Miami Looks To Defend #2 Ranking Vs. Virginia

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes (21-3, 12-0) take on the Virginia Cavaliers (18-7, 8-4) at the Bank United Center in Coral Gables. The game can be seen on ESPNU (or via the Watch ESPN app) and heard on 560 WQAM at 9:00 PM. Miami leads the all time series 9-5.

I normally start off my game previews with a recap of what took place in the last Canes game, and then move on and talk about what to expect from Miami’s next opponent and predict the final result. If it’s alright with you all, I would like to just skip that first part in this preview. I think that we should all just forget that the Clemson game ever happened.

Let’s forget about the 16% shooting from the 3 point line. And the 35% shooting overall. And Durand Scott’s 1-8 performance. And Shane Larkin’s 2-8 night. And Kenny Kadji’s 1-6 on three point attempts. And Clemson’s 31% shooting. And the 18-16 halftime score. And the 45-43 final score. LETS JUST FORGET ALL OF IT /bangs head on desk repeatedly.

Moving on …

Virginia Scouting Report

If you thought the Clemson game was exciting, get ready for Virginia, you guys! I started the Clemson preview by talking about pace, so it’s only fitting that I do that again here.

Virginia averages 61 possessions in the game, which is the 6th slowest pace in the country. The Clemson game was uglier than this game is likely to be, but not by much. Virginia loves to slow the ball down, play in the half court, and overall just play an ugly brand of basketball. This point would be much easier to illustrate if the Cavaliers weren’t coming off a 91-83 defeat at the hands of UNC – the 91 points allowed is the most by UVA this season by 24. That’s incredible. Until that game they hadn’t allowed 70 points in a game all season. If you’re under the impression (and I’m not sure why you would be) that Miami is going to walk all over Virginia, you’re wrong.

UVA is one of the nation’s premier defensive teams. They allow 0.88 points per possession, which ranks them 8th overall in the nation in terms of defensive efficiency. They hold opponents to below 30% on three point attempts, which is also insane in it’s own right. If Miami misses their open attempts like they did against Clemson, they’re going to be in for a long night, because Virginia makes it a point to contest threes.

Even though Virginia plays a really slow pace, they’re still capable of putting points on the board. They’ve scored over 70 points 9 times this season, which doesn’t seem like much, but it is when you consider their preferred style of play. After watching the way Clemson was able to hang around with Miami tonight, Virginia is going to try to keep this game in the half court as much as humanly possible. Miami has had success in track meets, beating both UNC and NC State, but have struggled against slower teams such as Clemson and Boston College.

Offensively, Virginia is led by junior guard Joe Harris. Harris averages 17 points per game on 50% shooting from the floor (!!!) and 49% shooting from beyond the arc (!!!!!!). So that brings us to…

Key For The Canes

Slow down Joe Harris. Much like Virginia Tech’s Erick Green, Virginia’s offense goes where Harris takes it. Besides Harris, Virginia only has one scorer who averages in double figures, and nobody else who averages above 7 points. I’m sure a lot of that has to do with the amount of points they score per game, but still. Of their 81 points against UNC, Harris was responsible for 27. True to form, only one other UVA player scored in double figures! Funny how that works, eh? Also like Erick Green, I’m expecting Harris to be chased around by Durand Scott for 40 minutes with some occasional help provided by Shane Larkin. If the Canes can keep him to a pedestrian performance, I like their chance.

Also, go look at Harris’ last five games. Just do it. Link.

Prediction

I felt better about this game before the Clemson debacle. The styles are very similar, except UVA has a scorer who can actually create his own shot, unlike the Tigers. The Canes haven’t lost at home yet this season, and I don’t expect that to change, but I will not fall in to the trap I fell in to with Clemson. This isn’t a great matchup for Miami. I’m expecting a tight game throughout, with Miami creating separation at the end. Final score: 65-57.

Oh, and if you're going to the game - Wear Green!

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