Before we get to Texas, or the Women’s matchup against LSU (and their peacock head coach), a word about the ACC.
With apologies to Clemson and, I guess, FSU and those programs' accomplishments on the gridiron, the ACC is a basketball conference. The heart and soul of the conference lives on Tobacco Road. The conference headquarters are in North Carolina. The conference’s media rights deal reflects that it’s a basketball conference - $30 million per school is closer to the Big East’s football-less $15 million per school than the Big Ten and SEC’s more than $70 million per school. The conference is such a bad fit for Miami that I penned an article last summer that Miami would be better off a football independent than in the ACC.
So, I was absolutely beside myself laughing yesterday when I read that ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips told ESPN that the ACC has “to portray ourselves in a different way” because the conference was awarded a mere five bids to the men’s tournament this year and last.
ACC commissioner Jim Phillips told me the league needs to be more aggressive and proactive about changing the men's basketball narrative. So he will meet with coaches + ADs as soon as the season ends https://t.co/uKFC5IwWFZ— Andrea Adelson (@aadelsonESPN) March 25, 2023
“We need to change the ACC’s perception!” Get out of here. Phillips told ESPN he thought UNC and Clemson should have made the tournament. North Carolina was the preseason number 1 team (based solely on PERCEPTION) and then proceeded to lose every single Quad 1 game until finally beating Virginia on February 25th. When their bubble was burst, the Tarheels threw a tantrum and boycotted the NIT. Clemson, who led the ACC standings most of the season, only played two tournament teams in its non-conference schedule (loss against Iowa; win against Penn State) and then proceeded to lose its opening NIT match against Morehead St.
The ACC has to HATE that Miami is its basketball flag bearer. Miami basketball, which was the subject of a 2017 FBI probe about an Adidas pay-to-play scandal (Miami would be dropped from the complaint, vindicating Coach Larranaga but devastating the program’s recruiting for years). Miami basketball, which just received the first ever NIL-related sanctions placing the entire athletic department on a 1 year probation. Miami basketball, which was sanctioned in the wake of the Nevin Shapiro scandal in 2013. Miami basketball, whose public perception is undoubtedly intertwined with the football program including boomer fans’ disdain for Thug U.
Gone are Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith, Roy Williams, and now Jim Boeheim. This is ACC basketball now:
JIM LARRANAGA BREAKING IT DOWN IN THE LOCKER ROOM @CanesHoops pic.twitter.com/24gqeUVqbR— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 25, 2023
and Miami fans love it.
On to Texas and 3 keys to advancing to the program’s first ever Final Four:
1. Guard the Mid-Range Jumpers
It’s not sexy. The analytics say it’s a bad shot. But boy do the Longhorns hit a LOT of eight to fifteen foot jumpers.
This Sir’Jabari Rice fade! pic.twitter.com/Xyoa0JUp6A— Hook'em Headlines (@HookemHeadlines) March 25, 2023
Smooth bucket from Marcus Carr @TexasMBB leads by 9!#MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/sUO6C8ehgz— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 25, 2023
Carr dime to Timmy Allen for the jumper #ncaa #basketball #collegebasketball #texas #longhorns #mbb #cbb #marcuscarr #prospect #nba #nbadraft #timmyallen pic.twitter.com/LOkOj01pIy— DEE BLACK (@deeblackmma3) February 4, 2023
Texas shoots 20.7 three points per game, which is ranked 215th in the nation - so slightly below average. Likewise, Texas averages 18.5 free throw attempts per game - good for a middle of the road national ranking of 144th.
So the Longhorns aren’t shooting a high rate of three pointers and they’re not getting to the line at a particularly high rate. This suggests a lot of mid range jumpers, floaters, and fades. Sure enough, take a look at this shot chart from their close, second round win against Penn State:
That’s a LOT of mid range jumpers. Texas survived a 1 for 11 night behind the arc by just peppering Penn State from mid-range.
