First of all, I’d just like to say "WOOOOOOOOO! WOOOOOO! WOO WOO WOOOO!" The Canes went to Chapel Hill and beat the North Carolina Tar Heels on their home floor. That’s a pretty big accomplishment, if I do say so myself. The Canes got huge performances out of seniors Julian Gamble and Kenny Kadji. Gamble posted a line of 14 points (7-10 shooting), 6 rebounds and 3 blocks, but he was so much more than that. His sheer presence in the paint was a factor all night, and UNC never got much working down low thanks to Mr. Gamble. Not to be outdone, Kenny Kadji had 18 points (7-11 shooting), 9 rebounds and 4 blocks, including 2 blocks while UNC was on a fast break that essentially sealed the game late for the Canes. I think that my favorite part about this win is that Shane Larkin and Durand Scott weren’t huge factors. The duo combined to go 7-19 for 22 points, and while that is certainly not bad by any stretch of the word, they never took the game over, either. The game turned for good with 3:44 left, when Trey McKinney-Jones hit a corner 3 to put the Canes up by 6. The next possession was followed by the exact same look from the Canes, except it ended in a Durand Scott three instead of a TMJ one. 3:09 left. Canes up 9. Game. Set. Match.
That game is in the rearview mirror now, however. It’s time for Miami to turn their attention to the next battle, which is against the Maryland Terrapins. The Terps come in fresh off a loss to Florida State (at home), and sport a 13-2 record overall. The biggest question I have about Maryland is their schedule so far. It’s not uncommon for teams to have subpar schedules coming in to conference play, but Maryland feels extreme. Their highest RPI win is against #87 Northwestern, which was also their one true road game. They’ve played 12 of 15 games at home so far. That’s a really high percentage. 10 of their 13 wins have come against teams with RPI’s of 151 or higher. It seems fair to question how legitimate their record is. For Maryland, this game probably means a lot more than it does to Miami. A win at Miami would be a statement by UMD, just like a win by Miami at UNC was a statement by the Canes. After this game, Maryland has the pleasure of facing NC State, UNC, Boston College and Duke. Excluding the BC game, this is a brutal stretch for Maryland, and they’re going to need at least one win out of it. The Canes need to be sure they get up for this game – the Terps are coming to play.
Maryland Scouting Report
You can’t talk about this Maryland team without starting with Alex Len. Len is the 7’1 Center from Ukraine who leads Maryland in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots, and field goal percentage. He’s going to be a handful. I’ll talk a little more about this later on. Outside of Len, the Canes need to be weary of Dez Wells. Wells is Maryland’s second leading scorer at almost 12 points per game on 55% shooting. 55% shooting is good for a big man, it’s just downright incredible for a guard. Wells is the only guard in the top 10 in the ACC in terms of shooting percentage – everybody else is a forward/center. The problem with Wells is his inability to shoot the deep ball – he shoots only 23% from beyond the arc. As a team, Maryland can fill it up. They rank 39th in the country at 76.7 points per game. Once again, the problem that I have is that their schedule is really bad. As I mentioned in my UNC preview, a lot of their scoring was done against very low quality opponents, and it seems that this is the case with the Terps as well. UMD was held to 62 points against FSU on Wednesday night, and scored 69 points against Kentucky in their season opener. Seeing as those are probably their two best opponents so far this season, that seems to be the better indicator of Maryland’s offensive ability.
Key For The Canes
Slow down Alex Len. This is probably easier said than done, but it’s what Miami is going to have to do to assure themselves a victory in this game. I expect Miami to double Len in the post nearly every time, since Maryland doesn’t have very many shooters on this team. The Terrapins feature only two players with three point percentages above 40, neither of which are starters. If Miami does double in the post, they will need to play solid team defense in terms of their rotations to cover the driving lanes if and when Len passes out of the post. I expect Miami to be able to accomplish this, and that’s why I see this as a Canes victory. Furthermore, even though Alex Len has a few inches on Canes center Julian Gamble, he doesn’t necessarily have the strength advantage. Gamble stands 6’10, compared to Len’s 7’1, but Gamble weighs 250, compared to Len’s 255. The Canes will probably double Len in the post anyways, just so that he can’t get any easy shots, but if Maryland starts hitting their outside jumpers, the Canes should be able to survive with single coverage down low.
Three more quick notes:
1. Maryland turns the ball over 15 times per game. Shane Larkin and Durand Scott are both very active in the passing lanes, so UMD will have to play smart if they don’t want this to turn in to a track meet for Miami.
2. Miami continued their trend of second half dominance this season against UNC on Thursday night, outscoring the Tar Heels by 11 in the second half. Coach Jim Larranga has done an excellent job of making second half adjustments so far this season, and if necessary, I expect more of the same against Maryland.
3. Maryland ranks sixth in the country in rebounds per game, which is concerning. However, North Carolina ranks fourth in the nation in rebounding, and the Canes were only outrebounded 30-28 in Thursday’s game. This could be another case of an inflated stat due to a weak schedule, but it’s something to at least keep an eye on.
Projected Starting Lineups
Center – Julian Gamble, 6’11, 250, SR
Forward – Kenny Kadji, 6’11, 242, SR
Guard – Trey McKinney-Jones, 6’5, 220, SR
Guard – Durand Scott, 6’5, 203, SR
Guard – Shane Larkin, 5’11, 176, SO
Center – Alex Len, 7’1, 255, SO
Forward – Charles Mitchell, 6’8, 260, FR
Guard – Nick Faust, 6’6, 205, SO
Guard – Dez Wells, 6’5, 215, SO
Guard – Pe’Shon Howard, 6’3, 190, JR
If this game was in College Park, I’d be a lot more concerned. I’m still mildly concerned about Miami getting up for this game after an emotional win against North Carolina, but I’m confident that Jim Larranaga won’t let the Canes no show in ACC play (or any play, really, especially after the Indiana State fiasco). I think that Maryland’s early success is due in large part to their soft schedule, and while I don’t mean to discount them entirely, I see the Canes taking care of business in this one. Final score: 71-58 Miami.
One final note: If you’re in town, pack the BUC, please. These games aren’t expensive, and this is one of the best teams we’ve ever had, and with 6 seniors, might be one of the best we see for a few years. Don’t miss out – this team is special.
Once again, find me on twitter, tweeting my way through the game at @IK_Canes.