The Miami Hurricanes (12-4, 2-2) head to Winston-Salem to take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (10-7, 1-4) at 8 P.M. in a mid-week tilt. The game will air on ESPN3, or Fox Sports South/Carolinas if you live in the ACC footprint (basically the entire East Coast).
Coached by Jim Larranaga, the Canes bounced back from consecutive losses to Syracuse and Notre Dame last week to throttle Pittsburgh on the road 72-46 on Saturday. Leading 36-27 at the half, the Canes held the Panthers to just 19 second half points, and remarkably scored 18 points in each of the ten minute “quarters”.
Davon Reed, a former Wake Forest interest, was the MVP of the game, scoring 18 points on 7 shots, grabbing 6 boards, and dishing out 5 assists.
While the Hurricanes would love to grab another road win early on in the conference season, there is little doubt that this game is much bigger for Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons need to get to 7-8 conference wins by any means necessary, but if they lose tonight and drop to 1-5, the road becomes very difficult moving forward.
KenPom has the Hurricanes ranked 32nd in the nation, while the Deacs are at 41st. Wake is favored by one point in Vegas, as well as KenPom after the home-court advantage. By definition this is a toss-up game, but a vital one for Wake Forest to win before heading to Raleigh to take on N.C. State on Saturday.
Miami certainly isn’t the same team that went 27-8 last season and reached the Sweet Sixteen before falling to the eventual national champions Villanova, but Larranaga has another good squad down in Coral Gables this year.
Their four losses have come to Iowa State, Florida (both on neutral courts), at Syracuse, and at home to Notre Dame.
They are led by junior point guard Ja’Quan Newton, and senior SG/SF Davon Reed. Newton has struggled a bit offensively since ACC play has started, and is also using 30% of their possessions. A lot of that is due to his high turnover rate of 26%. He is also just 2-8 from three pointers, so if the Deacs can stop penetration that would be a big boost to limiting his play.
The Hurricanes continue to be on the slower end of the tempo scale at 66.2 possessions per game (302nd in the country). Wake Forest is 3-5 in games this season when the game is 70 possessions or less, but it is hard to garner much from that given four out of those five losses were to Tier-A opponents.
When Miami has the ball they like to try to get it inside without relying too heavily on the 3-point shot. They rank 288th in the nation in 3-point attempts/Field goal attempts at 31%. Their 78th ranked offense relies heavily on offensive rebounding (11th in the country), and inside shots (89th in eFG%).
Wake will need to keep an eye on the freshmen duo of Dejan Vasiljevic, and Bruce Brown, as they have both started conference season on fire from behind the three point line. They are both shooting 40.3% on the year overall.
The Canes struggle with turnovers and getting to the free throw line, so that could bode well for the big men inside staying on the court for Wake. Given the height of the Canes, this could be another game that Doral Moore plays a big role in. Hopefully he gets a spark from last week’s performance against the Tar Heels.
On the defensive side of things, Miami ranks 11th nationally (taking on Wake Forest’s 23rd ranked offense). They are very good at contesting shots, limiting opponent’s to a 43 eFG%, ranking 7th nationally. They are also 6th in the country in preventing opposing offenses from getting to the line. Forcing steals and defensive rebounding is slightly above average.
Collins and Moore need to be ready to battle and be strong tonight, as the frontline of Miami brings some strength and toughness to the game.
PG- Ja’Quan Newton (6-2, 185, Jr)
SG- Bruce Brown (6-5, 190, Fr)
SF- Davon Reed (6-6, 220, Sr)
PF- Kamari Murphy (6-8, 220, Sr)
C- Dewan Huell (6-11, 220 Fr)
PG- Bryant Crawford (6-3, 200, So)
SG- Keyshawn Woods (6-3, 205, So)
SF- Austin Arians (6-6, 230, Gr. Sr)
PF- Dinos Mitoglou (6-10, 255, Jr)
C- John Collins (6-10, 235, So)
It’s way too early in the season to call any one game a “must-win”, but as mentioned earlier, this is a game that Wake Forest really needs to win. Sitting at 1-4 is not insurmountable by any means, but there is a slim margin for error the rest of the way.
If the Deacs want to show that they are as improved as the metrics believe they are, then they need to get some wins. I believe that tonight is the night that they get, and hold a substantial lead to get some traction heading into Saturday against N.C. State.
I’ll take the Deacs in a slightly higher than expected score of 76-68.