Virginia guard Sammy Zeglinski has worked on his levitation skills over the summer. Miami's Durand Scott is still struggling on that front. Please ignore the background of this photo, and do not remember the bad juju that happened there.
Today we are joined by the fellas over at Category 6 to preview the 9-4 Miami Hurricanes, who come to Charlottesville on Saturday to challenge the No. 21 ranked Virginia Cavaliers. We've asked them questions about their offense, their defense (spoiler alert: no full court press...phew!), their new coach, and a prediction.
We've got a strong Miami offense against an elite Virginia defense on our hands. According to Category 6, this is for the most part going to come down to Joe Harris vs. Durand Scott, who, in their words, "has been lights-out since Reggie [Johnson]'s return." The problem is, that was just four games ago, meaning he's been lights out against Florida Atlantic (who at least made the NIT last year and finished with a 21-11 record), Charlotte, Appalachian State and UNC Greensboro, the last three of which combined for a 33-59 record last season. This year, the four teams combine for a 19-35 record so far, with Charlotte the only team in the black.
Our interview is below, and you can catch our answers to their questions over at Category 6.
1. Virginia is known for their stingy defense. According to Ken Pomeroy, Miami has the best offense of any team the Cavaliers have faced so far this season. What should Virginia be worried about and how are defenses successful against Miami?
Category 6: Coming into this match-up, Virginia should be worried about the recent return of Reggie Johnson who has made the entire team better. Since Big Reggie's return, Miami is shooting 55% as a team and their inside-outside game has seen their 3-pt accuracy improve big time. Also, Kenny Kadji - a SO transfer from Florida - is exceeding expectations at 6'11 260lbs. Kadji isn't a typical big man in that he has an assortment of moves, can shoot 3s and is extremely athletic for his size. Miami has a ton of 2s and 3s that can shoot and play defense. Add in the DeQuan Jones factor - an extremely gifted, but inconsistent athlete - who is capable of taking over stretches of games with brute athletic ability. Overall, Miami is a very deep team with a lot of interchangeable pieces. Here is a link to our midseason analysis of the Canes as well:
2. Miami seemed either sluggish or to have looked past UNC-Greensboro earlier this week. What happened in that game that kept it so tight, before Miami pulled away in the final ten minutes.
C6: Two words: Trevis Simpson. Simpson, a G/F from UNCG, had the game of his life or the 'Canes win by at least 20 points. The 'Canes scored at will and so did Simpson for the first 31 minutes of the game. Simpson made indefensible shots including three-point heaves from way outside the arc and Grant Hill-like oop-dunks. He played great. Normally, when Miami plays a team that has a player that goes off, they lose. Even though the game was close, there was not too much fear that the 'Canes were going to fall. Side note: When Coach Larranaga switched Rion Brown to guard Simpson, it ended his magical night as the rest of his shots were forced and way off. The 'Canes may have found a lock-down defender at the 2 spot in Rion Brown.
3. Obligatory question on how Jim Larranaga is doing in his first year as head coach at Miami, and what the fan reaction has been so far.
C6: First things first, the fans love him. His coaching style is way different than that of Frank Haith. Larranaga has had to deal with multiple injuries and the implementation of a completely new system. He brings a lot of energy and he is constantly coaching on the sidelines. He's already got the 'Canes two solid prospects coming in next year and is chasing high-profile recruits in the coming years.
4. I don't know Larranaga's style as well as I probably should. I know that a while back, he had visited Tony Bennett's father, Dick, to learn a little bit more about the pack-line defense. Does Larranaga still implement a variation of this? Or, to cut straight to the chase and address my concerns, the real question is, how much, if any, full court pressure does Miami put on?
C6: Coach Larranaga doesn't press full-court very often. What Larranaga has implemented is a type of half-court press called the "scramble". The team is still learning it, so Coach uses it sparingly. Sometimes Larranaga will switch to full court to try to extend the lead with surprise pressure or obviously, if Miami is down FCP becomes a necessity.
5. I'd be remiss if I didn't at least ask about Malcolm Grant, a preseason All-ACC player. He leads the team in scoring, at 14.5 points per game, but he's got just one more assist to turnover to his name, and he's only shooting 38.1%. Is he still Miami's go-to guy, or is he somehow having a senior slump of a season?
C6: Good question. Sometimes stats aren't the best way to view a player's performance. Imagine if Mike Scott were injured and nobody respected Virginia inside do you think the shooters like Zeglinski would have as much room to operate? Also, Malcolm Grant missed the last two games due to a death in his family so he's still getting back into the swing of things. Miami doesn't really have a go-to guy, per se, but they have a number of skilled players capable of filling it up as in going for 15-20 points on a given night.
6. How do you see this game going down?
C6: With no disrespect to Virginia, we see Miami having a good chance to steal a tough game on the road. Reggie Johnson will have an advantage over Sene and Scott will have an advantage over Kadji, however, Kadji will force Scott to play defense the entire game. Zaglinski and Grant will probably cancel each other out. Leaving Harris against a ton of guys Miami can throw at him that can score and play defense effectively. Durand Scott has been lights-out since Reggie's return and Miami is starting to look like the team picked 3rd or 4th in the ACC before the rash of injuries knocked them down a peg. Back at nearly full strength, Miami has its best team in many years:
Thanks again to Category 6 for entertaining our questions and erroneously predicting the final score!