Virginia Tech has been off since last Tuesday night, and they’ll need all that preparation time and more for tonight’s opponent. Tech travels to #10 Miami, and the Hurricanes are a legit threat to win the ACC for the second time since 2013.
Head coach Jim Larranaga has done a great job in his time at Miami. He’s guided the Canes to an NCAA Tournament and two NITs, and this season he’ll be going to his second NCAA Tournament as Miami’s coach. His team won the ACC Tournament in 2013 and advanced to the Sweet 16, and this year’s team looks just as good.
Miami comes into this game with a 20-4 mark overall, and a 9-3 record in ACC play. Though they’ve won their last two games against PItt and Florida State by just two points each, in general the Canes have been winning comfortably this year. They rank #9 in the country in RealTimeRPI.com’s ratings, while the Ken Pomeroy ratings have them #13. They are a legit ACC contender, and they have the depth to make a run in the postseason.
Here’s their projected starting lineup…
G Angel Rodriguez (5-11, 185, r-Sr.): 11.4 ppg, 107 assists, 36 steals, Kansas State transfer
G Sheldon McClellan (6-5, 200, r-Sr.): 16.3 ppg, 51.9% from the field
G Davon Reed (6-6, 210, Jr.): 10.7 ppg,
F Kamari Murphy (6-8, 220, r-Jr.): 6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, Oklahoma State transfer
C Tonye Jekiri (7-0, 248, Sr.): 8.1 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 28 blocks
Off the bench, Ja’Quan Newton (6-2, 200, So.) is the team’s second leading scorer. He averages 11.4 points per game.
Overall, Miami has a very experienced team. They start three seniors and two juniors, and three of their starters have redshirted. Their talent level is good, but it’s really their experience level along with Jim Larranaga’s coaching ability that is pushing them over the top.
Here’s how they rank in some critical areas…
Offensive Efficiency: #21
Defensive Efficiency: #52
Offensive Rebound Rate: #138
Defensive Rebound Rate: #70
Turnovers per Possession: #34
Opp. Turnovers per Possession: #51
Here’s how the Hokies compare…
Offensive Efficiency: #165
Defensive Efficiency: #136
Offensive Rebound Rate: #151
Defensive Rebound Rate: #192
Turnovers per Possession: #172
Opp. Turnovers per Possession: #201
Virginia Tech keeps dropping across the board, and they are worse than Miami in every single category. However, the Canes aren’t a very good offensive rebounding team, which is something that has plagued the Hokies this season. If Tech can keep Miami off the glass, then they’ll have a chance to hang around.
This will be one of Tech’s greatest challenges of the season. Miami can be beaten like anyone else, but only four teams have managed to accomplish it this year.
Northeastern: 78-77 at Miami
UVA: 66-58 in Charlottesville
Clemson: 76-65 at Clemson
NC State: 85-69 in Raleigh
Miami’s shocking loss of the season was to Northeastern, a CAA team who is just 14-13 on the season. Right now the Canes are probably a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but they could potentially be in the running for a #1 seed without that loss to Northeastern.
At any rate, Jim Larranaga’s team is an extremely tough out. The Hokies will have to play their best game of the season to win.