After a 73-59 loss in Atlanta on Saturday, the Deacs look to bounce back against Miami tonight at 7 in Winston-Salem.
Miami comes into the game with a 15-8 record (5-5 in the ACC). They snapped a three game losing streak over the weekend with a 56-45 win over Clemson on Sunday afternoon.
The Hurricanes have had a strange season to say the least, posting wins over Florida, Duke, Syracuse, and Clemson, but losing to Eastern Kentucky and Georgia Tech by 20+ points at home.
They are coached by Jim Larranaga, he of George Mason Final Four fame, and an ACC Tournament title as well in 2013. The Canes were generally slated to finish around the NCAA/NIT threshold, starting the season at 57 in KenPom. They have oscillated in a fairly absurd manner as noted above, rising as high as 18th in KenPom on the heels of an 8-0 start but dropped a whopping 42 spots to 65th following the 72-44 loss to EKU. They then followed up that loss by falling to Providence by double digits on a neutral site, thus bottoming out at 78th in the nation. Following those two losses the Canes were able to right the ship a bit, jumping back up to 43rd after upsetting Syracuse in the Carrier Dome but then lost three in a row to Georgia Tech, Florida State, and Louisville thus requiring the Canes to go on a bit of a spurt to get back into any sort of NCAA consideration.
While this seems to be a bit of a tall task, the Canes still have a solid number of games against ACC teams slated to finish towards the bottom of the conference with six of their final eight games against teams ranked 97th or worse in KenPom. In other words Miami has negotiated the difficult portion of their schedule and at 15-8 can get up to 20 wins merely by holding serve in a handful of games against lesser opponents. This starts tonight on the road against the Demon Deacons where Wake is a 68-67 favorite on KenPom.
The Canes rely heavily upon their top three players as Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan, and Tonye Jekiri all play at least 75% of Miami's minutes. Rodriguez, the Kansas State transfer who was a staple of the Canes' offense for the first two months of the season, has struggled lately and has not reached double digits in the last four games after reaching double digits in 15 of the first 19 games. When Rodriguez has struggled, generally so has the rest of the team as the Canes are 3-5 when he does not reach at least ten points and 12-3 when he does. Perhaps the strangest statline of the year for Angel was his one point effort in the embarrassing 72-44 loss to Eastern Kentucky where he went 0-6 from the field.
Miami generally runs man-to-man on defense and likes to slow the game down on both ends of the court, but definitely is more conscious of ball management and time of possession when they are on offense where they rank 290th in the nation in possession length. The Canes are for the most part an intelligent team which does not foul the opposition very much, seen by their 6th best free throws attempted/field goals attempted ration in the nation. Also benefitting Miami is the fact that opposing teams are shooting the 5th worst percentage in the nation from the foul line at an obscenely low 62.9% clip. So great free throw defense guys!
For Wake to knock off the Canes they are going to need to take it to the basket with conviction and look to draw some contact inside to create foul trouble. Wake should dominate the glass on both ends of the court as Miami generally does not crash either side of the boards very hard. They are particularly poor at hitting the offensive glass and rank 269th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage.
This is a very winnable game for the Demon Deacons who are seeking to win their fourth conference game of the year, but just like Wake Miami has been woefully inconsistent and quite frankly anything can happen here. Wake desperately needs a solid performance to bounce back from the lackluster effort on Saturday down in Atlanta. The Deacs need to get back to the offense that was hitting on all cylinders in the first half against the Pack to put the Canes on the ropes. Wake frequently becomes too reliant on the outside shot and does not get good looks from inside out of the halfcourt set with any consistency.
All this being said I believe that this is going to be a very close back and forth game. If either team gets blown out I would be pretty surprised. Ultimately my prediction is Miami wins a tight one 68-65 but this is certainly winnable for Danny Manning's squad. If you're in town tonight get out to the Joel and support the team on an important midweek game.Similarly, if you have questions, concerns or comments please let us know below and let us know what you think will happen tonight.
As always, go Deacs!