Less than half an hour before tip-off on Wednesday a bombshell dropped on the Miami Hurricanes.
Newton was punished for violating team rules and suspended for matchups against Georgia Tech, Clemson, and Virginia.
Newton is second on the team in points per game, and only falls behind Davon Reed in minutes per game on the floor. No matter how you look at the situation, Newton has been a building block for the Hurricanes all year.
Fans have clamored for more ball movement from Newton at times, but in games such as North Carolina and NC State it became more apparent than ever that he is vital towards Miami’s success.
But now as Miami undergoes its most important stretch of the season, they must pass two tests without the veteran guard. The ‘Canes won game one without Newton yesterday against Georgia Tech, thanks in large part to scrappy performances from players with larger roles such as DJ Vasiljevic.
Newton comes back for one of the biggest home games of the season against Duke next week, but Miami will have to find answers in what could be a resume-building win against Virginia, and a key conference matchup against Clemson.
Miami came into the season with little depth due to senior departures and the dismissal of Rashad Muhammad, and now must search for even more answers.
It is easy for Miami to simply go with the ‘next man up’ mantra, but with an absence of players, that belief can only go so far.
The ‘Canes were restricted to a seven man rotation against Georgia Tech Wednesday, and with the exception of Ebuka Izundu, no Miami player was on the floor less than 20 minutes.
It is an uncomfortable situation, but the player who might have to step up the most is DJ Vasiljevic. On Wednesday, Vasiljevic played 28 minutes, 12 more than his average, and became a pivotal part of the offense by attempting six three pointers.
Vasiljevic responded well to the minutes with a 13 point performance, but in the next two games the post-Ja'Quan Newton plan may only go as far as Vasiljevic takes them.
Bruce Brown and Davon Reed will pick up most of the load on the perimeter without Newton over the next two games, but Vasiljevic is the guard who needs to continue stepping up.
With Ja’Quan Newton out, the only option Miami’s stars have is to take their game to another level, and with a marquee matchup against Virginia two games away, Miami’s seven man rotation must play at a higher level than ever to have success.