When people talk about Miami basketball right now, they’re going to give you two numbers:
#5 in terms of RPI.
#2 in terms of strength of schedule.
While those numbers are incredible, it’s important to note that they don’t actually tell you anything about what’s been happening on the court. Sure, they suggest that the Canes have been winning, but it doesn’t tell you how they’ve been winning, and in some cases, how they’ve been losing. That’s what this post is for. Here is why Miami has been winning, and some causes for concern going forwards.
17.0% turnover percentage
This is probably my favorite stat that I found while researching for this post. The Canes rank 2nd in the ACC in terms of turnover percentage at 17%, sitting behind some team called “Duke”. That’s pretty elite company, if I do say so myself. You’re probably used to seeing turnovers represented as a number and not a percentage, which is understandable. The thing about basketball is that not every game is created equally. A game with 30 turnovers in 100 possessions is basically the same as a game with 15 turnovers in 50 possessions (see: exaggeration), but if you were looking at turnovers as a number, all you would see is 30 per game or 15 per game, instead of 30% (which is terrible, by the way).
To me, this stat is huge for Miami. This basically says to me that they won’t beat themselves with stupid mistakes, which is critical for a team that isn’t necessarily the most talented in the country. Come March Madness time, you want teams that don’t beat themselves, and that is what Miami is.
13.3 Fouls Per Game
The Canes commit the 6th fewest fouls per game in the country. Going back to the turnover percentage, this also bodes well for Miami. The Canes don’t have the depth to beat teams like Duke or Michigan if they have to keep their best players on the bench due to foul trouble. The Canes play aggressive defense (they force a turnover on nearly 20% of possessions), but they foul at an incredibly low rate. The Canes lack depth in the backcourt, so Shane Larkin and Durand Scott’s ability to get in the passing lanes without running through people is huge.
39.3 Rebounds Per Game in ACC Play
Sure, it’s only been 3 games. But the Canes rank 2nd in the ACC in rebounds per game in those three games, and that is without their best rebounder in Reggie Johnson. When Reggie gets back, the Canes should dominate their opponents on the glass on a nightly basis.
Since I can’t only say nice things, there are a few alarming stats as well.
46.8% Assist ratio
Miami is sitting at 309th best in the country in terms of this stat, which is basically what percentage of scoring plays end with an assist. There are 347 teams in the country.
What this tells us is that the Canes are relying too much on shots coming off the dribble, which is not what you like to see as a fan. The Canes do move the ball relatively well, but it seems like they sometimes pass too much and end up late in the shot clock and are forced to just make something happen instead of running a set. This would probably be a much bigger concern if the team wasn’t winning so much.
103.9 Offensive Efficiency
I wouldn’t classify this stat as “alarming”, but it isn’t great, either. Offensive efficiency is an important stat because it adjusts for the pace a game is played at. A game with 50 points on 40 possessions is basically the same as a game with 100 points on 80 possessions, but if we were to use points per game, all we would see is 50 and 100. Offensive efficiency corrects for that. 103.9 is a decent number. It’s more than 1 point per possession, which is notable. The problem is when you compare it to some of the country’s top teams. Michigan ranks #1 at 122.6. NC State is #9 at 116.6. Duke is #17 at 113.8. Those teams are much better at making sure their possessions end in points. The easiest cure for this would probably to stop shooting 44.5% from the floor, which is below the likes of Virginia and Clemson, who aren’t exactly offensive juggernauts, but that’s easier said than done. I figure that once Reggie gets back, the Canes will have a safety valve that they can go to more often when they’re struggling to score.
So what does it all mean? It means that, to me at least, the Canes aren’t being given the respect that they deserve as a team. This isn’t a fluke start to the season – the numbers suggest that the Canes are here to stay, and deserve to be in the top 20, if not higher. A win against Duke on the 23rd will certainly get them some national attention, but frankly, they should already have it.