Tuesday, February 25, 2014
game preview: Miami
Date/Time: Wednesday, February 26; 7:00
TV: ACC Net., ESPN3
Record against the Canes: 5-10
Last meeting: Miami 54, UVA 50; 2/19/13, Coral Gables
Last game: UVA 70, ND 49 (2/22); Mia. 69, BC 42 (2/22)
UVA: 61.5 (#344)
Mia.: 58.7 (#351)
UVA: 112.1 (#43)
Mia.: 106.7 (#133)
UVA: 89.5 (#4)
Mia.: 97.7 (#54)
UVA: .9308 (#6)
Mia.: .7341 (#71)
PG: London Perrantes (4.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 3.7 apg)
SG: Malcolm Brogdon (12.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.4 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (11.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.3 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (7.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.4 apg)
C: Mike Tobey (6.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.4 apg)
PG: Garrius Adams (10.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.9 apg)
SG: Rion Brown (15.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.3 apg)
SF: Erik Swoope (3.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.5 apg)
PF: Donnavan Kirk (8.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 0.2 apg)
PF: Raphael Akpejiori (0.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 0.1 apg)
Amazing as it may sound, Syracuse isn't the next game. There's still the little matter of this Miami thing. The last time these two teams met, Miami was the 2nd-ranked team in the country and on its way to an ACC title. Fortunes have reversed somewhat; the Canes are 5-9 and no threat to make any tournament but the CBI, and it's UVA that's on a title quest.
A win here would give UVA the drop on Duke and clinch a seed no worse than 2nd in the ACC tourney, but more importantly, it'd be a piece of concrete proof (as if we needed any more) that Tony Bennett's insistence that the team climb the stairs one at a time is sinking in. Really, there's nothing here in terms of tournament setup that UVA can't do later on; there's also nothing they can do later (like win the regular season title) that can be sped up and done here. It's very much a take-care-of-business game.
-- UVA on offense
The Hoos are coming off their most explosive offensive performance of the year - 70 points in only 52 possessions - fueled largely by completely unstoppable forward play. Things will have to be a little different here. Miami has one of the best two-point defenses in the country - allowing a .429 shooting percentage, good for 15th-best.
UVA will get another healthy dose of zone defense here - Jim Larranaga is using it more heavily than in the past. His team is uniquely set up for it; practically everyone they'll deploy is 6'6" or taller, and do a solid job of discouraging drives at the rim. They foul very little, don't pick up a lot of steals, and they'll block shots (particularly Donnavan Kirk - he's been a very good rim defender his whole career). It's a pretty conservative defense.
That means things might look a lot like the VT game. UVA was unable to loosen up the Hokies' zone for long stretches, laying quite a few bricks along the way. Hopefully the familiar setting will fix some of those problems, because if the Hoos want a simple game, no muss no fuss, they'll need to hit the open threes that inevitably come their way.
-- UVA on defense
Miami is sort of an island of misfit toys on offense, and things didn't get better when Larranaga suspended forward James Kelly last week. Kelly's suspension is "expected to last three games" which means this one would be the final one, and it deprives the Canes of a versatile bench scorer. Kelly is the only player on the team shooting over .500 on the season.
Initially expected to try out freshman Davon Reed at point guard, Larranaga abandoned that experiment, and the starter at the 1 is Garrius Adams, more suited for shooting guard than point. He's backed up by waterbug freshman Manu Lecomte, who brings good secondary scoring and a rangy jump shot, but is still learning the ropes at point. The pack-line is already a tricky thing for a rookie point guard to handle; things could get interesting if Tony Bennett chooses to attack Lecomte with Justin Anderson, who stands nine inches taller and gives up nothing in terms of quickness.
Without Kelly, the most dangerous players on offense are probably Rion Brown and Donnavan Kirk. Kirk is the only major interior threat; seven-footer Tonye Jekiri doesn't bring much and Raphael Akpejiori is strictly a defender. Adams is the second-leading scorer, but he's never been terribly efficient; in general rather a volume scorer. Reed has shown a decent three-point shot, but is shooting only .317 from inside the arc.
Overall, though, poor shooting is what's doomed this team. They're at best inconsistent - when they win, it's because they're hitting their threes (or else the opponent is REALLY missing theirs.) Only VT shoots twos worse, though, in conference play. UVA should be leery of the Canes' three-point shooters, because most of their players won't hesitate to fire away, and the way the Canes set things up, we'll be in for it if they're hitting and we're not. But that's why home-court advantage exists.
Despite being a fairly poor offensive team by ACC standards - and despite supplying VT's only two conference wins - Miami probably isn't totally as bad as their record. They play solid D and they did go on the road to beat both FSU and UNC (the latter during the Heels' dark ages, though.) Still, with a hit to their depth and being on the road, and not being able to shoot all that well, Miami's a clear underdog. This game could be closer than you'd think it should be, because of Miami's wicked slow pace (you know it's bad when a Virginia fan is saying this; Miami is in fact the slowest team in the country, because zone defense and misfit point guards) and the possibility that we could go dry from three. Still, one of these teams is 14-1 for a reason.
Final score: UVA 57, Miami 50
Party time: I finally got around to putting up a new banner. The fact that the boring white one stayed for like a month was no purposeful protest, I just have a job and stuff and nobody stepped to the plate to make me a new one. So I said the hell with it, and did it myself. I know my limits as a graphic designer, and they are many and large, so I didn't get all ambitious, and I like the result. It's simple and clean, if I do say so myself. It's here to stay for a while.