Fortunately, Miami’s small and fast lineup is well built to defend this sort of offense. Many of these jumpers came from heavy motion ending with an on ball screen where the big man dropped too far or an off ball screen where the defender couldn’t keep up with his man. Miller and Omier can switch and keep a pretty tight press on the guards, and Wooga and Beverly have been masterful fighting through screens. While not the Canes’ strength, don’t be surprised if Coach L sprinkles zone defense into a couple of defensive possessions to try and disrupt the Longhorns.
Combatting this offense should be made a hair easier with star Texas big man Dylan Disu likely out against Miami with an ankle injury. Disu gave it a go against Xavier, but was pulled after only a couple minutes of play. Nearly half of those mid-range orange circles in the above Penn State shot chart belong to Disu.
Texas' Dylan Disu (foot) remains day-to-day & his status for Sunday against Miami will "probably not be determined until pregame warmups", per a school spokesman. Only played two minutes against Xavier.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 25, 2023
Averaged 23.5 PPG & 10 RPG in the first two games of the NCAA Tournament.
2. Win the Hustle Plays
Texas’ offense frankly shares a lot of similarities to Miami. They’re relatively small, fast, and pretty darn good at generating points in transition.
Sir’Jabari Rice always getting his! pic.twitter.com/IjH11lrl51— Hook'em Headlines (@HookemHeadlines) March 25, 2023
The stats show that Texas is ranked 51st in steals (7.9 per game) and have forced opponents into the 21st most turnovers (15.8 per game). Frankly, that’s very impressive coming out of the Big XII - arguably the toughest basketball conference in the nation.
Where I think Miami has an edge is offensive rebounding. I’ve never seen a team with guards so well equipped at fighting for offensive rebounds. Miami had 6 offensive boards against Houston, 9 against Drake, and a whopping 20 (!!) against Indiana. The Drake game is a particularly good example because those boards were key to keeping Miami in the game while its offense was struggling.
Getting second possessions and forcing turnovers in key moments will be critical tonight.
3. Make Adjustments, Be Flexible
This is where Miami hopefully has its greatest advantage. Coach Larrañaga.
Coach L has been masterful getting this team ready and having backup plans to backup plans when things aren’t going well. Case and point was the Drake game. Miami finished the game on a 16-1 run principally by switching to a full court press at exactly the right time, even though the press didn’t do much earlier in the game.
The Texas bench is being led by interim head coach Rodney Terry, who assumed the position when Chris Beard was dismissed mid-season after being arrested in December on domestic violence charges. Coach Terry has done very well in winning the Big XII championship tournament and guiding Texas to its first Elite 8 since 2008. Terry has earned the right to remove the interim tag, but tonight I’d rather have Coach L on my bench.
BONUS Key to Women Advancing
Meanwhile, the women face a tall task against LSU and their hall-of-fame head coach Kim Mulkey. Mulkey won three national championships while coaching Baylor for two decades before “coming home” to LSU in 2021. It only took her two years to get the Tigers into the Elite 8.
LSU’s only two losses this year were to undefeated South Carolina and in the SEC semifinals against Tennessee. The Tennessee loss is particularly illuminating as the potential path to success. LSU stormed out of the gates to a 40-26 halftime advantage before Tennessee flipped the script in the second half. Tennessee rode Rikea Jackson’s 26 pt, 10 reb double-double performance in the comeback. Expect Miami’s Destiny Harden to have a similar performance in the post for Miami to complete one of the most stunning runs in the history of the Women’s Tournament.
ANOTHER NO. 1 SEED FALLS @CanesWBB advances to the Sweet 16 after a last-second game-winner from Destiny Harden upsets Indiana.— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) March 21, 2023
@TSN_Sports | #MarchMadnesspic.twitter.com/7WbQq4c5Xx
Elite 8 Game Information
Men’s: Miami Hurricanes (5) versus Texas Longhorns (2)
- Time: 5:05 pm (ET)
- Television: CBS
- Radio: 560 WQAM
- Draft Kings Line: Texas (-4)
Women’s: Miami Hurricanes (9) versus LSU Tigers (3)
- Time: 7:00 pm (ET)
- Television: ESPN
- Draft Kings Line: LSU (-10)