Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry at Duke. Miami doesn’t have those type of guys on their roster.
Miami though is a team that could very easily be 25-0. They lost to Florida Gulf Coast without Durand Scott. They lost to Indiana State and Arizona without Reggie Johnson. But they had the full collection against Duke, the game that showed the nation that Miami had arrived. In a 27 point thrashing of the Blue Devils, Miami slowed the pace and stepped up the defensive intensity. Don’t forget that Duke didn’t have Ryan Kelly though, a player that Duke desperately needs back. But if that Miami team shows up every night, then Miami will be tough to beat.
The problem is that their are way too many question marks on this Miami team. They don’t defend as well as some of the better teams in the country, and their low assist rate is pretty troubling. Add to that the fact that they only go seven deep is very concerning. They lost each of their games missing one of their top four guys. What’s the end result if that happens in March? Not good.
This is a Miami team that will likely get Duke two more times, once in early March, and again in the ACC Tournament. If they drop those games, as well as any other contest, it’s clear to say that Miami will lose its shot at a #1 seed. For me, they’re a two seed, and for me, they’re a team you won’t be seeing very much of in March.
Miami = Pretender