Miami had a disastrous week and is now firmly planted on the bubble after offensive anemia resulted in them scoring 50 and then 55 points in consecutive home losses. The defense also failed at critical junctures and no one on the team can feel good about their performances. According to the Bracket Matrix, the Canes are roughly an 8-seed, but that still does not fully reflect the performance against Syracuse, so Miami is actually closer to a 10 or 11 seed at this point.
There isn’t much to talk about with regards to last week’s performances other than that no one shot well, no one played well, and the team is reeling.
With that said, this week is an opportunity, or could sentence the season to disaster. The Canes have a quick turnaround, heading to South Bend on Monday night before a rematch with Boston College.
Monday, February 19th, 7pm, ESPN
The Canes head to South Bend for their one and only matchup with Notre Dame. Preseason expectations were high for the Fightin’ Irish, and initially, they lived up to those expectations, going 11-3 in the 14 games that Bonzie Colson played. But after his injury, ND wobbled, including a 7 game losing streak. But they have been playing better as of late, winning 3 of 4, with the only loss coming at North Carolina. This leaves ND at 16-11 overall and 6-8 in conference.
So how has ND turned their season around? By igniting their offense in blowout wins over BC (twice) and FSU. Which means if the Canes are to win this game, it will be on the defensive end. Hold ND under 70 points, and that should be enough to win. There are 3 players that Miami must stop: Matt Ferrell, TJ Gibbs, and Martinas Geben. Ferrell in particular appears to be indicative of whether the Irish succeed or not. In their 3 wins over the last 4 games, he has scored, 19, 28, and then 37 points, while in the one loss, he only scored 9 points, including shooting 3-18 from the field, and 1-12 from 3. Gibbs also struggled against UNC, but Gebens performed well in that game. In general, expect Ferrell to attempt double-digit 3-pointers, which he has done in his last 7 games.
Defensively, Notre Dame actually isn’t bad, and holds opponents under 70 PPG, so Miami cannot afford to let ND go off and expect to outscore them. But the key for the Canes will be to guard the 6-1 Ferrell, which basically means Lykes can’t be the one guarding him. Ferrell will take advantage of that, so Larranaga’s challenge is to get minutes out of Lykes while also not allowing Ferrell to get going. If Miami limits Ferrell, they should be in good shape.
Saturday, February 24, 2:00 PM, ESPN3
Miami returns home for a rematch with Boston College (who plays at NC State earlier in the week) after completely imploding down the stretch of the 1st game and giving it away. At home, you’d expect better, but there is a problem that showed up in the first game which will still be present here. BC has two, talented, big guards, and Miami really only has Lonnie Walker to cover (and Newton off the bench). This is where the Canes really miss Bruce Brown. In the last meeting, guards Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman scored 53 points together.
With that said, Miami can definitely get more out of Huell and Amp, and that will allow them to score more. The Canes went into a huge scoring drought to end the last game. Absent that, they win in spite of Robinson and Bowman. Walker, Huell, and Amp all scored in single digits last time (with Walker saddled with foul trouble), and if they all hit their scoring average, then Miami will easily be able to give Newton more minutes, which will help defensively.
Miami was clearly the better team in the first matchup, and at home, they should be able to win this. A loss here basically ends at-large NCAA hopes.
Really rough week for the Canes, and there’s no time to regroup. With how we’ve played of late, I don’t see Miami getting a road victory in South Bend. Notre Dame wins by 10. Hopefully by the time Boston College comes to Coral Gables, the Canes are ready. Miami wins by 6.
The Canes have struggled with guard dominant teams, and Notre Dame is definitely that. Walker has to start on Ferrell, but that might enable Gibbs. Newton might need to see significant minutes, but this is a game where Huell and Amp have to perform. I think Ferrell will score, and Gibbs will have some success. But Miami should defend well enough, and score well enough to just pull this out. Miami by 3.
Miami was better than BC in the first meeting. And they still are now. I don’t think Walker gets in foul trouble, and while they’ll be able to exploit Lykes, Amp and/or Huell will do something. And Lykes did give it back to them in the last game, scoring 16 of his own. If Miami wins in South Bend, then they should be much more confident offensively. Miami by 7.