Coming off a successful 2-0 week to improve to 3-0, including a resounding victory over Big East foe Rutgers, Miami enters a transitional week. After one last home game against Florida Gulf Coast, the ‘Canes will take to the road for a challenging game against Mississippi. The Mississippi game begins a tough 5 game stretch that will define the ‘Canes out of conference success and determine how much work they need to do when they enter ACC play.
Florida Gulf Coast (2-2)
Tuesday, 7 PM, ESPN3/Regional Sports Network
FGCU is 2-2, but both losses were by 1 point (@TCU, @SMU). The two wins are against Ave Maria and Prairie View A&M, which are obviously nothing of importance. The 2 key factors with this team are:
1. They are young and small. They rely on their true freshmen guards for most of their production, including rebounding. Miami should have a size advantage in this game, and will definitely have an experience edge.
2. They have a new coach, who was an assistant at FSU prior to taking this job. He’ll be familiar with our players, but not with our systems, since, you know, we’ve never had one since I can remember.
Overall, FGCU likes to shoot the 3, as you’d expect considering their size. They are rather proficient at it, as well. However, they are very turnover prone, which you would also expect with a young team handling the ball.
JT’s Take: This is a game that shouldn’t be a problem for the ‘Canes, and I think they win by double digits rather easily.
Vishnu’s Take: One last warm-up game, it is imperative that the ‘Canes iron out any wrinkles before heading to Mississippi. I expect a comfortable win, with a loss obviously being a disaster.
Friday, 4PM, FSN/ESPN3
Ole Miss is 4-1 in the early season, having just wrapped up an appearance in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands, securing a 3rd place victory after an 11 point win over TCU. They are a physical, well-coached basketball team who will rely on their size against the Canes. And they have plenty of it. They are led by Terrence Henry (6’10”) and Murphy Holloway (6’7″ but plays much bigger). Watching Ole Miss, you get the sense that if they had a point guard to rely on, they could be a very, very good team. Unfortunately for them, the guard play is underwhelming, relying on a weird combo of a 6’4 true freshman PG with a 5’11 sophomore at SG. What this usually means is Ole Miss takes bad shots outside, dominates the offensive glass like none other, and limits you to one shot. If they played more inside/outside, they could be an NCAA team by the end of the year.
JT’s Take: For the Canes, in order to win, we’ll have to play big even if we are not big. Our guard play is vastly superior, so if we can take advantage of our perimeter advantage, we can go into Oxford and escape with a win. I think this game truly is a toss-up, but will be a great test for Kadji and Swoope. I also like Miami going on the road for a day after Thanksgiving game. There will be no concerns about what our kids ate the days before the game, seeing family, etc.. while also Ole Miss has just spent a week in the U.S.V.I and will have to re-accustom themselves with their home court.
Early in the season, strong guard play carries the day and Miami gets the win here, 66-63.
Vishnu’s Take: Ole Miss’ size certainly troubles me, given the ‘Canes well documented lack of depth in the front court. As JT mentioned, Ole Miss is returning from a pre-season tournament and has to mentally adjust to a “normal” game, while the ‘Canes will be on the road for the first time this year. I’m not sure who that benefits. To me, the key will be foul trouble up front. If the ‘Canes can stay out of it, Kadji and Swoope can hang in there and allow the ‘Canes to at least battle on the boards. Also, the ‘Canes aggressive defense will allow them to exploit Ole Miss’ lack of experience at the guard position.
If the ‘Canes can shoot well enough from 3 to get to 70 points, I think that will be enough to win this game. A loss here certainly won’t hurt the ‘Canes overall resume by the end of the year as Mississippi appears to be at worst a borderline tournament team, so this is an opportunity for the ‘Canes, and I think they will seize it for a close road win.