Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #2 Miami and #15 Pacific in Austin.
Three Key Takeaways:
- Miami came to play. There were some worries about the Hurricanes’ preparedness entering the tournament as no one on the team had any NCAA Tournament experience. Miami put these worries to rest early in its Round of 64 trouncing of Pacific. The Hurricanes looked ready to play from the get-go and maintained a double-digit lead from the 11:03 mark of the first half to the end of the game. When the Hurricanes struggled this season, much of it had to do with inconsistent offense and poor defense. Against Pacific, Miami was very efficient on offense, shooting 46.2% from the field by getting many quality looks throughout the afternoon. Its defensive effort was quality all night as they forced Pacific into taking plenty of poor shots – the Tigers finished the game shooting just 33.3%. While it might be logical to worry about Miami’s NCAA Tournament experience as the tournament goes on, the Hurricanes showed they were plenty capable of playing on the big stage.
- Miami’s guard play is definitely worth the price of admission. There are few – if any – teams in the country who have backcourt play as solid as Miami’s backcourt play. Sophomore Shane Larkin and senior Durand Scott provide the Hurricanes with everything a team could possibly want from its guards. Larkin, who was the coaches’ ACC Player of the Year, is a dynamic playmaker with the ability to get to the rim at will. Larkin draws plenty of national acclaim for his ability on the offensive end of the court, but his defensive presence is also quite notable. A scrappy defender who deflects many passes and has the propensity to draw charges, Larkin does an excellent job of frustrating the opposition’s backcourt. Miami refers to Scott as “the heart and soul of the Miami Hurricanes with a junkyard dog game” in its game notes and that description could not be any truer. Scott certainly has the ability to score, he averaged 13.2 points per game in the regular season, but his true presence is felt as a leader and on the defensive end of the court. The Hurricanes are a veteran-laden team, but it is undeniable that Scott is their leader. While watching Scott defend, it is easy to see why he was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year – he is tough, quick, and relentless. Backcourt play is very important in March and Miami’s backcourt certainly gives it a chance to make a special run.
- Bravo to Bob Thomason on a great career. The loss to Miami wrapped up Pacific coach Bob Thomason’s 25th and final season as the head coach of his alma mater. He finished his career at the school with a record of 437-321. Thomason led the Tigers to five NCAA Tournament appearances and they won a game in both the 2004 and 2005 tournaments. In what is now a culture of mercenary head coaches, it is important to recognize the dedication Thomason had to one program over a long period of time. Here’s to a great career by Thomason with hopes of him enjoying retirement.
Star of the Game. Durand Scott, Miami. When the Hurricanes took a 21-point lead into halftime, Scott only had three points, but he had done a tremendous job defensively in helping limit Pacific to just 29.2% shooting. Scott’s offensive explosion began soon after the second half began. He scored the team’s first seven points of the second frame and finished with 18 total points for the second 20 minutes. Scott’s strong performance in the second half certainly ended any hopes Pacific might have had about making a comeback.