The ACC in the NCAA: Can Pacific Beat Miami?Posted by KCarpenter on March 22nd, 2013
There are, theoretically, lots of ways that a team can get upset. In practice, the formula for a big upset tends to have a few common recurring elements that appear with a sort of frequency that would make James Frazer proud. Upset-minded teams typically play at a slow tempo, make a lot of threes, rarely commit turnovers, and have a veteran coach and players. The good news for Pacific University is that it looks a lot like a team capable of an upset.
Pacific plays at the 285th fastest speed in Division I and as a team makes 39.1% of three-pointers (12th best nationally!). A turnover percentage of 17.7% ranks in the top 50 in the country and veteran Bob Thomason coaches a team loaded with juniors and seniors. Thomason has coached at Pacific since 1988 and has previously led his teams to NCAA Tournament wins over Pittsburgh and Providence. Even more important (at least for the narrative-minded), Thomason has announced that this will be his final year coaching, and that after 25 years, he will be hanging up his whistle after this tournament. It sounds like a perfect storm of circumstances for a team to overachieve and give their coach one last hurrah. So does Pacific have what it takes to beat Miami?
It does, but it’s not enough. As capable as Pacific is offensively, this is a thoroughly mediocre defensive team. Though Miami has gone through offensive struggles at times this year, the final game of the ACC tournament did a lot to demonstrate what a potent offensive force the Hurricanes can be, especially when Shane Larkin is leading the charge. The other issue is frontcourt play. While Pacific has a pair of capable 6’8″ players, Miami’s three-headed monster at center is a formidable opponent for anyone, much less a team that struggles to put any kind of height on the floor. Pacific is in a tough situation: go big and be punished on the inside or go small and get beat at their own game. North Carolina had demonstrated a fairly potent small-ball attack at the close of the season and Miami showed that they could match-up with that roster and still win with their size on the bench.
Pacific, superficially, looks like a team ready for the upset, and, if everything goes right (specifically, Miami stalling out offensively and the Hurricanes bigs having ineffective games), it is conceivable that the Tigers could pull this off. However, the Tigers’ weaknesses on defense and the boards look like insurmountable obstacles against a team as talented and well-coached as Miami.