Last week saw the ‘Canes dispatch another non-major program before suffering their first loss of the season, in overtime against Mississippi. The ‘Canes lack of size was finally exposed, as Mississippi dominated the glass (the numbers don’t reflect this domination accurately). Still, after falling behind 17-0, the ‘Canes rallied back to take a 5-point lead with less than 5 minutes left. Unfortunately, they couldn’t hold that lead and fell in overtime. While the ‘Canes failed their first road test, they did so just barely and with plenty of season left, there is ample time to recover.
I have maintained all along that the ‘Canes need to go at worst 2-3 in this tough 5 game stretch. The lost opportunity at Mississippi could sting come tournament time, but the ‘Canes have no time to rest, with a challenging week ahead, with 2 tough games where the ‘Canes must at worst win 1.
Tuesday, 9 PM, ESPN2, ESPN3
The ‘Canes meet the Boilermakers as part of the ACC-B1G challenge. This will be the ‘Canes toughest test yet, as a veteran Purdue team is most likely going to be dancing in March. Senior forward Robbie Hummel headlines a 3-headed monster of seniors which also includes guard Ryne Smith and guard Lucas Jackson. The saving grace for the ‘Canes is that the veteran, tournament tested Boilermakers don’t have a lot of size. Their tallest player is 6-9 and most of their key rotation players are 6-8 and under, which should allow the ‘Canes to get away with playing small ball. Limiting Hummel, Smith and Jackson will be key if the ‘Canes have any hope of winning.
JT’s Take: On the road against one of the more veteran teams in the country, I expect the Canes to struggle a bit in this game. I don’t think we have anyone that can truly matchup with Robbie Hummel, and our usual advantage at the guard positions will be nullified by the experience on the other side. Purdue is also an excellent three point shooting team, which I think will be the difference in this game. Unfortunately, this is another game where I think with Reggie on the court, the Canes could win. Without him, we need to make a strong showing, and come out with more urgency than we showed in Oxford on Friday. Purdue wins 69-60.
Vishnu’s Take: Tough, tough game. Fortunately, the ‘Canes were tested on the road, and despite that loss, the deer in headlights aspect should be gone. With that said, Purdue is a legit, big time program with veteran leadership. Winning on the road there will be difficult, and Purdue matches up well with the ‘Canes. For Miami to win, they will need to basically be on fire from 3-point land and force the tempo, to get Purdue in and up and down game. I don’t think they will be able to force Purdue into that game on their home court, however, and I expect the ‘Canes to lose a close one.
Saturday, 1 PM, ESPNU
This team is hard to get a read on. They started out the season hot, beating up some cupcakes before annihilating Boston College. They then traveled to the Bahamas for the “Battle 4 Atlantis” tournament, where they went 1-2, with a blowout win over Utah and blowout losses to Florida State and the College of Charleston. In summary, they are really up and down, and you have no idea which UMass team will show up on a given day. One thing is for sure though, UMass will hoist up a lot of 3-pointers. They are 5th in the nation with 27 3-point attempts per game, but only hit them at a 29% clip. This could explain their inconsistencies. If they are hitting their 3s, they are incredibly difficult to beat, if not, their offense breaks down and they are in danger of getting blown out. UMass’ size shouldn’t be an issue for Miami, but they do feature a true 9-man rotation, so endurance might factor for the depleted ‘Canes.
JT’s Take: Letdown game. This game honestly scares the crap out of me, no matter what happens against Purdue. While UMass is not a great team, or perhaps not even a good team, they are battle-tested and will not just show up in Coral Gables for the check. They are coming to win, and a Saturday 1pm start for the Canes after playing on the road against Ole Miss and Purdue screams empty arena and let down. I think the Canes pull this one out, but it’s going to be a tight game. Miami wins 64-61.
Vishnu’s Take: This is a must-win at home. That’s no knock on UMass, who is a legitimately solid team, but losing to a team at home that has already been blown out by 20 points twice with Memphis and West Virginia ahead on the schedule will be unacceptable. This is a sandwich game, playing highly regarded Purdue before and Memphis after. But Larranaga is a veteran coach, and I trust him to have the team ready to play. If the ‘Canes successfully challenge shooters and force UMass out of their 3-point game, they will win. I think that happens and the ‘Canes get a solid win before shifting focus to Memphis.