(Editor’s note: Special thanks to Chicagomaroon of www.gobblercountry.com/ for working on this preview with us and providing advanced scouting on Virginia Tech)
Coming off of one of the most exhilarating victories in school history at Duke, The Miami Hurricanes return to action Thursday (9pm EST TBA/ESPN3) against struggling Virginia Tech at the BUC. Reggie Johnson out muscled the Blue Devils all day long on his way to a career high 27 points and 12 boards on Sunday. Fellow big man Kenny Kadji chipped in with 15 and 8, as Duke had no answers for the ‘Canes inside players. In the Hokies, UM will face a perimeter oriented team that is better than its 2-6 conference mark. Virginia Tech has lost 5 of its 6 ACC battles by 4 points or less. Much like last year’s UM team they have struggled to close out close games, but have been ultra competitive. If Miami hopes to avoid a letdown they will need to keep guards Erick Green (15.7 ppg) and Dorenzo Hudson (11.4 ppg) under control.
Reggie Johnson played with passion on Sunday against Duke.
Projected Starting Lineups:
C Reggie Johnson 6’10 300 JR
F Kenny Kadji 6’11 260 SO
G Shane Larkin 5’11 160 FR
G Malcolm Grant 6’1 188 SR
G Durand Scott 6’4 198 JR
F Victor Davila 6’8 245 SR
F Dorian Finney-Smith 6’8 192 FR
F Jarell Eddie 6’7 209 SO
G Marquis Rankin 6’1 165 FR
G Erick Green 6’4 185 JR
Keys to the Game: Do not bask in the glory of conquering Duke. Nothing will get you beaten quicker in this league then not showing up to play. Virginia Tech may be struggling but if Hudson and Green go off, it can be a long night for Miami. Additionally Finney-Smith is a big time talent who has had a rough freshman year. It would not be inconceivable for him to have a big game. Ever since the loss to NC State, Jim Larranaga has had the full attention of the team, so we do not expect a letdown, but anything is possible on any given night in the ACC.
Keep getting the ball inside. The Hokies would like nothing more then to watch UM launch a series of ill-advised threes. And while the ‘Canes are capable of shooting the ball well, the most efficient way for them to win is via Kadji and Johnson. Like most of the conference, the Hokies do not have the size or skill upfront to match-up with the ‘Canes big men.
Trying to guard Big Reg can be a hazardous chore.
Best Match-up: Victor Davila VS Reggie Johnson. Big Reg has a definite size advantage here, but the 6’8 245 Davila too likes to bang inside. With Va Tech loaded with small forward types, it would appear as if he will draw the unenviable assignment of checking big # 42. We wish him luck.
Va Tech's Victor Davila finishes with power.
Prediction: When the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” US Olympic Hockey team defeated the Russians they had one game left for the gold. In that game they fell behind early 2-0 to Finland before fiery Coach Herb Brooks fired them up by saying “ if you [mess] up here, it will be with you for the rest of your life.”
Well for the sake of Miami Men’s basketball Virginia Tech is Finland. Like the Americans in Lake Placid, Miami will follow-up their biggest win ever with another win. The prize may not be a gold medal, but it will take them one step closer to the NCAA Tournament. The ‘Canes roll 74-68.
Here is our full Q&A with Chicagomaroon of Gobbler Country:
C6: Virginia Tech is similar to the Miami team of last year in that they’ve lost a lot of close games. What are the reasons that VT hasn’t been able to close out some of those games? Do you think VT is improving?
GC: Looking back at the 2010-11 Miami team, I realized there were a LOT of similarities. In fact at this point of the season their records are almost identical. Both teams were shown some love in the pre-season (I know Miami was picked 8th, but analysts from around the country mentioned them as a sleeper team), especially considering the ‘Canes finished 12th in 2009-10 and the Hokies lost their top-3 players from 2010-11. I equate that to getting love a year too early. The ‘Canes played their way into that recognition with their performance at the 2010 ACC Tournament and the Hokies got it because of their 2011 recruiting class. Now look at the ‘Canes THIS year. That’s where the Hokies want to be next year.
However, back to this year: There are several reasons they are losing the close games. They don’t take care of the ball throughout the game. They don’t box out on the defensive end. They are too reliant on the 3-point shot (often bad ones). They don’t have any flow on offense and they seem to be running isolation instead of sets. These are all things that can be attributed to why Tech has struggled to win close games. But the thing I think is reason numero uno is the holes they put themselves into early in games. We’ve only held leads at half in three games in 2012. We have started the game off slow in almost every game in recent memory except against Clemson. For instance we started 0-17 against BYU at home (not kidding). When you have that big of a hole to climb out of it’s hard to win against anyone. While I think the Hokies are improving, it’s hard to tell. Every time you think they turn the corner they revert to their old habits and do something that calls that into doubt. So I really don’t have a definite answer on that one yet. Get back to me in a few games.
