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Scouting Indiana: 3 Keys to Success for Miami to Make the Sweet 16

Hurricanes Eyeing Back-to-Back Sweet 16s for the First Time in Program History

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NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament Semifinals - Penn State vs Indiana Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball team battles the Indiana Hoosiers for only the second time in program history. James Jones led Miami to a 58-53 victory in the 2001 Orange Bowl Classic - the year Indiana last appeared in the national championship game.

This Indiana team is a very Jekyll and Hyde team. Their best accomplishment this season was sweeping Purdue. They also won at Xavier. But the Hoosiers were also frequently on the wrong end of several blow outs: 84-62 at Kansas; 89-75 vs. Arizona; 80-65 at Michigan St.; 90-68 vs. Iowa; 63-48 at Rutgers; and 85-66 at Penn State. Those are six talented, but very different, tournament teams that managed to conquer the Hoosiers. In combing through the box scores and commentaries in these loses, as well as seeing what they did right against the likes of Purdue and Xavier, here are three keys to tonight’s game for Miami to prevail.

1. Make Multiple Runs, Force Indiana to Chase

College basketball games are often won and lost in runs. Against Drake, Miami switched to an aggressive full-court press while Drake was timidly trying to protect its lead. It worked beautifully, and Miami finished on 16-1 run in the final 6 minutes.

In each of their blow out losses, there was at least one, usually multiple, 4-8 minute stretches where the opponent went on a significant run.

  • Kansas: had a 1st half 14-3 run (from 7:38-2:33) and a 2nd half 15-4 run (from 9:32-4:53)
  • Arizona: had a 1st half 17-0 run (from 15:16-11:13) and a 2nd half 9-0 run (from 12:07-8:35)
  • Iowa: had a 1st half 10-0 run (from 10:04-6:16) and a 2nd half 19-5 run (from 18:29-10:13)
  • Michigan St.: had a 1st half 22-7 run (from 8:22-0:00) and a 2nd half 9-0 run (12:07-8:00)
  • Penn. St.: had a 1st half 11-3 run (3:41-0:27) and a 2nd half 13-4 run (9:49-5:21)
  • Rutgers: had a 2nd half 17-0 run (13:13-8:03)

Indiana isn’t built to chase. The Hoosiers shoot the 11th fewest three point attempts in the entire nation (15.3). When I say that Indiana is a Jekyll and Hyde team, the Hoosiers are susceptible to shutting down for long stretches. Several times this season this low volume three point shooting team struggled to dig itself out of multiple possession holes.

When Miami hits a homerun energy play (and that’s a when, not if), the Canes need to bottle that lightening and turn it into a several minute run. If Omier throws down a big alley-oop, or if Pack hits back-to-back threes from the logo, or if Wong completes an and-one circus shot, Coach L needs to light a fire under whatever squad is out there and press the gas pedal.

2. Lock down Jalen Hood-Schifino

Trayce Jackson-Davis needs no introduction to college basketball fans. The 1st team All-American, and biological son of NBA veteran Dale Davis, led the Hoosiers in points, rebounds, and assists in 11 games this season (including his historic 24-11-5-5 stat line against Kent State in the first round, the first player to accomplish that feat in the NCAA Tournament). Jackson-Davis led Indiana in at least two of these categories in 27 of 34 games. He’s high first round NBA Draft talent and is arguably the most talented player Miami has faced this whole season.

Guard Jalen Hood-Schifino is a talented second fiddle to Jackson-Davis. Coach L praised Hood-Schifino, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, in yesterday’s press conference: “Jalen, I tried to recruit him. I loved his game. He’s 6-foot-6. He plays the point...he’s just much bigger than our guards. So he’ll be a handful for us.”

In particular, Indiana likes to run high pick-and-rolls with Hood-Schifino. They ran Purdue into ground with these.

When the talented freshman is shut down, the Hoosiers tend to stumble. Hood-Schifino is averaging 13.3 points on 42% shooting, 37% from three. Here’s Hood-Schifino’s scoring in those six, big losses:

  • Kansas: 11pts, 2-11 fg, 2-5 3pt fg
  • Iowa: 8pts, 4-14 fg, 0-2 3pt fg
  • Michigan St: 16pts, 6-13 fg, 0-5 3pt fg
  • Penn St.: 11pts, 5-15 fg, 1-4 3pt fg
  • Arizona and Rutgers: dnp

Kent State held Hood-Schifino in check. He had only 8 points on 4-11 shooting, 0-2 from three. Unfortunately, forward Race Thompson made up for it with a career high 20 point outing on a scorching 8-11 shooting (he averages only 4 points per game). That’s not going to be a regular thing. It’s like asking Wooga Poplar to substitute for Isiah Wong’s scoring. It can happen in a one-off pinch, but that’s not sustainable.

Miami can only hope to contain Jackson-Davis, but he can’t win the game alone. Shutting down Hood-Schifino more often than not has been a receipe for success against Indiana. Poplar and Beverly were critical in covering Drake’s Tucker DeVries, the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. DeVries was held to just 1-11 shooting. Expect Coach L to call upon them again to shadow Indiana’s top guard.

3. Play Loose, Get Into Transition

The first half against Drake was probably the most skittish I’ve seen this team since the first five games of the season - remember when the Canes had halftime deficits against Lafeyette, UNC Greensboro, and FAMU? Friday was what it felt like watching those early season games all over again. Mercifully, Pack woke the team up just in time to keep dancing tonight.

In yesterday’s interview, Jackson-Davis said that Indiana prefers games in the 60’s not the 70’s or 80’s. The advanced stats support that - Indiana is ranked No. 172 in pace at 68.3 possession per 40 minutes. Miami needs to PUSH the ball and get transition offense opportunities. Indiana is also highly ranked in blocks, and there’s countless highlights of Jackson-Davis energizing the Hoosiers with a big ole’ swat. Transition offense greatly minimizes block opportunities.

I vividly remember Miami’s active hands frustrating the heck out of the Blue Devils in Coral Gables. Last year’s team was masterful at this - those Canes finished 5th in the nation in steals whereas this year’s team is a merely above-average 83rd. While this year’s Canes have a better all-round offense, and a generally deeper team, summoning some of that Larrañaga defensive magic could prove critical to keeping this Hoosier team off balance.

Game Information

  • Time: 8:40pm ET (est.)
  • Television: TNT
  • Radio: 560 WQAM
  • Draft Kings Line: Indiana (-1.5)

Go Canes!