In preparation for tomorrow's huge game with Miami, we spoke with the guys over at Category 6, an excellent blog covering the Hurricanes. Check the links below this story to find more coverage of the game, including a film breakdown of Miami's offense, and of course our answers to their questions. As always, the preview and game thread will come two hours before tip.
TN: Give me a fan's perspective on new head coach Jim Larranaga. What are the expectations for what he can do with the program?
Coach Larranaga has done an excellent job this season. Miami has been shorthanded for a good part of the year due to injuries/suspensions, etc. Other then the NC State game, the 'Canes has played with great effort in every contest. Coach L often says something to the bench that draws big laughs, but also appears to know when to be firm. Turnovers are down this year, execution on both ends is improved (impressive considering a new system) and the team seems to come out of timeouts more focused. With Coach L extended now through 2019 we expect him to continue to bring energy to the program, and hopefully take the 'Canes to the next level. We hope winning at Duke is a sign of things to come.
TN: Miami has never had a winning conference record in the ACC. Is this the year? What are your expectations for the rest of the season? What does Miami have to do to make the NCAA Tournament?
This is the year!!! If UM just wins the games it should (BC, Wake Forest, Va Tech, ) they'd go 8-8. We definately feel like they can win at Maryland or at NC State as well. We hope they can split with FSU, and we're ambitious they may even beat UNC at home. I am sticking with my preseason prediction, 10-6. 10-6 with a win at Duke, no bad losses, and hopefully one more quality win before the season's end should get them in the tourney. I wouldn't be surprised if they made a run in the ACC Tournament as well, as less successful teams have done well there in recent years.
TN: Miami struggled (understandably) without Reggie Johnson. What has his return meant, and what other players have most benefited from his presence in the middle?
Reggie's return meant everything to this team. Until perhaps the Duke game, he hadn't even playing up to expectations, but his presence clearly makes the offense run smoother. He's also the team's best rebounder and an underrated defender. While you would expect the guards to benefit the most, 6'11 Kenny Kadji has really thrived since Big Reg's return. Kadji can score in a number of ways and has looked like an all-conference player since the ACC slate began. Most of all with Reggie Johnson on the floor, the team as a whole seems more confident.
TN: What's happened to Malcolm Grant? Is he the most disappointing player this season? Which players have been pleasant surprises?
Grant's 35 year old brother died unexpectedly of a heart attack back in December and it definitely affected him. We choose not to call his season a disappointment because anyone given the circumstances would struggle. The most pleasant surprises have been the newcomers, Kenny Kadji, Trey McKinney-Jones, and Shane Larkin. Kadji can face up and score, knock down threes, post up, rebound, and block shots, and as mentioned earlier has been playing at an all-conference level. McKinney-Jones is a 6'5 swingman who shoots, passes, defends, and handles well above average. We love his game. Of the three Larkin may have the highest upside of them all. The son of hall-of-famer Barry Larkin, Shane has had some freshman moments. But he shoots with confidence, is a potential all conference defender as a freshman, and has run the point efficiently during Miami's recent strong run.
TN: Finally, a prediction. What's the final score and how does this game play out?
Coming off the loss at BC, we expect to see FSU play angry. Miami will have to withstand the Seminoles typical hard-nosed defense and make some contested shots. Reggie Johnson and Bernard James will bang under the basket and both will put points on the board. The 'Cane that the Seminoles will have the most trouble with will be Kenny Kadji. Miami will build a second half lead behind K2's strong play, but Deividas Dulkys will shoot FSU back into it with a bucket or two. A late stand and some Durand Scott free throws seal it. Miami wins 62-58.