C6:We know that Dorenzo Hudson and Erick Green can score in bunches, what other players should ‘Canes fans worry about and who has been disappointing this year?
GC: Two players the ‘Canes should be worried about are Jarell Eddie and Victor Davila. Eddie is among the leaders in the ACC in 3-point percentage. He can be invisible at times, but when he is getting shots he can get all kinds of en fuego. That said, his shot selection is an issue and he can also be the guy who goes 0-5 from deep (I think he had that line against Duke). As for Davila, I’m going to go ahead and tell you he’s the answer to both parts of this question. He has been a bit of a disappointment this year because as our most senior post player, we thought he would be a HUGE impact player on this team. However, he has once again been just a role player. His average isn’t really up and his rebounding is down despite being the only true post player on the floor when he’s out there. BUT, to his defense, he NEVER gets fed in the post. He’s only a back-to-the-basket type of player. He has no mid-range game. So if you don’t give him touches, he’s not going to get any points. The games in which he’s done well (BC, Maryland, Duke) he’s gotten touches. But in the games this year where he does not have 5 shot attempts, he hasn’t scored in double figures. He’s incredibly efficient down low with his hook shot, so if he’s on Tech should feed him.
C6: You mentioned that VT is weak inside. With Miami’s strength being inside play in mammoth-center Reggie Johnson and do-it-all PF Kenny Kadji, how do you see VT’s front court matching-up?
GC: This may come back to bite me but I think Tech may have the most success defending Kadji of any of the ACC schools. Tech employs two tweeners (oh who am I kidding? They’re 3′s not 4′s) at the PF position in Dorian Finney-Smith and Jarell Eddie. While they will bring Cadarian Raines and Barksdale off the bench, Raines is almost exclusively a center and Barksdale doesn’t average much more than 10 mins a game. So unless Kadji decides to go to the low block all game then he won’t be taking advantage of his biggest asset against Tech: his size. If I were Larranaga I would demand both players to post on every possession. If Kadji goes to the perimeter, he may find getting good shots a bit more difficult. As for Johnson, he’s going to get his against the Hokies and I’m really worried. I love his game.
C6:What do you think Miami has to do to make the NCAA tournament? Also, what are your expectations going forward for the Hokies? Many fans, including ‘Canes fans think that VT got jobbed by the NCAA selection committee over the last 3-4 years. One year when VT was 11-5 in the ACC and didn’t make it was particularly horrific. As a VT fan, how do you deal with such disappointment based on factors outside of actual basketball? Do you think Miami is headed for a similar Titanic-like disaster come Selection Sunday?
GC: I think the ‘Canes are looking good right now, but as you mentioned cracking the Selection Committee’s formula for the last few years has been difficult. I DO think the ‘Canes need 10 wins in conference. I could see them getting in with 9 if one of those wins was over UNC, but that would also probably require getting to the ACC semi’s. The RPI is good, but a lot of things can happen still. If the ‘Canes win 11 they should be feeling pretty good, but as you mentioned, Tech was 23-7 (10-6) in 2009-10 entering the ACC tournament and got left at the altar, so that tells you how they feel about the ACC. As for the continual letdowns of the NCAA Selection Committee I try not to worry about it too much. I actually laughed with my friends a year ago as we watched the show because we knew it was going to happen. What else can you do? We were a sure-fire tournament team in 2007-08 and 2009-10 and a fringe team in 08-09 and last year. I can accept that we weren’t tournament worthy a year ago, but I can’t stomach an argument for UAB or VCU’s inclusion a year ago (even with VCU’s run, the selection process is supposed to be what qualifies you to be there, not what you CAN do if you’re admitted and everyone doubts you) OVER the Hokies. As long as the majority of people know what the truth is and the media clamors for Selection Committee reform and rips them for not including teams that deserve to go I can’t ask for much more. In one way, experiencing those letdowns on multiple occasions makes it a little easier to cope with, but that pill is bitter no matter how many times you have to swallow it. I’m hoping you guys never have to go through that.
Prediction: 75-66 Miami
Thanks again to Chicagomaroon with Gobbler Country, Please check out our answers to his questions here: