It wasn’t all smooth sailing, but Miami Hurricanes Basketball is 3-0 heading into their holiday tournament, the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship. This four-team tournament was dubbed by CBS Sports to be the fourth-best holiday tournament. Keep making Final Fours and maybe Miami can get a Maui invite.
But seriously, this is a great opportunity for the Hurricanes to hopefully pick up a couple of tier 1 or 2 victories against likely NCAA Tournament teams. This will also be good for fans who don’t have ESPN+ or the ACC Network Extra, the carriers for Miami’s first three games, because all tournament games will be on the more widely distributed CBS Sports Network.
Opening Matchup vs. Georgia Bulldogs
Friday, November 17 at 3:30pm ET, CBS Sports Network
The Georgia Bulldogs are coming off an up-then-down 16-15 season last year. Still, that was a huge improvement over the previous year’s 6-26 record that lead to the firing of coach Tom Crean. The Bulldogs went out and hired away Florida’s head coach Mike White, who had been leading the Gators since Billy Donovan departed in 2015. Last year, Coach White got the Bulldogs off to a 13-4 start including over NCAA Tournament teams Auburn and Mississippi State. Then the wheels fell in SEC conference play and the Bulldogs would only win 3 games the rest of the season.
This year, Georgia is off a 2-1 start. The Bulldogs lost their opener 71-82 to Oregon in Las Vegas, but then rebounded to defeat Wake Forest and NC Central in home contests.
Georgia Bulldogs Starting Five (w/ 3 key stats)
- G Noah Thompson - 9.7 ppg, 3.0 apg, .250 3pt%
- G Jabri Abdur-Rahim - 16.0 ppg, .412 3pt%, 0.0 apg
- C Russel Tchewa - 7.3 ppg, 19.7 mpg, 6.0 rpg
- G RJ Melendez - 8.0 ppg, 2.0 TO pg, .143 3pt%
- G Silas Demary Jr. - 9.3 ppg, 3.7 PF pg, .167 3pt%
Georgia is led by Senior “guard” Jabri Abdur-Rahim, son of NBA All Star Shareef Abdur-Rahim. I say “guard” because the guy is 6’8,” which is taller than Miami’s “center” Norchad Omier. Just looking at stats, before looking at a single second of tape, Abdur-Rahim clearly camps on the wing. He’s the Bulldogs’ leading scorer and has started the season a scorching 41.2% from the three-point range, but Abdur-Rahim has an astonishing zero assists through three games. Not one. Sure enough, watching the Oregon highlights you can see Abdur-Rahim repeatedly darting straight to the corner on fast breaks as Melendez or Demary Jr. or another guard tries to break the defense down.
Another observation is that outside of Abdur-Rahim and sixth-man Justin Hill, the Bulldogs are struggling mightily from three point range. Those two combined are a very respectable 12-30 (40%) through three games while everyone else is just 10-46 (21.7%).
It looks like Miami will matchup pretty well against Georgia. The Bulldogs typically show three guards, a wing, and a post player. Their opponents are out-rebounding them (47.3 rpg vs. 38.7 rpg) and out-blocking them (4.3 bpg vs. 3.0 bpg). So, Georgia’s strengths/weaknesses seem to matchup well to Miami’s.
Miami’s 3 keys to success will be:
- Smother Abdur-Rahim. This looks like a job for Matthew Cleveland, who has the height and athleticism to stay glued to the Bulldogs’ leading scorer. If Abdur-Rahim is forced into an off-shooting night, and he’s shown through three games to be a milquetoast passer, then making Abdur-Rahim a brick laying black hole will go a long way towards victory.
- Win the rebounds. Through three games, Georgia averages about 10 offensive rebounds per game. It’s neither Georgia’s nor Miami’s strength. By comparison, FIU gathered 16 offensive rebounds in giving Miami a good scare. The Hurricanes need to keep this number in the single digits, especially against this guard-heavy team.
- Run the Floor. Running the floor after turnovers or long rebounds always kick starts a Jim Larrañaga team. Expect a good day for the ‘Canes if Miami is on its giddy-up with breakaway after breakaway.
Second Matchup vs. Kansas State/Providence
Sunday, November 19 at 12:00pm/2:30pm ET, CBS Sports Network
If Miami beats Georgia they’ll play the winner of Kansas State and Providence at 2:30pm ET on Sunday, while a loss puts them in the noon consolation game.
The Providence Friars are 3-0, including a strong 72-59 win over Wisconsin last Tuesday night. Providence finished 21-12 last season earning an NCAA Tournament 11 seed. Head coach Ed Cooley is out, having taken the Georgetown job opening, so the Friars went out and hired Kim English away from George Mason. Coach English’s squad is anchored by Big East POY candidate Bryce Hopkins as well as returning starter Devin Carter.
Last year, Miami used a 14-3 first half run to establish a 36-23 lead and never looked back. It was a defensive effort for the Hurricanes who forced 14 Friar turnovers, held their opponent to only 5-21 (23.8%) from beyond the arc, and allowed just 6 offensive rebounds.
As for Kansas State, the Wildcats are 2-1 after dropping their opener to USC in Las Vegas. K-State is coming off an Elite Eight appearance in last year’s NCAA Tournament, but star point guard Markquis Nowell of no-look, alley-oop fame has departed for the NBA.
Creighton transfer Arthur Kaluma was supposed to plug into the Wildcats as a double-double machine, but Kaluma was a disappointing 1-11 shooting in the Wildcats’ season opening loss to USC. Instead it’s been Tylor Perry, the transfer guard from North Texas, who has been the one to carry the mantle leading the team with 20.7 ppg and 5.3 apg. Returning guard Cam Carter is the Wildcats’ second leading scorer averaging 19.0 ppg.
USC got the better of Kansas State with swarming defense and terrific dribble-drive penetration. The Trojans shot 31-60 (51.7%) overall compared to 22-71 (31.0%) for the Wildcats. So if Miami draws Kansas State on Sunday, expect Coach L’s motion heavy offense to lead to lots and lots of slashing and attacking towards the rim for Wooga, Bensley, and Njiel.