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Miami Hurricanes vs. USC Trojans: 3 Key Canes

These three Canes will have to be at their best if Miami is going to escape Round 1 with a win.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round Greenville Practice Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes are hours away from opening their tournament opening game against the USC Trojans in Greenville, SC. It’s been an interesting tournament so far, with a number of high seeds winning yesterday, including a 15, two 12s, and an 11. What will it take for Miami to add another double-digit seed to the win column? Sound play from the following three Canes...

3) Sam Waardenburg. There’s no secret to this game: USC is much bigger and stronger in the post. Miami’s size disadvantage was exposed in their last game against Duke, as the Blue Devils’ superior size grounded down the Canes in the second half. Waardenburg will have to be active and physical against USC’s inside due of Chevez Goodwin and Isaiah Mobley, who both average double-digit points on the year. In a game where the Trojans will likely lob the ball into the post early and often, Waardenburg will have to hold his ground without getting into foul trouble. Miami doesn’t have a great answer defensively if he finds an early seat on the bench. On offense, Waardenburg’s versatility as a stretch 5 will be important to space out USC’s defense and create opportunities for cuts to the basket and easier percentage shots for Miami’s smaller offense.

2) Jordan Miller. Where Miami hasn’t had much frontcourt offensive production, Jordan Miller has been a breath of fresh air. The 6’7” guard has been red-hot down the stretch, hitting double-digit points in 7 of his last 8 games, including 25 and the game winning basket in the thrilling comeback at Syracuse. He led the team in rebounds against Syracuse and Duke, bringing down 13 in each game. Miller’s been a versatile scorer lately. His mid-range jumper has been on, and he’s been willing to take the ball to the basket against bigger defenders and score. He’s going to have to go through the trees against USC, but he still provides one of Miami’s best scoring options close to the basket, which will be important in the slower, half-court nature of most NCAA tournament games.

1) Kam McGusty. Miami’s first-team All-ACC guard has been shooting the ball well lately - shooting 40% or better from beyond the arc in 6 of his last 8 games. He’s Miami’s best scorer and the best at creating his own scoring opportunity. Driving to the basket, drive stop into mid-range jumper, or squaring up for a three. It’s all been falling lately for McGusty. In tight, half-court games in March, this is where these types of playmakers tilt the outcome of tight contests. If Miami’s going to get past USC, this will have to be a game where McGusty gets some tough baskets, and a repeat of his last game against Duke - where he went for 24 points and 7 boards - would be welcomed.

Go Canes!