One week ago it was announced that Ja’Quan Newton would be suspended for three games due to violating team rules.
This resulted in the ‘Canes having to play their next three games with just seven men. And the suspension was poorly timed, as Miami would play those three games in quick succession, within just six days. Miami hadn’t experienced a stretch like that since back in November.
But this gritty Miami team pulled off two wins at home and a dramatic OT win at Virginia. They exceeded expectations and managed to rattle off their first three game win streak in conference play
...All without Newton.
Coach Larranaga’s team showed great balance throughout this streak. Davon Reed had two solid performances, but experienced probably his worst performance of the year at Virginia. However, other guys stepped up in each game. Kamari Murphy averaged 11.3 points and 9.3 rebounds over the stretch, and shot 71.4% from the field. Ebuka Izubdu shot 50% or better in each game, and Dejan Vasiljevic recorded two double-digit scoring performances and hit a game-tying three with 1:03 left at Virginia.
So what should Coach L do now that he has Newton back?
Make him the sixth man.
Why mess with a good thing? If it ain’t broke, don’t let Ja’Quan Newton fix it.
The ‘Canes are in the midst of their best stretch in ACC play this year, and implementing Newton back into the starting lineup could mess that rhythm up. Instead put him back where he thrived last year. Dick Vitale said last year that Newton was the best sixth man in the nation. So let him be that again.
Coming off the bench he would be a spark plug for the offense, which at times tires out and loses its flow. Newton will also have fresh legs down the stretch because by the time the Duke game comes around Saturday he will not have played in two weeks.
Miami’s three-game winning streak cemented them a spot in the NCAA tournament. At worst they will finish .500 in the best conference in basketball, and their resume includes a double-digit victory over UNC and a road win at Virginia. Let Newton earn his time back on the court and start a fire underneath him.
So what does Miami have to lose by benching Newton?
And if Coach L makes this move maybe we’ll get to see more locker room dancing.