Friday, January 6, 2012

game preview: Miami

Date/Time: Saturday, January 7; 6:00


History against the Canes: 4-9

Last matchup: Miami 69, UVA 62; 3/10/11; Greensboro, NC (ACCT)

Last game: UVA 57, LSU 52 (1/2); Miami 99, UNCG 89 (1/2)

Opposing blogs: none that give hoops the time of day

KenPom breakdown:

UVA: 61.2 (#336)
Miami: 65.1 (#261)

UVA: 105.1 (#90)
Miami: 110.8 (#32)

UVA: 87.2 (#12)
Miami: 99.0 (#150)

Pythagorean win%:
UVA: .8713 (#29)
Miami: .7593 (#68)

(Explanation of KenPom stats: "Tempo" number is number of offensive possessions per game. "Offense" and "Defense" numbers are points scored/allowed per 100 possessions. All numbers are adjusted, using the magic KenPom formula; therefore they are not actual, but projections of predicted results against an average team on a neutral court.)

Projected starting lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (6.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 3.4 apg)
SG: Sammy Zeglinski (10.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.8 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (13.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.6 apg)
PF: Mike Scott (16.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.7 apg)
C: Assane Sene (5.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 0.4 apg)


PG: Durand Scott (13.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.5 apg)
SG: Malcolm Grant (14.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.7 apg)
G: Trey McKinney-Jones (8.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.0 apg)
PF: Kenny Kadji (10.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 0.5 apg)
C: Reggie Johnson (10.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.3 apg)

When last we met, Miami was the beneficiary of possibly UVA's most astounding collapse in 80+ years of basketball.  There was technically an overtime period following the clusterfuck, but I don't remember it and neither do you because it might as well not have happened.  Let's face it, if you've watched enough of any sport at all you knew for a fact that the chances of UVA winning that game in OT were zero, because that's how sports work.

Technically, less is at stake here because this isn't a tournament, but let's not kid ourselves: This game means stuff.  As I detailed yesterday, you can divide UVA's schedule up into the givens and the non-givens, and this is a non-given right here.  If the givens hold to form, then we need to go 4-4 in the other games, so really, this is one of the season's eight most important games, right here.  And it's at home, so no screwing up allowed.  On the face of it, Miami might appear to be just another underachieving ACC squad, with no good losses and one bad win, but the matchup isn't as easy as all that.

-- UVA on offense

Tony Bennett's not the only guy in the ACC known for bringing maddening defensive schemes to the floor.  Jim Larranaga, new to Miami after the departure of Frank Haith for Missouri, brings what's known as the scramble defense to Coral Gables.

This isn't going to be fun for UVA fans used to watching their team struggle when pressured in fullcourt situations.  Larranaga likes to press, and at a minimum, someone is always hounding the ballcarrier starting in the three-quarter court.  If you bring the ball too close to the sidelines, they trap.  UVA's ballhandlers will have to be better than they were in the final minute of regulation last year, and as always against a trap, finding the open man is paramount.  This is why Bennett stresses defense; it is always, always easier to deal with a fullcourt defense if you don't give up a basket.

This is the first season for Miami in the scramble defense, of course, and what's more, they haven't been at full strength.  They are now, having bolstered their frontcourt with the return of mammoth center Reggie Johnson, which leaves their guards freer to trap on the wings and away from the basket.  This overwhelmed Appalachian State and Miami won by 30, but UNC-Greensboro found success by getting open looks from three and hitting on 11 of 21.  (They still lost, but only by ten.)

In order to score, UVA will also need to hit on jump shots.  A trapping defense like Miami's forces turnovers, but also leaves open spaces on the floor, which, if your shooting is good, you can exploit.  Not just threes, but I expect UVA will also find opportunities from the elbow, as well as some Mike Scott fadeaways.  Sammy Zeglinski will be a key player for the Hoos tomorrow, as someone who's expected to both handle the ball and shoot it, and Joe Harris must be relentlessly in motion looking for the open shot as well.

-- UVA on defense

The twin towers of Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji pose a serious threat. Both are matchup problems; Johnson because he's 280+ pounds, and Kadji because he can hit an occasional three despite standing 6'11".  (Both are shotblockers, too.)  I expect that UVA will need to double them up at times on the block in order to keep them from having their way, because as ferocious as Mike Scott can be, he's not 280 pounds.

The thing about Miami's guards is that none of them stand out with any really special abilities.  But none of them are slouches and all have the ability to hurt you.  It's a rare team that's assembled of players with 100+ offensive ratings in KenPom's system, but that's what Miami has.  They spread the ball well, too, with everybody on the court getting their shot at chipping in.  If there's a weakness, it's probably that the Canes have a tendency to turn the ball over.

This will be a great test of our so-far-vaunted defense.  Miami shoots threes fairly well, and the downtown bomb can come from practically anyone.  Malcolm Grant has attempted 79 of them, but there are five other players who've tried at least two per game.  Can UVA deny the three-ball and, at the same time, hold Miami's starting frontcourt in check?  Justin Hamilton's game on Monday has to give you some concern about what Johnson and Kadji might be able to do.

-- Outlook

This all seems gloomy, but the obvious upside, of course, is that Miami hasn't often faced a defense as proficient as UVA's, and when they have, the results weren't pretty.  Miami has hurdles of their own, including meshing the newly-returned players into their lineup, and the fact that, like all teams in the first year of a new coach, they don't perfectly execute their new system.  Neither team really likes to crank up the tempo, but I think you'll see a higher-scoring game than we've gotten used to, and of course, there's home court advantage.  KenPom gives us a 79% chance of a win, but that's using stats that don't take into account the new additions to the lineup; I think this'll be much, much closer.  I could easily see us losing this one, but I think this team has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to rising to the level of their competition, so I'll cross my fingers, shut my eyes, and call for a close win for the Hoos.

-- Final score: UVA 79, Miami 75

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pretty impressive holding on by the boys today. Moreover, they did it against a much more athletic squad on the wings.

Feeling better and better about Evans running the show. I like that he's a bit more of a threat now, and can make those teardrop runners. Harris had a quiet offensive game, but I was impressed with the D, particularly against more athletic guys. Mike Scott is Mike Scott.

Actually, I was very impressed with the freshman class, and in particular, Atkins and Jesperson. I think Jesperson could handle more time and acquit himself fairly well. Not a ton, but he seems a pretty heady kid with a nice stroke.

Atkins almost looks like a more athletic Mike Scott. Definitely not as polished, and he can only hope to develop as well, but feeling a lot more comfortable about the future.

This team likely won't blow anyone out in ACC play, but I'll be a tad surprised if they get blown out in many games. They'll be in most of their games, and in a down year in the ACC, they should do just fine.

Going to be very curious about the Duke game. The lack of a pure point for us means that Evans pressure D could cause some havoc up top. If he can stay out of foul trouble, that'll be a positive against Duke. I feel comfortable about rotating our big defensively against the Duke bigs, and in the end, it'll come down to execution, and perhaps guarding Austin Rivers (Evans is probably the best guy for that job despite the height difference, but with the lack of a pure point on Duke, I think I prefer Evans on the ballhandler).

Going to be a fun year.