Selection Sunday Unkind to ACC Elite

Posted by mpatton on March 19th, 2013

After clinching the ACC Tournament title with three straight double-digit wins, Miami was riding high. The media present in Greensboro — including myself — were riding a similar high after watching one of the best offensive basketball games of the year. It felt like a slap in the face to watch as the seeds were announced and the Hurricanes weren’t rewarded for their efforts with a #1 seed. It was the first time in history that the consensus ACC champion failed to earn a spot on top of a region.

Miami's Eye Test couldn't overcome its losses Selection Sunday. (Photo: Robert Mayer / USA TODAY Sports)

Miami’s Eye Test couldn’t overcome its losses Selection Sunday. (Photo: Robert Mayer / USA TODAY Sports)

In Miami’s case, admittedly, a #1 seed was an uphill battle thanks to several bad losses in the non-conference and down the stretch in ACC play. First there was Miami’s game (without suspended Durand Scott) at Florida Gulf Coast. The Eagles are dancing this week, but only because of the Atlantic Sun’s automatic bid. Then Miami lost neutral-site games to Arizona and Indiana State when the team was very banged up. After the win Sunday, Jim Larranaga documented the injuries plaguing his team in Hawaii: “Trey McKinney-Jones was in the hospital with a 105-degree temperature, Durand Scott‘s back tightened up on the trip — he couldn’t bend over, Shane Larkin tweaked his ankle, and Reggie Johnson broke his thumb.”

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Rushed Reactions: Miami 87, North Carolina 77

Posted by mpatton on March 17th, 2013

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Matt Patton is an RTC microsite writer. He filed this report after Sunday afternoon’s ACC Tournament championship game.

Three Key Takeaways:

Miami Wins Its First ACC Championship

Miami Wins Its First ACC Championship

  1. Shootout: Despite both teams coming in known for their defense, the 2013 ACC Tournament championship game will be remembered for its offensive showing. Specifically, the last 10 minutes of the first half was a shooting clinic for the ages. The two teams (led by PJ Hairston, Shane Larkin and Trey McKinney-Jones) combined for 10 threes in the 10 minutes. As a result, North Carolina cut the Miami lead to three with just over two minutes to play, until a shot clock violation gave the Hurricanes the space they needed to go for the throat.
  2. Miami’s Versatility: The Hurricanes showed a versatility that should terrify opponents who find themselves in Miami’s regional. Miami went small two separate times, at the end of its win against Boston College and the end of the first half of the championship game. Both times Miami’s offense flourished. It’s no secret the Hurricanes’ defense is elite. Miami has the experience to win close games. The postgame press conference made one thing very clear: Jim Larranaga has this team in a great place. The leaders trust him and trust themselves no matter what the opponent is doing.
  3. North Carolina’s Turnaround: Just a little over two months ago, the Tar Heels looked like outside shots to make the Big Dance. They were sitting 0-2 in ACC play facing a road game against Florida State. A month after that the Tar Heels took a beating in Coral Gables before Roy Williams moved PJ Hairston into the starting lineup. The move worked out, as North Carolina’s only two losses the rest of the season came against Duke. While Hairston’s addition was the obvious change, Marcus Paige‘s improvement is just as important, if not more so. Paige played 30 minutes or more in every game except for North Carolina’s win over Maryland when he got into foul trouble. Over the 11 games in the smaller lineup, Paige averaged more than five assists per game on top of nine and a half points per outing. He cut down on turnovers dramatically — the win at Maryland notwithstanding. It’s no secret Roy Williams’ offense runs a lot smoother with a good point guard.

Star of the Game: Shane Larkin proved to be the best player on the floor. He finished with 28 points, five rebounds, seven assists and two steals. He shot 8-of-15 from the floor, 4-of-7 from three and 8-of-8 from the free throw line. Whenever Miami needed to make a play, he delivered either a bucket or a dime on command. He also played the full 40 minutes, meaning he missed a total of four of the possible 120 minutes over the course of his three days in Greensboro.

