Gameday is here CANES FAM! Your Miami Hurricanes are set to face off against the 1 seeded Houston Cougars. It is going to be an absolute slug fest, here are three questions I have for the game:
Can Miami keep guarding at a high level?
Miami advancing to the Sweet 16 is due in large part to their effectiveness on the defensive side of the floor. Miami was ranked 132nd in adjusted defensive efficiency going into the tournament. After just 2 tournament games the Canes are now ranked 108th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Defensively, Miami is rotating quicker, boxing out at a higher level and contesting shots more heavily.
Another key to Miami’s tournament success so far is winning the 2nd chance points battle. The Canes have outscored opponents 38-13 in 2nd chance points in their first two tournament games. Although Houston is undersized, they are #4 out of 363 programs in OREB rate. Miami cannot afford to get completely dominated on the boards.
The emergence of Wooga Poplar as a lockdown defender has been a huge reason why Miami has improved defensively as the season has progressed. Wooga was the primary defender on Drake’s leading scorer Tucker DeVries. Poplar held DeVries to 3 points on 1/13 shooting.
Wooga will most likely take the challenge of guarding Houston’s leading scorer Marcus Sasser. Sasser is a terrific shooter who has an elite ability to shoot off the dribble. If Wooga is able to somewhat limit Sasser’s effectiveness on offense it would be a huge plus for Miami.
How does Miami handle the physicality and aggressiveness of Houston?
Houston is a very physical team on both offense and defense. Defensively, the Cougars do commit fouls at a high rate. Free throws could be a huge factor in this game. Houston gives up about 36 free throws a game compared to Miami’s 24. The Canes have been a top 20 FT% team in the country this year knocking down 77.4 of their attempts.
Houston is very aggressive with guarding the pick and roll and dribble handoffs. Defensively, Houston is so aggressive because their bigs are so mobile and athletic. Miami will need to make very quick decisions in the pick and roll and dribble handoff scenarios.
Houston does force TOs at a high level, they are top 20 in steal % in the country. Marcus Sasser and Jamal Shead have very quick hands that help them get steals at a high level. Offensively, Miami has to have the spatial awareness to know where the help side defenders are. Miami cannot afford to over dribble as well like they did against Drake.
Miami did struggle to create on offense against a physical Drake defense in their first tournament game. Houston is another animal when it comes to aggressiveness and ability to guard 1 on 1. Offensively, Miami cannot afford to take bad shots because there will be very limited 2nd chance opportunities.
Can Miami knock down Open 3s?
Houston is a very good and aggressive defense, but they do pick up on ball guarding position a little further away than most teams. Houston gives up around 44 3PT attempts a game, but teams are only making 27.4% of those attempts.
Miami is going to have opportunities to shoot open threes, but they NEED to make them. Offensively, if Miami can make open 3s it will help the floor spacing and create more open driving lanes.
The Canes are in for an absolute dog fight. Houston is going to come in very physical and aggressive, but how will Miami respond? Tipoff is only a few hours away so we will know the answer soon enough.