In advance of Miami’s 8 p.m. game at Wake Forest — and its Saturday showdown at No. 18 Duke, a game ESPN will feature on its season debut of the hoops version of College GameDay — ESPN commentators Dick Vitale and Seth Greenberg shared their thoughts on the Hurricanes.
Both see good and bad with UM, which takes a 12-4 (2-2 ACC) record into Winston-Salem. The Demon Deacons are 10-7 (1-4), but have lost to five ranked teams: Villanova, Xavier, Florida State, Virginia and North Carolina. They are 2-6 in their last eight, but have the type of post scorer (6-foot-10 West Palm Beach native John Collins, who averages 15.8 points and 8.9 rebounds) who can make it tough on the guard-heavy Canes.
Those guards are a reason for optimism and concern, both Greenberg and Vitale said.
“Making decisions at the end of the game has got to be big thing they’ve got to be concerned about,” Vitale said. “They’re so inexperienced on the perimeter. They were dominated last year by the play of [Angel] Rodriguez and [Sheldon] McClellan. [They need to] not to be so up-and-down, be able to be more consistent.
“They got pounded by Syracuse in the second half. Jim [Larranaga] was not happy with that performance at all. He said that was the one time they really broke down defensively, going up there.” Vitale was impressed with Miami’s bounce-back win at Pittsburgh, which came after a loss at home to a veteran Notre Dame squad. “[Pitt] has really had some good moments this year, and they blew them away,” Vitale said, exhorting Miami to show “some consistency.”
Greenberg said Miami must take better care of the ball. “Nearly 20 percent of their possessions end in a turnover, and that’s not Jim Larranaga basketball,” he said. The Hurricanes commit a turnover on 17.1 percent of offensive possessions, according to TeamRankings. That is tied for 222nd nationally. Boston College and Georgia Tech are the only ACC teams who rank lower in that category.
Miami is committing 13.6 turnovers per game (192nd). Last year, it averaged 11, which was tied for 35th.
“The only thing I would add is that they really don’t get anything from their frontcourt,” Greenberg said. They’re so perimeter-oriented. They’ve got to get some consistency from their frontcourt. It’s been spotty at best. That’s what happens when you don’t have guys you can play through in the post – you’re going to end up in your perimeter game. Their shot selection at times can be a little suspect.
“As good as [Kamari] Murphy is defensively, he doesn’t give them really anything offensively. If they got something a little more consistently from the frontcourt, it would make it easier on the guards.”
Vitale is high on freshman guard Bruce Brown — “I think he’s going to be a terrific player” — and said freshman forward Dewan Huell “has things you can’t teach: the size, the athleticism. Has to learn to create space and get free for his shot. Has to learn how to score, how to use that speed and quickness in transition.”
Junior Ja’Quan Newton, who has been turnover-prone in his first season running the point full-time, is “not what you’d call a legitimate point guard,” Vitale said, “but he can put points on the board for you. He’s not afraid to take the big shot. He’s always in attack mode.”
Greenberg: “I’m a big Newton fan. He’s more of a [New York] City guard than a Philly guard [Newton is from Philadelphia]. … He’s a ball guard. He can score, make plays, he’s got a great feel, and Jim gives him a lot of freedom. When the ball gets stuck, he’s going to make a play.”
Greenberg said he’s also “a big [Davon] Reed fan. I think he’s a terrific player. He’s got a physicality to his game, a versatility to his game.”
Vitale, in summation:
“They’ve got a lot of parts to be a very dangerous basketball team, but I don’t see them at the level [they were at] with [Shane] Larkin and Co.”