The Miami Hurricanes Women’s Basketball squad is into ACC play for the 2022-23 season. They are looking to return to the Women’s NCAA Tournament in March for a second year in a row. The Lady Canes will need to get more consistent play if they hope to make a postseason run.
Let’s take a look at the top teams in the ACC and where Miami fits in.
The Favorites: Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, UNC, NC State
As of this week, there are three ACC teams ranked inside the AP Top 10. Impressive. Notre Dame is the highest ranked of the bunch, at #5. They are followed by #6 NC State and #7 Virginia Tech.
Miami’s 1980s football rival is having a big comeback season after several subpar years. The sophomore combo of guards Olivia Miles and Sonia Citron have the Fighting Irish rolling. They are combining for over 31 points and 15 rebounds per game. 15 rebounds for two guards?! Damn. Notre Dame also has one of the best wins of the year, beating #3 Connecticut in early December. That win was huge, considering how bad UConn beat Notre Dame the previous two meetings. Notre Dame is THE favorite in the ACC and have national championship aspirations.
NC State has an 11-2 record, with their only losses coming to #5 Connecticut and Duke. No shame in that. They have a great non-conference road win, beating #10 Iowa 94-81 in early December. That game showed what NC State was capable of at their peak. Five players scored in double figures, and they dominated after the first quarter. Junior point guard Diamond Johnson leads the Wolfpack in scoring and assists, averaging 13.9 and 3.8 respectively. Senior forward Jada Boyd is playing great ball as well, averaging 10.9 points and leading the team in rebounding, at 5.1 per game.
Virginia Tech was ahead of NC State in the rankings until losing two of their last three games. The Notre Dame loss was respectable, the Clemson loss, not so much. Still, the talent is there for a deep run in March. The Hokies are led by their senior center, Elizabeth Kitley. She is averaging career-highs this season, putting up 18.8 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. Kitley is a double-double machine (eight so far this season) and could be in the running for ACC Player of the Year.
UNC is another ACC team having a bounce-back year so far. They are ranked #13, but should fall significantly after losing their last two games to #19 Michigan and Florida State. Still, the Tar Heels are a talented and deep team, especially offensively. They also have two non-conference road wins over ranked teams, beating #18 Oregon and #5 Iowa State in back-to-back games in late November. Junior guard Deja Kelly was great in both contests, averaging 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 5.5 assists in the two wins. UNC has four players averaging at least 12 points per game. They are led by junior guard Alyssa Ustby, averaging 15.1 points and 8.9 rebounds.
The Sleepers: Virginia, Duke, FSU
Virginia is 13-1 on the season with a +21.9 point differential. So, why no AP Top 25 ranking? Simply put, they haven’t played anyone yet. Virginia’s only tough game so far this season has been against Duke, resulting in a 14-point loss. Virginia’s best game of the season came on the road against Penn State in late November. It was junior Connecticut transfer guard-forward Mir McLean’s best game of the season, as she contributed 24 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists. McLean leads Virginia in scoring and rebounding, averaging 13 and 10.2 per game, respectively. The Cavaliers will know how good they are before February, with January home and away games with #7 Virginia Tech, at #6 NC State, home vs #13 UNC, and at #5 Notre Dame. That is a tough month of games.
Duke has had a great 2022, going 12-1, 2-0 ACC. Their only loss was to #5 Connecticut in late November. They have won seven games in a row since then, including a win over #6 NC State last Thursday. Duke will be ranked in tomorrow’s new AP Poll. The Blue Devils define balance in basketball. Senior guard Celeste Taylor is their leading scorer, averaging only 11.1 points per game. She did play her best game against the Wolfpack, scoring 23 points and pulling down 8 rebounds. Duke does have four other players averaging at least 6.8 points per game. They also spread the minutes around: 11 players average at least 12 minutes per game. Different, but effective thus far.
Florida State is playing great basketball so far this season. They beat their in-state rival Florida Gators, took down Miami in the first conference game for both schools, and just topped #13 UNC on the road. One of their two losses was to #9 Connecticut. Is Connecticut in the ACC? Why are they playing all these schools? Whatever. FSU can score with any team in the country, averaging 88.4 points per game. They also like to stop other teams from scoring at the rim, as they are second in the nation in blocks per game, with 7.1. Freshman guard and Miami native Ta’niya Latson is crushing for the Seminoles, putting up 25.4 points and 4.8 assists per game. How did she get out of Miami? Damnit. Sophomore forward Makayla Timpson is averaging close to a double-double this season, with 13.1 points and 9.6 rebounds. FSU is young, talented, and doesn’t know any better. They could be a legit challenger this season.
Where does Miami fit in?
I was expecting a stronger start to the season for the Lady Canes. Granted, they did lose top scorer Kelsey Marshall to graduation. But with the Cavinder twins coming to Coral Gables, another offseason for Destiny Harden, and incoming freshman force Lazaria Spearman, I thought they would have an early season record closer to the conference favorites. I did not expect a 7-4 mark with losses to DePaul and Columbia. The Columbia loss was especially rough, considering it was in the finals of Miami’s home Thanksgiving Tournament.
Miami seems to get into first half deficits on a regular basis. They then expend a ton of energy getting back into the game, usually around the third quarter. Those comebacks leave this team tired looking in fourth quarters this season. The Lady Canes looked best in their most recent game against Notre Dame, only losing by three. That could be a good sign after early December double-digit losses to FSU and #17 Michigan. I don’t like to take positives from a loss, but you have to work with what you’ve got.
Similarly to Virginia, Miami will know how good they are before February. The Lady Canes host #13 UNC and #7 Virginia Tech in back-to-back games next week. Miami travels to #6 NC State on 1/19. Coach Meier’s squad will definitely be big underdogs in the first two matchups. Win those, and the NC State game looks much more interesting.
Expectations for this season:
At 7-6, I fear the Lady Canes look to be bound for the NIT this March. It’s not inconceivable they start to figure it out and make a run in the ACC. But, having watched how they start and finish games so far this season, I don’t see it. They are not the 2021-22 Lady Canes. All that said, it would be great for Harden, the Cavinders, and company to prove me wrong.