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Miami Hurricanes Make ACC History, Sweep Championships

Posted by mpatton on March 17th, 2013

Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report from the ACC Tournament championship game between North Carolina and Miami in Greensboro this afternoon.

An ACC school from outside the state of North Carolina has only won the regular season title outright eight times since 1954 (most recently, Maryland won it in 2002). An ACC school from outside the state of North Carolina has only won the ACC Tournament 10 times since 1954 (most recently, Florida State won it last year). Miami is the first team to ever do both in the same year. An unbalanced conference schedule has cheapened the regular season title in recent years, but that’s shouldn’t throw any shade on what the Hurricanes accomplished this year. The Miami win along with Florida State’s ACC Championship last season marks the second time in the league’s history that consecutive ACC Tournaments were won by schools outside of North Carolina (the 1984 and 1985 tournaments were won by Maryland and Georgia Tech, respectively).

Miami, your 2013 ACC Tournament champions. (photo: HurricaneSports.com)

Miami, your 2013 ACC Tournament champions. (photo: HurricaneSports.com)

And the Hurricanes won their final two games in front of very hostile crowds. They won because of tremendous coaching from Jim Larranaga – whose lineup changes proved instrumental in games against North Carolina and Boston College. They won because Shane Larkin was the best player in an ACC Tournament full of outstanding performances (Olivier Hanlan, Durand Scott and Dez Wells all went for over 30 points in a game). They won because experience doesn’t get rattled. In short, they won because they were the best team on the floor.

Miami made history in Greensboro. (photo: Chuck Liddy / Raleigh News & Observer)

Miami made history in Greensboro. (photo: Chuck Liddy / Raleigh News & Observer)

Against North Carolina, Miami found itself in a different position than usual. The Tar Heels and their new and improved smaller lineup came out firing. With just over 10 minutes to go in the first half, North Carolina led, 18-13. Miami proceeded to score on its next nine possessions and 13 of 16 of the final possessions of the half (over that time they missed three shots). North Carolina only scored on eight of 15 possessions, but PJ Hairston hit four threes and Marcus Paige added another to keep the game within a possession at the half. It was the best overall 10-minute offensive stretch I’ve seen this year. Both teams moved the ball to find open shots and both teams knocked down nearly every shot available. At one point the lead changed hands on eight straight possessions.

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Miami Has Arrived: Two Conference Road Wins Show Hurricanes Experience

Posted by mpatton on January 11th, 2013

Miami is finally here. The past two years the Hurricanes’ roster was better on paper than it ever performed on the court. This year it looks like they’re finally reaching that potential, despite Reggie Johnson‘s current absence from the lineup with a broken thumb. The Hurricanes will also contend with NC State for the ACC runner-up slot come March. Their success isn’t thanks to a flashy offense, which you might expect from a team with Shane Larkin at the helm — rather, it’s thanks to their physical defense.

Durand Scott's toughness adds a lot to Miami's backcourt. (Photo: Robert Willett / Raleigh News & Observer)

Durand Scott’s toughness adds a lot to Miami’s backcourt. (Photo: Robert Willett / Raleigh News & Observer)

This is the first year the team has been in the top 50 in defensive efficiency since 2009, and it’s making a big difference. Statistically, the secret is two-fold: The Hurricanes shut down the interior (opponents are only 41% from inside the arc this season), and they don’t commit fouls. Visually, their experience plays a big role. Kenny Kadji and Julian Gamble are very good shot-blockers and their guards are athletic enough to stay in front of people. Experience combined with Jim Larranaga’s system allow the Hurricanes to play physically and avoid fouling. Offense is still a factor in Miami’s success. Miami runs Larkin or Durand Scott through at least one (often two) high ball screens per possession. Against North Carolina the Hurricanes’ offense looked bad most of the game. They shot too many threes, and there was no flow. After the game, Jim Larranaga made it sound like this was at least in part intentional: “When we play a team that pressures us and is going to be trapping the ball-handler, we share the ball and spread them out. And if you get an open three, you have the green light to shoot it.”

