Friday, February 4, 2011

game preview: Miami

Date/Time: February 5; 2:00

TV: None. At all. Yes, that's stupid.

History against the Canes: 4-7

Last matchup: Miami 74, UVA 62; 2/23/10; Coral Gables

Last game: UVA 49, Clemson 47 (2/2); Miami 59, GT 57 (2/3)

Opposing blogs: none that give the slightest damn about basketball, really


National: UVA #127; Miami #64
Offense: UVA #112; Miami #32
Defense: UVA #154; Miami #135

At the halfway point of the ACC season, I have surprisingly little opinion on how it's gone so far, other than that beating Tech was pretty sweet. I think that says something in and of itself, but I don't know what. All I know is that it's very weird not to have some kind of strong feeling about it. This team hasn't managed to establish either high or low expectations for it - Wake Forest wiped out any high expectations and Clemson wiped out low ones. I'm left with just sort of this vague hope that the next game - not just this particular "next game" but probably all the rest of them - is winnable.


- Drive at Reggie Johnson. Johnson is the size of a barge and averages a double-double - someone we just don't have the capacity to stop on most possessions. He also fouls a lot and isn't a major shot blocker. Frank Haith would like to use him for 30 minutes a game, and does when Johnson's not in foul trouble, but Johnson's in foul trouble a lot. The best way to deal with him is to put him on the bench, and he's the kind of guy who'll help you out in that regard. If UVA can get him out of the game in foul trouble, it takes away probably Miami's biggest weapon; Johnson leads the team in KenPom's "possessions used" stat (which tracks how often a player ends his team's possessions either positively or negatively) and is by far their leading rebounder and third-leading scorer.

- Keep deploying the active hands on defense. Over 10% of Miami's possessions end in a steal by the other team (another KenPom stat), which puts them right near the bottom one-fourth of the country. This is why their assist/turnover ratio is below one. The UVA defense did an excellent job against Clemson in getting their hands up around the ball and in people's faces, resulting in seven steals - about 12.3% of their possessions, an excellent number. Continuing to do so against Miami should pay dividends.

- Get ahead early. Miami has just as much trouble hanging on to a lead as we do - on Thursday they led Georgia Tech by 21, in the middle of the second half, and made exactly two baskets the rest of the way to win by just two. They can't be in the best frame of mind. Taking advantage of their short turnaround like Wake did to us, and starting the game with a big lead the way we did to Clemson, will get the crowd grumbling and the Hurricanes perhaps questioning themselves.


- Three-pointers. Yes, as ever. It so happens Miami shoots them very well. Gotta do like we did against Duke and play more aggressively than usual on the outside or Miami will make it rain and we'll be unable to keep up.

- Too many unfavorable starter-to-bench matchups. I couldn't think of a better short way of saying that, but the point is, Miami's got a pretty talented starting five and goes to their bench way less than Tony Bennett does. The time to worry is when our starters leave the game, because I think Miami's biggest runs will come when they're matching up their starters on our bench replacements. Like trying to have Will Sherrill or Akil Mitchell guard Reggie Johnson.


Despite a pretty nice defensive effort against Clemson, I wonder if we can repeat it. Miami is better than their 2-6 record shows; their last four losses are by two, two, three, and four. And they tend to play well at home, even though their home court is smaller than U-Hall. Not to mention they're a better-than-average three-point shooting team. So I'm cautiously pessimistic, I guess. On paper - ratings-wise, KenPom and Sagarin and all that - this should be about a ten-point loss, but it won't be that run-of-the-mill. Either it'll be a close game - which could go either way - or we'll get blown out of the gym.

Edit: I'm a total scatterbrain sometimes. Farrakhan. If Mu doesn't play, forget it. In fact it'll probably piss me off more if Mu doesn't play and we win. That would be a clear sign that the fates have decided that a good basketball team at Virginia is something the world just isn't ready for.

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