These are tough times in Coral Gables. The Canes are currently 1-6 in their first 7 conference games, which is their worst start since Jim Larranaga took over the program in 2011. The prevailing storyline this season is the Canes’ lack of depth, which won’t improve this year as star big man Dewan Hernandez had his eligibility appeal denied, and as a result has left the school to focus on the NBA Draft. While Miami deals with their issues, the degree of difficulty continues to rise as the 12th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies come to the Watsco Center this evening.
Virginia Tech is a program on the rise after reaching the NCAA Tourney last season. They enter Wednesday’s matchup with a 5-2 conference record, although their 2 losses were suffered at the hands of an elite Virginia squad and the talented North Carolina Tar Heels. The Hokies are led by their dynamic backcourt of Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Justin Robinson. Alexander-Walker leads the team with 17.5 points per game and strong shooting clips of 53% from the field and 41% from deep. Robinson is chipping in 14.2 points per game of his own, while proving to be one of the top distributors in the ACC with 5.6 assists per game. In the Hokies victory over Syracuse this past Saturday, Robinson dropped a team best 35 points and 8 assists. Holding down the interior for VaTech is Kerry Blackshear Jr., who scores a solid 13.3 points pre game and pulls down a team-leading 6.3 rebounds per game.
Unfortunately for Miami, things appear to be getting worse before they get better. Leading-scorer Chris Lykes has been ice cold in the Canes previous 2 contests, scoring a combined 9 points on 4 of 27 shooting. The sophomore must start knocking down shots if the Canes want to even think about keeping this game close. Zach Johnson put up a decent stat line of 20 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists against Florida State on Sunday, but also sustained a sprained ankle in the game that further threatens the Canes’ extremely limited depth. Ebuka Izundu has provided Miami with steady play in the paint this season, but as the Canes’ only true interior player has to contend with fatigue and foul trouble nightly. Forward Sam Waardenburg had a breakout performance Sunday with 13 points on a perfect 4 of 4 from the field, and Miami needs those types of games to become the norm.
You can catch the action Wednesday evening at 7:00pm ET on ESPN2.