Analyzing the Last Unbeaten in ACC League Play: Miami HurricanesPosted by EMann on January 19th, 2013
Not too many people would have expected Miami to be the last team in the ACC without a conference loss, sitting at 4-0 in league play at present, but that is indeed what has happened as we sit at just short of one-fourth of the way through league play. Ryan Kelly’s injury at Duke, North Carolina and Florida State’s disappointing play, and NC State acting in two straight games where the court was rushed (being on the winning side of one and the losing of another) have opened up this unlikely scenario. Is Miami’s run sustainable, especially considering that they are playing without big man Reggie Johnson?
Miami has three losses overall, and absences were to blame for all of them; their stunning loss to Florida Gulf Coast in its second game of the season was without Durand Scott, who was suspended, and Johnson, of course, missed Miami’s losses to Arizona and Indiana State following his thumb injury. In conference play, Miami has defeated Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Boston College on the road, and Maryland at home.
Miami’s success has largely been predicated on its defense — it currently ranks 15th in the nation in defensive efficiency (according to Pomeroy), and it has not surrendered more than 59 points in any of its league games, including allowing only 47 points to Maryland in a 67-possession game. But Miami’s task of remaining undefeated in league play becomes significantly harder when it hosts Duke on Wednesday. The Hurricanes defeated the Blue Devils in Cameron Indoor Stadium last season, but Duke (even without Ryan Kelly) are a much improved defensive team. If Miami were to win this game, they would move much closer to becoming an NCAA Tournament lock as well as strengthening its position on top of the league standings. As of now, Pomeroy projects a 14-4 mark for Miami in league play, which would be by far its best ever season since joining the ACC.
Miami’s turnover avoidance (currently 16th in the nation) is also a pertinent statistic, as the team’s offense could improve much more easily with better shooting considering it already does a fine job of avoiding turnovers. Miami’s success as they near a much harder part of their ACC schedule will continue to depend on how well Kenny Kadji, a stretch four/five, and sixth-year senior Julian Gamble, a more traditional post, can fill in for Johnson, and whether guards Shane Larkin and Trey McKinney Jones (who currently leads the team in offensive ranking) can increase their level of play.