Your undefeated, No. 3 Virginia Cavaliers take on the Miami Hurricanes tomorrow in both teams' ACC openers. It's still early on enough in the season that no one knows anything about the other. So, we're joined by our SB Nation brethren in Miami to answer all of our questions for us. They did not bow down to UVA as their new ACC overlords, but it's worth a read anyway. We answered their questions as well.
Streaking The Lawn: Miami came out blazing in the second half of that Florida game to take down an admittedly inflated top-ten team. Shooting 70% from beyond the arc? How replicable has that been?
SOTU: In the Gildan Charleston Classic, Vs Drexel, Akron, and Charlotte, there were stretches where the percentages were right there with the second half of UF. The big difference in those games however, was that those were more team efforts. The 'Canes defeat of the Gators was almost completely a single-handed effort on the part of Angel Rodriguez, who want nuts in the second half from deep. Miami is better off when Manu Lecomte, James Palmer, Deandre Burnett, Omar Sherman, and Sheldon McClellan among others get involved as well from distance. At the same time, in their recent stretch where they have lost 3 times, the 3 ball has at times abandoned them completely (see 1-13 from deep in the first half vs. Providence). But games like that are inevitable when a large portion of your offense is centered around 3 pointers. Some games, the shots just won't fall. When the 'Canes are at their best the guards are penetrating and finding each other and the wings for good open, rhythm looks. When that is happening they are more than capable of making a high percentage of shots, even if 70% is not always realistic.
STL: The Canes rattled off eight wins to open the season, taking down two ranked opponents and climbing to as high as No. 15 in the rankings. Since then, though, Miami's lost three of five -- to Green Bay (we empathize), Eastern Kentucky, and Providence. What have you noticed in the past five games that's led to this sort of rut?
SOTU: Two things. First as mentioned above, the shots were not falling. Now a large portion of that was that they weren't moving the ball well enough to get those same open looks. Also however, some of the same good open looks they got earlier in the season just weren't going down. More disconcerting on the other hand, was the second part of what went wrong, they weren't hustling back on defense. Their transition D Vs Green Bay and Providence, was awful In his most recent press conference after the win Vs Charleston Tuesday, Miami Head Coach Jim Larranaga told the media that he stopped recent practices and made the entire team run whenever a player did not get back in transition. Long story short, we think they will get the second part of this equation fixed. As far as making shots, UM needs to continue to penetrate and move the ball and not settle for long threes off the dribble, or forced ones as the shot clock expires. Virginia will certainly test them out in that regard this afternoon.
STL: Do you see Miami climbing back into the Top 25 before the season's end? What are three things that would get them there?
SOTU: It's going to be tough. Not so much because the Hurricanes aren't capable of playing outstanding basketball, but more so because running off a series of wins in the ACC is no easy task. After tomorrow's contest with Top 5 UVA, they have games with #2 Duke and a top 15 Notre Dame team in 2 of their next 3. A trip to Syracuse looms shortly thereafter, and they have two games with Louisville down the stretch. If the 'Canes do make it back, they will have earned it. A win tomorrow would be a major step in that direction. As I eluded to above, getting shots in rhythm and getting back on defense are the two biggest things they need to do. If I had to pick a third I would say doing a better job on the glass. Fortunately for Miami, 6'10 JUCO transfer Ivan Cruz Uceda will be back and eligible in a few games.
STL: Sheldon McClellan appears to be a scoring machine and a scoring threat from seemingly anywhere on the court. What will Virginia need to do to hold him back?
SOTU: McClellan is a very unselfish player, and rarely forces his game. When he gets out in transition, he is pretty much unstoppable (reported 44 inch vertical). His jump shot looks better and better each time out, and he is more consistently getting to the rim. He hasn't really played a bad game this year. However he has had games where perhaps he defers too much to his teammates. The best way to slow him down is just to make his looks as difficult as possible and force him to give the ball up.
STL: Who's your pick for tomorrow and why?
SOTU: Jim Larranaga is as honest a coach as I can remember in watching 30 plus years of College Hoops. When he looks and sounds concerned, there is good reason. He explained the 'Canes recent struggles as a product of being "relaxed" after the hot start. Leading up to those games you could almost gauge how the team would perform by watching/listening to his pressers. After listening to Coach L following the 67-40 win over CoC, I am confident the ship has been righted. Larranaga said the team had their best practices in over a month, starting on 12/26. So expect the best version of Miami tomorrow. That being said, the couple of times I have watched Virginia this year I have come away incredibly impressed. Only Kentucky and maybe Duke are playing better. They have so much balance. And they can beat you with their many weapons on offense (Brogdon, Anderson, Tobey, Gill, Perrantes) just as easily as with their signature, stifling pack line D. For UM to get the win, they are going to have to shoot the ball lights out. That being said, they are due for that kind of performance. I think Miami comes out firing, and a hits bunch of early threes to build a nice lead. But in the end, Virginia gets enough stops, and a few easy buckets, to come away with a hard fought 67-64 win.