Tuesday, February 19, 2013

game preview: Miami

Date/Time: Tuesday, Feb. 19; 9:00


Record against the Canes: 5-9

Last meeting: UVA 52, Miami 51; 1/7/12, Charlottesville

Last game: UNC 93, UVA 81 (1/16); Miami 45, Clem. 43 (1/17)


UVA: 60.7 (#336)
Miami: 63.5 (#281)

UVA: 109.2 (#42)
Miami: 110.5 (#31)

UVA: 88.6 (#20)
Miami: 84.5 (#4)

UVA: .8953 (#19)
Miami: .9397 (#10)

Projected lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (4.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 5.0 apg)
SG: Paul Jesperson (4.9 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.1 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (16.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.2 apg)
SF: Justin Anderson (6.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.3 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (12.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.5 apg)


PG: Shane Larkin (13.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.3 apg)
SG: Durand Scott (13.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.0 apg)
SG: Trey McKinney-Jones (9.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.8 apg)
F: Kenny Kadji (13.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 0.9 apg)
C: Julian Gamble (6.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.2 apg)

UVA has a golden opportunity tonight to do something really nice for its tournament hopes, but the thing about golden opportunities like this is that they're more commonly referred to as "games where we gonna die."  Miami remains UNDEFEATED (capitalized in hopes of getting the attention of the same jinx gods that let Team X get a basket every single time the "Team Y is on a 10-0 run" graphic is put on the screen) and at this point they're a near-lock for the #1 seed in the conference.  A win would do two things for UVA: bump them up in everyone's bracketology (except Jerry Palm's) and give UVA a near-guaranteed tiebreaker win over any ACC team where the head-to-head was a split.

-- UVA on offense

Has been relatively awesome of late, especially given that the loss of a lot of our interior presence has naturally made things more one-dimensional.  Joe Harris is learning what it means to put an offense on your back and start carrying it - it's a travesty that he wasn't ACC POW with not one but two career-high games.  (Get used to it.  If you think Harris is going to be anything more than 2nd team all-conference you're in for a disappointment.  Caulton Tudor might be retiring but there's still enough dumbasses left over in the media to screw Harris over.)  Miami's defense, though, has been outstanding.  Jim Larranaga has had them on a major upward trend in this area since Frank Haith left for Missouri.  About the only "weakness" they have is that they don't get a lot of steals; this is largely due to a forward-heavy lineup.

As you might guess, though, they block a ton of shots and are generally prickly as hell to score on down low.  Forward-heavy lineup.  Julian Gamble and Kenny Kadji are a couple of twin towers that will probably take away Jontel Evans's driving game almost completely; Gamble has a shot-block percentage of 10, which is 35th in the country.  Kadji's no slouch either.  Reggie Johnson is an enormous person and even though he lost his starting job, Miami loses nothing on defense when he subs in.

UVA's best shot at scoring obviously is to make it rain three-pointers and loosen things up; that's been the plan for a while now.  If Larranaga can be lured into the same thing Mark Turgeon was, and pull his bigs off the floor in an effort to slow down the artillery barrage, we'll have our best chance at winning.  My guess is Larranaga's too sharp for that; he can't have missed the Maryland game.

Having Justin Anderson flying around the court will also be important.  Miami's bigs aren't unathletic, but Anderson's the most likely to be able to add another dimension to an offense begging for it.  Unless Akil Mitchell can work a few post moves, that is, and I expect Miami to double him a lot since there's very little risk in doing so.

-- UVA on defense

Miami's success is unsurprising when you see the high level of play they're getting from well-rounded sources.  Shane Larkin is getting some well-deserved pub for his point-guard play.  He does a little of everything and all of it well.  He's a 40+% three-point shooter, he can get to the rim, and he gets the ball to his teammates with a nearly 2/1 A/T ratio.  Jontel Evans will have his hands full on defense; like, more than Erick Green levels full, because he can't just dare Larkin to pass.

The obvious biggest problem is down low, though.  This isn't like handling Alex Len where you can just double-team; Gamble and Kadji are both down-low nightmares for a team as thin as we are in the frontcourt, and Kadji is a mismatch forward besides, with the ability to hit three-pointers.  If you think Evan Nolte has been getting abused lately on defense, it's about to get a lot worse.  I think Justin Anderson gets Kadji at first because of the nice job he did on Len, but he'll get little help.  Even if Larranaga "goes small" it's highly unlikely that there won't be at least one of Johnson, Gamble, or Kadji in the game at all times, and more likely two.

At guard, Miami's got a solid depth of scoring options.  Durand Scott is good enough to play for anyone, and Trey McKinney-Jones is probably underutilized but just as tough as Scott.  And the whole team takes care of the ball very well, especially bench guard Rion Brown, who's in the top 15 in the country in turnover percentage.  Brown's not a terrific shooter relative to the others, though.

If we weren't so thin right now I'd suggest the best course of action might be to hack away.  Gamble's an awful free-throw shooter and the rest of the team ranges from mediocre to OK, with McKinney-Jones being the only real sure thing; even Larkin and Scott are only in the low .700s, lowish for guards.  It's the only thing Miami doesn't do real well on offense, but it's not like they're godawful, just worse at that than most other things they do.

-- Outlook

The Canes have had some close shaves this year.....but all on the road, including their now-ignored loss to FGCU.  In ACC play, they've won their games by an average of 5.5 points on the road and 21.2 points at home.  This game is not being played in Charlottesville.  If we win, we probably hit more than two-thirds of our three-pointers.... or else were really, really good at denying entry passes.

Final score: Miami 72, UVA 59

Also, I saved this for today because I wanted it to appear in conjunction with the preview....

....to point out the immense likelihood that the top two teams are just about locked into place.  Even with a loss tonight, Miami's chances of getting the #1 seed would drop from almost 98% to about 93.5%, which is still higher than they were last week.  What it means is that obviously the Miami and Duke games are chances to position ourselves for seeding, but even with wins we're not that likely to pass either one.  But what a win against either would do is put a huge wall up around our 3rd seed that NC State and UNC can't get past; both for the obvious reason and because it solidifies our tiebreakers over them.

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