How To Watch, Stream & Listen
Rutgers (6-0) At Miami (4-2)
Tip-off: Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. EST
TV: ESPNU - Mark Jones and Cory Alexander
Stream: Watch ESPN
WCTC 1450 AM - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan
WRSU 88.7 FM - Nick Kosko & Dom Savino
KenPom Rankings: Miami #29 ; Rutgers #162
KenPom Prediction: Miami 72 Rutgers 57; Rutgers has 9% chance of winning
Vegas Line: Miami -17
Series History: Miami leads the series 9-5. The last meeting between the two schools, Miami won 72-57 on November 15, 2011. Rutgers is 0-5 all-time at Miami.
The Hurricanes are coming off a Sweet 16 appearance last season and compiled a 27-8 record. Head coach Jim Larranaga is in his sixth season at Miami and has gotten the team off to a 4-2 start this season. They do own a quality win over Stanford, but enter this game after back to back losses to Iowa State and Florida.
They play very good defense and here are their current rankings in the following defensive categories per KenPom: #20th in the country in adjusted efficiency on defense, 17th in effective FG%, 18th in 2-point FG%, 76th in turnover rate, and 36th in steal %. They make it difficult for opponents to score and force a lot of turnovers.
They return a veteran backcourt, led by Ja’Quan Newton and Davon Reed. The 6’2” Newton is from Philadelphia and the junior leads Miami in scoring with 17.2 points per game. He is shooting a sparkling 50% from the field and also averages 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.0 steals per game. Reed is a 6’6” senior who is producing 11.3 points and 4.3 rebounds, but has struggled from the field so far this season, shooting just 34%. The two veteran guards are complemented with two talented freshman, Bruce Brown and Aussie Dejan Vasiljevic. The 6’5” Brown is averaging 9.3 points and 6.0 rebounds, while Vasiljevic has been Miami’s best three-point shooter, averaging 42.3% and scoring 7.2 points per contest.
The ‘Canes frontcourt is led by 6’11” freshman and former McDonald’s All-American Dewan Huell. The talented big man is averaging 9.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Their best rebounder is 6’8” senior forward Kamari Murphy, who averaged 9.0 boards per game, while adding 6.5 points. The Brooklyn native grabbed a combined 22 rebounds in the losses to Iowa State and Florida. Their frontcourt also features 6’7” forward Anthony Lawrence, who is versatile and has seen a big increase in playing time in his sophomore season.
Keys To The Game
Controlling The Glass
We know that rebounding has been a strength so far this season, but how will Rutgers do against a more formidable opponent? Miami has eight players averaging at least 3 boards per game and are the best rebounding team Rutgers will have faced by far this season. Winning the rebounding battle consistently, by wide margins at times, has been a key factor in Rutgers starting 6-0. They need to hold the edge on the boards tonight in order to have a legitimate chance to win the game.
Transition defense will be key for Rutgers as well, especially if they struggle grabbing offensive rebounds. The more productive they can be in creating second chance opportunities, the more Miami will have to work on defense. The more Rutgers runs their offense and works in the halfcourt, the better they will be set to crash the boards.
Miami is very good at forcing turnovers and it fuels their offense, as they have been strong in transition this season. Rutgers cannot give the ball up and get sloppy. They’ve committed 15 or more turnovers in half of their games so far and if they do so tonight, it will be a recipe for disaster. Corey Sanders and Nigel Johnson must be smart and efficient on offense. Limiting turnovers will also help to prevent big runs from Miami, who can score in bunches if Rutgers gets careless with the basketball. They will look to run, as they’ve struggled with their halfcourt offense so far. The sharper Rutgers is with the ball, the less likely Miami can turn this into a track meet.
Depth has been a strength for Rutgers in the early going, with eight players averaging 5.0 points or more per game. They need four to five players to score in double figures tonight for them to have a chance to win. The frontcourt of Deshawn Freeman and CJ Gettys need to score points in the paint, while veteran guards Mike Williams and Nigel Johnson need to continue their impressive scoring production off the bench. I worry a little about Corey Sanders trying to do too much with a good number of family and friends in attendance, but I also think it could spark him on the offensive end as well.
That brings me to freshman Issa Thiam, who is shooting 36% from behind the arc and averages two made three’s per game. Rutgers needs him to have a good night shooting the ball to have a chance in this one. Miami is a straight man to man team, so they need to find ways to get the wiry shooter open looks. He brings energy to this team and gives them confidence when his shots are falling. Also, Mike Williams is averaging two made three’s a game and is shooting 38% from deep. He needs to continue to provide a spark when he is in the game. Rutgers needs to make 6+ from three tonight, while needing to improve on defending the three as well. As I mentioned this week, Rutgers has allowed opponents to shoot 44% from behind the arc in their past three games. Miami loves to shoot the deep ball and has four players who can connect on a regular basis. Rutgers cannot allow the ‘Canes to get hot from three or it could be a long night.
Free Throw Battle
Miami is an excellent free throw shooting team, averaging 74.2% from the line this season. Four of their regulars are shooting better than that and Rutgers needs to limit their fouls to avoid Miami getting into the bonus early in each half. That happened in the Hartford game and Rutgers was lucky they didn’t pay for it with a loss. Miami will cash in if given the same opportunity. ACC refs tend to call games tighter than Big Ten officials, so this will be something to keep an eye on. On the flip side, Rutgers must take advantage of opportunities they have from the charity stripe and shoot better than their 68.4% average.
In The Bonus
Rutgers needs to start this game fast and jump out to an early lead or at minimum, trade baskets during the opening stretch. They need to build confidence with a strong start in order to play their best game of the season. Anything less than their best and Rutgers won’t be able to keep up with Miami, who will be looking to rebound from their two game losing streak. That means Rutgers should expect Miami’s best effort and they can’t fall too far behind early or it could be over quickly.