The first matchup between Miami and Clemson this season was really the game that should’ve put Canes fans on notice: Something isn’t right. Miami trailed that game with less than a minute left, before Kenny Kadji hit a three pointer to put the Canes up by 1, which would ultimately be enough. But that’s not the point. Yeah, it was a road game, and yeah, winning against tough defensive teams on the road in conference is a hard thing to do, but let’s be realistic: The nation’s elite teams don’t struggle against inferior opponents very often, and Miami struggled, A LOT, against Clemson.
To be more specific, the Canes shot 35% from the field and only 3-18 (which is 16%) from beyond the arc, and only scored 45 points. For the entire game. In Wednesday’s disappointing loss to Georgia Tech, Miami scored 43 in the first half alone. Yeah, this was a bad game, but it had bigger implications.
So here we are. The same Miami team that was once ranked #2 in the country has lost 3 of 4, including this weeks heart breaking loss at home against Georgia Tech, a game that should have ended with Miami cutting down the nets after winning the ACC regular season title, but instead ended with Georgia Tech celebrating on Miami’s home floor following a buzzer beating tip in. You know that saying "Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good"? Miami was lucky against Clemson. That luck ran out against Georgia Tech.
Those first three paragraphs might sound a bit panicky, and I’d just like to clarify and say that they’re not. Miami is still the #6 team in the country (for now). A win against Clemson still wins the ACC regular season title outright. Things could be much, much worse.
Clemson Scouting Report
I’m really, really hoping that this game goes a bit better than the first time these two teams played. There’s no reason that ANY college basketball game should finish with 88 combined points. That’s just terrible. But here’s the thing – that’s exactly what Clemson wants. The Tigers are offensively challenged, that’s no secret. They average 61.7 points per game, which ranks them 295th in the country out of 347 teams. They want this game to be ugly, that’s their only chance.
In the first game, Clemson got 19 points on 8-11 shooting from Jordan Roper. FYI: Roper averages 7.4 points per game this season on 38% shooting. I mean … This game came out of nowhere. The Canes did a good job of containing Devin Booker, who shot only 4-13 from the floor and finished with just 11 points, but Roper came out of nowhere and really is the only reason Clemson was in this ballgame.
This Clemson team is in bad, bad shape right now. They’ve lost 5 straight games (which started with the Miami loss), and 8 of 9 overall. They lost their game on Senior night against Boston College, who isn’t exactly a road force. Could the Tigers beat the Canes? Sure, just ask Georgia Tech. Is it likely? Well, no.
Key for the Canes
Energy!!!!!!!! Watching the second half of the game against Georgia Tech was BRUTAL. Miami allowed a Georgia Tech team who struggles offensively to score easy basket after easy basket, and they finished the half with 39 points after scoring 32 in the first half. A good defensive team like Miami should never allow 71 points to a team that struggles offensively like Georgia Tech. It just shouldn’t happen. Miami held GT to 49 points in the first meeting, and the difference was energy. On January 5th, the first meeting between UM and GT, Miami was coming off of a win against La Salle, but had lost two games in a row before that. They were the underdogs. They were hungry. The difference between now and then? That hunger seems to have disappeared. These late season struggles could wind up doing this team some good, because everyone is surely going to count them out come tournament time. It’ll be crucial that Miami finds that energy they played with during that 14 game win streak for not just the Clemson game, but for the ACC tournament and NCAA tournament.
I tweeted this on Wednesday night, and I’m sticking to it. I will never predict a Miami blowout again. The last two blowouts I predicted, against Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, Miami lost outright. So I’ll stick to tight games. Also, fun fact: Miami will sit Shane Larkin at the start of this game, and go with an all senior lineup of Durand Scott, Trey McKinney-Jones, Kenny Kadji, Julian Gamble and Reggie Johnson for the opening minutes, in honor of senior day. I’m expecting (hoping) to see lots of energy and emotion from this team, as this is a huge game. Final score: Miami 66-60.