Miami struggled in a season-opening loss to the No.5 Louisville Cardinals on Tuesday night. The Hurricanes are young in key spots, especially on the bench, and there are several areas to improve on as the season goes on. The Hurricanes are well-coached and showed flashes of being a very good team, but they’ll need to find consistency as the season continues.
Miami’s Defense Showed Improvement Early, Then Regressed
Early on in the first half the Hurricanes defense looked much improved over last year’s team. Through 10 minutes Miami held Louisville to 38% shooting and was good at chasing down the open man. However, later on in the half things got ugly defensively for the ‘Canes. By halftime the Cardinals were shooting 53% which allowed them to go on an eight minute long 25-4 run which effectively won UL the game.
Over that stretch there were multiple defensive breakdowns. The Hurricanes defense struggled to communicate and too often double teams resulted in an open man in the low post and an easy dunk, or a corner three. The hallmark of Jim Larranaga’s tenure at Miami has been defense, and it has to improve with this team as the season goes on.
Freshmen Will Be Key for the ‘Canes
It was known heading into the season that the incoming class of freshmen would play a important role on the court for the ‘Canes this season. Harlond Beverly, Isiah Wong, and Anthony Walker were the first players off of the bench for the Hurricanes and they played a combined thirty minutes in the first half.
Miami will rely on the three of them to grow in order to have success this year. The bench will improve as they improve, and the only way Miami will compete for an NCAA Tournament berth this year is by way of a deep-rotation.
Miami’s Offense Could Have Some Early Season Struggles
The Hurricanes’ offense gave up nine turnovers in the first half and shot 43% for the game, a number that improved greatly as Louisville's defense relaxed at the end of the night. If the ‘Canes are going to win games, especially within the ACC, the turnovers have to be cleaned up. Miami will most likely not be a good shooting team based off of the previous performances of the ‘Canes returning players and the fact that a significant portion of the bench consists of inexperienced freshmen. As a result, Miami can’t give away possessions through turnovers, because the Hurricanes will need as many shots to go up as possible in order to score the points to win games.
However, Miami’s shooting in the paint can improve drastically, and needs to if the ‘Canes will have success this year. Early on in the game Miami had several open looks in the paint that bounced out, those shots have to be made in the future if the ‘Canes hope to make the NCAA Tournament.
As Chris Lykes Goes, The Hurricanes Go
Chris Lykes struggled early and often in the loss to Louisville and it made a big impact on the ‘Canes offense. Early on, Lykes missed multiple open looks and never got in a rhythm, which affected him and the offense the rest of the game. Without Lykes spreading the court the ‘Canes couldn’t find a way to score throughout the game.
Lykes will have to lead this team on the court this season. The ‘Canes will rely on him to be an impact player for the entire year, and without strong play from him Miami will struggle to reach their goals this year.
The Hurricanes Need to Improve in Transition
Miami scored 13 points off turnovers against Louisville, while allowing the Cardinals to strike for 18 points. That ratio is not a recipe for success this season for the ‘Canes. Miami had several opportunities to add to their total, but multiple blocks due to tentative finishing and poor handling of the basketball limited the offense’s transition effectiveness.
Later on in the season Miami will have to work on scoring easy points in transition, especially against more talented opponents. It’s critical for Miami to ensure that they handle the ball well on offense and get back on defense, because continued poor-transition play would limit the Hurricanes ability to stay in tough games this season.
Free Throws Are Still an Area of Concern
The Hurricanes had well-documented struggles from the free throw line last season and they continued into tonight. Miami shot just 4-11 from the line and failed to take advantage of their opportunities for easy points. Free throws are another key to getting big wins later in the year, and Miami will have to improve in that area as the season continues on.
The ‘Canes showed flashes of potential to be a very good team. If Miami can clean up a few areas of its’ game they should be able to improve greatly as the year goes on.