Why playing at a faster pace might just be what the Canes need to snap out of their late season funk.
If you follow me on twitter (and if you don’t, you should be, @Isaac_Koppel), you’ve probably seen me calling for Miami to push the tempo on offense more than they have been this season. If you take a look at Miami’s best games this season compared to their worst games, you’ll find that the tempo has been a big factor in all of them.
Arguably Miami’s biggest win this season came against the Duke Blue Devils at the Bank United Center earlier this year. Not coincidentally, the Blue Devils are a moderately fast paced team, ranking 96th in the nation, compared to 183rd, which is where the Canes rank. UM also holds two big victories over North Carolina who are notorious for getting out in transition: the Tar Heels rank 36th nationally in possessions per game. North Carolina State? 80th in possessions per game.
And then you look at the other end of the spectrum. Who has Miami struggled against? Clemson, Virginia and Georgia Tech all gave the Canes fits this season. Where do they rank in terms of tempo? Clemson? 269th nationally. Virginia? 294th. Georgia Tech? 190th.
Sure, there are outliers. Miami lost to Wake Forest, who plays at a faster tempo than the Canes do. Miami also holds four wins over BC and FSU, who both play slower than Miami. But to me, what this tells me is that Miami thrives in an up tempo environment, and is prone to struggling against teams that slow it down and chew clock.
So that’s how the Canes fare against teams at both ends of the tempo spectrum, and the question now becomes why? Why is Miami better suited to play fast than slow? I believe I have some answers.
Arguably the biggest strength of this Miami team is their two dynamic guards, Shane Larkin and Durand Scott. Both Larkin and Scott are incredibly creative finishers around the rim, and thus, should be able to thrive in up tempo situations, where the defender can’t devote all their attention to stopping just one of them, they must play both the ball and the passing lane. When Larkin and Scott get out on the break, they should be unstoppable. The numbers support this as well.
In the first 10 seconds following a Miami defensive rebound, the Canes are shooting an astounding 72% at the rim. 72! The problem is that only 12% of Miami’s shots as a team come in the first 10 seconds following a defensive rebound. The first 10 seconds after an opposing score is even more drastic. While the Canes only shoot the ball 3% of the time in those first 10 seconds, they shoot 80% at the rim. It isn’t exactly easy to get a shot at the rim immediately following a made basket, but it’s something Miami can play for in the future. Even if they don’t get a shot at the rim, getting the ball in quickly and pushing it up the floor can force the defense to collapse and open up three point shooters – the Canes shoot 40% as a team from deep in the first 10 seconds after a score.
Steals will only get a brief mention in this part of the post, but it is worth noting – In the first 10 seconds after a steal, Miami shoots 79% at the rim. That is to be expected, given that you are likely to have numbers in that situation, but still – that’s kinda sorta high.
Three Point Shooting
Perhaps the best side effect of Miami getting out and running more would be the impact on their three point shooters, namely Trey McKinney-Jones and Kenny Kadji. Kadji’s best shot is the three pointer from the top of the key. If you’ve watched a Miami game this season, you can tell that he absolutely loves that spot. Under the current system, he tends to get that shot while running the pick and pop with Shane Larkin. If Miami pushed the tempo, Kadji would be able to get that shot much easier by trailing the play and having Larkin or Scott kick the ball out to him so he could easily step in to the three. McKinney-Jones doesn’t have one specific spot that he loves his threes from, but the principle is still the same. Three point shooters that trail the play tend to get open looks more often than not. As a team, Miami is shooting 42% this season from beyond the arc between 0 and 10 seconds after a steal.
It’s only fitting that when one team gets out in transition, the other team follows. That’s why Miami has had success against teams like UNC and NC State – those teams like to push the ball, and Miami does the same. So how do the Canes fare in transition defense? In the first 10 seconds after a rebound, Miami’s opponents only shoot 59% at the rim, which should rank them in the middle of the pack in that regard (I can’t find a full list, sorry about that). In the first 10 seconds after a score, that percentage becomes 60. After a steal, teams shoot 82% at the rim against Miami, but like I said on the offensive side of this post – that’s to be expected. In terms of three point shooting, the Canes hold opponents to 34% in the first 10 seconds after a rebound, which means that they get back on defense and prevent the trailers from getting wide open looks. In the 10 seconds after a basket, that percentage drops to 21.
This doesn’t warrant it’s own post, but, I’d like to share my findings on one more topic – what’s up with Reggie Johnson? While I was on hoop-math, I stumbled across something that surprised me. In 2011-12, only 33% of Reggie’s made two point field goals came with an assist. In 2012-13, that number has risen to 47%. Now you’re probably asking "So?". Here’s how I interpret that: Reggie has been struggling immensely with double teams this season, and has been unable to create his own shot because of it. That’s why he’s relied on others to get him the ball in a position to score 14% more often this season compared to last season – he can’t get one for himself because the opposition is always bringing help to stop him. Johnson shot 62% at the rim last season, and that number has only dropped to 57% this season, which isn’t as big of a drop off as you’d expect if you’ve watched the games. The problem is that teams are forcing turnovers or forcing Reg to pass out of the post far more often than they used to. I don’t expect teams to stop throwing doubles at Reggie, but I’m hoping that we see more back cuts in the ACC and NCAA tournament to provide him with some options so he doesn’t just have to stand there helplessly while the defense swipes at the ball anymore.
Quick, somebody get this info to Coach L! And while you’re at it, ask him if he’s got any room on the staff for an up and coming youth basketball coach, please.