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Rushed Reaction: Miami 67, #12 Michigan State 59

Posted by nvr1983 on November 28th, 2012

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A few takeaways from Miami‘s impressive eight-point win over Michigan State tonight:

  1. The Hurricanes should be near the top of the ACC. This isn’t so much a reflection of the Hurricanes being a great team as it is of how weak the ACC is this season (outside of  Duke). North Carolina and North Carolina State have the pieces to be very good (particularly the Wolfpack), but we haven’t seen any indications of that so far this season. The Hurricanes are a step below the Blue Devils and likely the Wolfpack too when they get their act together, but they should be in the next tier competing against UNC, FSU, and Maryland. This win should also be a resume-booster when Selection Sunday rolls around as the Spartans will probably pick up plenty of solid wins in the Big Ten making this win even more impressive for the Hurricanes. The improvement Miami has shown from its embarrassing loss to Florida Gulf Coast can be explained in large part by the return of Durand Scott, but he didn’t do it by himself tonight as he was helped out by Trey McKinney Jones and Shane Larkin, who both had big games in scoring 33 of the team’s 67 points.
  2. Michigan State is still going through growing pains without Draymond Green, who was a huge part of the Spartans’ success last season, and it has been evident early in the year even if they were able to pull out a last-second win earlier this month against Kansas. In his postgame press conference, Tom Izzo stressed the difficulty he has had finding a rotation with the injuries the team has had so far this season. He also harped on his team’s inability to guard ball screens and after initially trying to go with the “unnamed player” line, he called out Keith Appling, who he said had his worst game as a Spartan. As always we expect this Spartan program to be around in March, but they still have quite a bit of work left before they are ready to compete against Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio State and even then they may not have enough to be a serious threat to those three.
  3. He went through some rough patches tonight as you would expect from a freshman returning from injury, but it is clear that Gary Harris will become the go-to guy for this Michigan State team if they are going to approach their typical lofty standards. Travis Trice and Keith Appling are solid players, but Harris is the one with the potential to become a star and is the only Spartan who has the ability to get to the basket when the team needs him to do so. As Izzo pointed out in the postgame press conference, Harris is not at 100% as he recovers from a shoulder injury, but when he does he should be a force in the Big Ten. Harris is one of the most highly touted players to come to Michigan State and while it is still early in the season all signs are indicating that he will live up to the hype.

Miami Students Rush the Court.

Offered without comment…

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ACC Summer Recess: Miami Hurricanes

Posted by mpatton on July 25th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: Miami.

Where They Stand Now

Jim Larranaga Has Plenty of Talent Back in Coral Gables for his Second Year

Miami comes off of another simultaneously successful and disappointing season after finishing 9-7 in ACC play (as modestly predicted last November) last year. The mediocre season led to a two-seed in the NIT, where the Hurricanes got trounced in the second round by Minnesota thanks to a horrendous defensive effort. Still, for Jim Larranaga‘s first season — especially one damaged by the Nevin Shapiro scandal and numerous injuries — a conference record above .500 shouldn’t be taken for granted. The Hurricanes never made the jump from a good team to a great one, but two high-profile wins at Duke and against Florida State showed the potential hidden in the roster.

Who’s Leaving

Malcolm Grant and Dequan Jones hit the road after finishing their final seasons of eligibility, but don’t overrate Grant’s departure. Last year Grant took major steps backward offensively, never finding his shot. For the first three years of his career, Grant was one of the country’s best shooters. He averaged significantly over 40% from deep those years, taking over 200 threes in 2010-11. Three-point shooting made up for his poor finishing skills and lackluster mid-range game, but Grant went cold from downtown in 2011-12 finishing the year at a tepid 33%.

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