With December Final Exams on the horizon, the Hurricanes only had one game last week: a 69-54 thumping of Boston University. The game was actually tied at the half, but the Hurricanes jumped all over Boston to start the second half with a 25-8 run. This game was notable for two aspects: first, Bruce Brown did not play as he was sidelined with an injured hand; second, Lonnie Walker had by far his best game as a Hurricane scoring 26 points with 5 three-pointers. Dejan Vasiljevic was the only other Hurricane in double digits with 15 points, as the Hurricanes relied on balanced scoring and a stingy defense that held BU to 32% shooting from the field and forced 13 turnovers. In a running theme, this was yet another coach that believes Miami could make noise in March based on its tremendous defense.
With the carnage elsewhere in college basketball, Miami moved up to #6 in the AP Top 25 and #8 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Safe to say there is a target on Miami’s back now.
Miami only has one game again this week – traveling to George Washington.
at George Washintgon
Saturday, December 16, 12:00 PM, CBS Sports Network
The Hurricanes go on the road to face the George Washington Colonels on Saturday. This is a classic example of smart scheduling, as the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee always values road and neutral site games (and especially, victories) so this gives Miami an opportunity to notch yet another road victory. The Colonels have opened their season a mere 5-5, but are battle tested having faced Florida State, Xavier, Kansas State, Temple, and Penn State. All of those teams are ranked in the top 60 according to Ken Pomeroy ratings, but the Colonels are only 1-4 in those games with the lone victory being against Temple. In fact, the other games were not even close, and as Miami comes into this game ranked 15th by Ken Pomeroy, the Hurricanes should be a heavy favorite. This is the return game of the rare “home and home” between non-conference opponents as Miami hosted George Washington en route to a 72-64 victory a year ago.
The Colonels are led by 6’9″ Senior Yuta Watanabe (15 ppg, 7 rpg, 2 bpg) as well as 6’4″ Sophomore Jair Bolden (14.5 ppg, 3 apg, 3.5 rpg). The rotation is rather tight with those two rarely coming off the court, and the other 3 starters playing nearly 30 minutes per game as well. If the Colonels find themselves in foul trouble, there is not much to turn to down the bench. Defensively, George Washington is good at keeping opponents off the free throw line (which is a good thing for Miami since we are still inexplicably incapable of making them), while also blocking a lot of shots. Offensively, George Washington is rather average but notably struggles shooting three-pointers.
Miami will be without Bruce Brown once again in this game, although he is close to return and will play in Hawaii for the Diamond Head tournament over the Christmas Holidays. That could lead to this game being closer than expected, but considering the expected talent discrepancy, this game does not fall in line with the usual “upset” potential considering the lack of shooting and lack of depth beyond the two primary scorers. This will be another opportunity for Miami to get key contributions from its depth that will serve it well come conference play.
I love how we schedule, and this one is perfect for building the NCAA Tournament resume. In what looks like will be a powerful ACC, these types of games matter. When Miami played the Colonels a year ago, Miami relied upon big games from Davon Reed, Ja’Quan Newton and Bruce Brown to get the victory. Two of those will not be playing this weekend, and the hope is that Lonnie Walker and Dewan Huell can step up. Having not played in over a week is always a small concern, but I think this will be similar to the Boston game: close for a while before Miami pulls away. Canes win by 14.
After a long layoff, the Canes have to be itching to get back on the court. Not having Bruce Brown sucks, it’s like going into battle with one shoe off. With that said, while George Washington has challenged themselves this year, they haven’t exactly played well in those games. I think this environment will be difficult. It’s a small gym and the fans will be pumped up. But Miami is so much more talented, the Canes just dominate and notch a decent road win. Canes by 17.