Miami’s first round draw against Loyola Chicago has been a trendy pick for an upset in many brackets so far (including ESPN’s bracket analyst Joe Lunardi). Here at SOTU, we already took a look at what makes our opponent’s offense successful (you can read that article here). So now let’s look at whether the Canes have enough firepower to avoid an early NCAA tourney disappointment:
Here is a quick inventory of the options the Canes have ahead of the NCAA Tournament:
Lonnie Walker IV: 11.5 points per game, 2 assists per game, 41% FG pct, 35% 3 point pct
Dewan Huell: 11.4 points per game, 6.6 rebounds per game, 57% FG pct
Chris Lykes: 9.6 points per game, 2.4 assists per game, 41% FG pct, 34$ 3 point pct
Ja’Quan Newton: 8.7 points per game, 2.7 assists per game, 44% FG pct, 26% 3 point pct
Anthony Lawrence II: 8.9 points per game, 6.6 rebounds per game, 2.4 assists per game, 46% FG pct, 43% 3 point pct
Dejan Vasiljevic: 9 points per game, 44% FG pct, 40% 3 point pct
Ebuka Izundu: 5 points per game, 3.7 rebounds per game, 70% FG pct.
Sam Waardenburg: 3.5 points per game, 2.9 rebounds, 41% FG pct, 43% 3 point pct
Miami has had to change their offense multiple times throughout the season, due either to struggles or injuries. During the early part of the season, AKA the non-conference schedule, the Canes had lots of success working through their bigs inside. The result was hot starts for Dewan Huell and Ebuka Izundu. The Canes started off 10-0 and averaged 76.8 points per game. Bruce Brown Jr struggled to make shots from the field, but was still very valuable distributing and doing all the little things.
Just before the ACC schedule, the Canes suffered their first loss to New Mexico State, which led to the Canes shuffling their starting lineup, bringing Lonnie Walker IV into the fold. MIami then started the conference schedule 3-4 which saw inconsistent play from the Canes offense. Miami put out scoring outputs as high as 94 points and as low as 54 points. The Canes would fall victim to 5 minute scoreless stretches at least once almost every game, and the cherry on top was learning that the team would be without star point guard Bruce Brown Jr.
Instead of letting the season fall apart, the Canes reconfigured their starting lineup and their offense. Entering the starting lineup was Chris Lykes, moving either Ja’Quan Newton or Dejan Vasiljevic to the bench. The Canes also deployed some big lineups featuring both Dewan Huell and Ebuka Izundu. Miami then finished the season playing some of their best basketball on the offensive end, pushing the Canes to a 3rd place finish in the highly-competitive ACC.
The success and failure of Miami’s offense is dependent on two things: penetration and transition. Chris Lykes, Ja’Quan Newton and Anthony Lawrence II have been committed to taking on the role of getting the ball into the paint, and after capitalizing on a couple of opportunities, defenses will collapse the paint allowing Lonnie Walker IV, DJ Vasiljevic and others to get open shots from the perimeter. The flip side is that when there is no penetration, the ball moves from side to side around the perimeter until someone throws up a contested shot. Miami can beat anyone when they are shooting well from the outside, but that will not happen without the ball reaching the paint first.
The Canes are one of the more athletically gifted teams in the country, and are more effective in transition than in the half court. Lonnie is one of the top high flyers, Lykes is lightning quick, and Newton and Lawrence II are strong finishers at the rim. Add to that the ability of our bigs Huell and Izundu to run the floor, and Vasiljevic, Walker and Waardenburg able to knock down trailing 3’s. Loyola Chicago will play a 4 guard set for most of the game, so while it would seem that emphasizing transition against a small lineup would be foolish, the Canes should still emphasize transition opportunities to allow themselves to impose their size advantage while the Ramblers are not set in their defense.
Loyola Chicago is a talented mid-major team that is very capable of taking down an unsuspecting power 5 squad. Miami’s offense should be potent enough to handle the Ramblers, as long as they execute. What do you think about the Canes offense going into the tournament? Let us know in the comments.