Before the season started, if I would have told you that Miami would play at Florida State, have Kenny Kadji only play 17 minutes and score a mere 3 points, and still head home with a win, what would you have said? You would have called me crazy, right?
Well, that’s exactly what happened on Wednesday night, when the Canes narrowly escaped Tallahassee with a victory, winning 74-68. If this entire season hasn’t been one giant coming out party for Shane Larkin, this game definitely was one. Larkin finished with 22 points and controlled the game like an NBA veteran for the last 6 minutes, going on a 7-1 run by himself to put the Canes up by 12.
More important than Larkin’s brilliance was Reggie Johnson. The big fella finally looked like he was healthy, finishing the game with 14 points on 5-5 shooting with 8 rebounds in 27 minutes of action.
Now the Canes turn their attention to Clemson, who sit at 5-7 in conference play and are currently ranked 8th in the ACC. Here’s what to expect:
Clemson Scouting Report
Clemson possessions per game: 62.5.
Miami possessions per game: 65.6.
That doesn’t seem like a huge difference on the surface, but it says a lot about the style the teams like to play. The Canes have showed the ability to play at both an up tempo and a slow tempo this season. They’ve beaten North Carolina and NC State, who both play at very high paces. They’ve beaten Georgia Tech, who likes to slow down and work in the half court. Against Clemson, they’re going to be playing a sloooow pace. The Tigers rank 320th in the country in terms of possessions per game. That’s slow. In terms of offensive execution, Clemson is alright: They average 1.01 points per possession, which ranks them 160th in the country.
Clemson only has 3 players that average in double figures, and as a team, they shoot only 43% from the floor and 32% from deep. Frankly, they are not a great matchup for this Miami team. Their defense is solid – they allow 0.94 points per possession, which is good for 66th in the country. The problem for Clemson is that if they get in to a defensive battle with Miami, they will lose. They simply don’t have the offensive firepower to compete with the combo of Shane Larkin, Durand Scott and Kenny Kadji.
One bright spot on this Clemson team is 6’8" forward Devin Booker, who’s averaging 12 points and 8 rebounds per game on 55% shooting. If the Tigers want to have any chance in this game, they’re going to need to get Clemson some open looks in the lane. Miami has a variety of bigs they will likely throw at Booker, such as Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble, and Booker might not be able to take them 1 on 1. I would expect Clemson to try and feed Booker as he comes across the lane so that he has a bit of space when he catches the ball so that he can hopefully rise and lay it in all in one motion. If the Canes keep Booker under control, they should handle Clemson with ease.
I see no reason for Miami to not win this one easily. A majority of Clemson’s wins have come in low scoring defensive games, and that simply won’t fly against Miami. The Canes hold the edge in scoring, defense, rebounding and three point shooting. The game is at Clemson, which they have going for them, but besides that, I’ve got nothing. Miami wins this one 68-50.