One of the things I love about postseason basketball is a shot at opponents we're not used to. It's of course an opportunity to learn more from someone who covers them, and this week that means chatting with SB Nation's Miami Hurricanes blog, State of the U.
They've already asked and published my answers to a round of questions, which you can find here.
On to it, then.
Bull Run: Believe or not, I'm actually a Boston College alum. As they've gone to shit, I don't pay attention to them as much now and don't know the ACC as well as I once did. The two Canes that stick out in my memory are Angel Rodriguez and Tonye Jekiri. How would you summarize their games, and how do they compare to two Canes from the past, Shane Larkin and Reggie Johnson?
SOTU: Outstanding question. Angel is similar to Larkin in terms of style of play, but no where near as athletic or polished Like Larkin, he does a lot of his business in transition and using the myriad of high screens that will be set primarily by Jekiri. Angel is also way more of a streak shooter than Larkin, and gambles more on defense. Both were/are outstanding passers. I love Angel's tenacity and he has had some amazing games as a 'Cane (25 points 5 assists, 5 steals Vs Duke in a win at Cameron last year is my favorite) but Larkin was a much more consistent and better player. To sum it up Rodriguez was a third team All ACC player whereas Larkin was the Coach's pick for conference player of the year as a sophomore. But Angel is a hell of a competitor and an outstanding college PG nonetheless.
As for the comparison on the big men. Reggie, when healthy (his senior season was largely a wash), was a back to the basket, 300 pound force, with soft hands. He was very accomplished putting the ball in the hoop. Jekiri is more like former 'Cane big Julian Gamble. His D and his rebounding are his best assets. He's had some nice offensive games (20 Vs Utah's Jakob Poeltl earlier this year) but he often struggles to finish in close. Jekiri is the way better defender of the two though. He may not block a lot of shots, but he alters a ton, and does so with out drawing a lot of fouls (most games).
Bull Run: Miami was last in the Tournament in 2013. Not that Buffalo is battle-tested themselves, but what kind of postseason experience does this group have?
SOTU: Well the 'Canes made it all the way to the NIT final last year, where they lost to Stanford. And of course the ACC itself almost has a postseason type feel in the regular season. UM regularly plays in venues like Cameron, The Carrier Dome, The Dean Dome, etc, so they are certainly experienced in difficult and large venues. That along with last season's NIT run should prove valuable this postseason.
Bull Run: Jim Larranaga has been a favorite of mine since (of course) his Final Four run. Now that's he's through a full recruiting cycle, how does your fanbase feel about his tenure compared to Frank Haith's?
SOTU: Talk about a difference. First of all Haith left amid controversy. Just prior to his departure the entire Athletic Department (well mostly football and on a smaller scale basketball) went under investigation for the Nevin Shapiro scandal, of which Haith was a part. Add to the mix that the hoops program had just one NCAA appearance in Haith's 7 years, and let's just say they won't be building any statues of him in Coral Gables. Coach L on the other hand has first and foremost kept the program clean. On the court, they won they ACC regular season and conference tourney for the first time ever in 2013. Not to mention he owns a 4-2 record Vs Coach K, and a winning record overall Vs UNC.
In a nutshell, Larranaga's work at Miami has been nothing short of amazing. This season they challenged for yet another regular season title in arguably the most competitive conference in America. Next year they have a Top 10 class coming in featuring Top 30 players Dewan Huell and Bruce Brown. The program has never been in better shape. They sold out all of their home games this year. Larranaga is simply amazing.
Bull Run: There's no shame in losing to Virginia, but Miami has lost two of its last three games. What did Virginia and Virginia Tech do right to beat the Canes?
SOTU: Virginia really frustrated the Hurricanes with their pack line defense. Miami loves to take the ball to the hoop. Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan, Davon Reed, and especially 6th man Ja'Quan Newton (the all time leading scorer in Philly H.S. history) all are outstanding off the dribble. The Hoos played them very physically, and forced more contested jumpers than UM would like to take. On the other end they overcame Miami's excellent defense by letting ACC POY Malcolm Brogdon make big plays late in the shot clock.
The Va Tech loss was just a poor performance by the 'Canes. The Hokies came into the game red hot, and Miami never matched their intensity. That's okay though because in the ACC Tourney UM got their revenge. As far as keys to beating Miami overall, I would say play physically and crash the glass. Even with Jekiri's presence, rebounding is the one weakness (sometimes) on this team.
Bull Run: I'd love a prediction of your own as well
SOTU: Well until this week I had not watched the Bulls' at all. And as of this writing I have only seen highlights and portions of a few contests. They look fast and athletic. They also look like they love to compete. So I will say they keep it close for a half. But the wills of McClellan and Rodriguez will take over in the final 20. Reed and Newton and stars in their own rights, and Miami;s depth carries the day in an 87-60 win.
Big kudos to Jerry for actually watching some of our film before making a prediction and for taking the time for a back and forth. Head on over to State of the U for his questions and my answers.