Rutgers (4-1) At Miami (5-1)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: Watsco Center in Coral Gables, Florida
Tip-off: Wednesday, November 28th at 7:15 p.m. ET
(note: All ESPN networks will show Rutgers alum Jim Valvano’s iconic ESPY’s speech before the game, which you can also read my thoughts on and watch here)
TV: ESPNU - Doug Sherman & Cory Alexander
Radio: Rutgers IMG Sports Network - WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #116; Miami #21
(Rutgers moved back 8 spots since the win over Boston University)
KenPom Prediction: Miami 74 Rutgers 61; Rutgers has an 12% chance to win.
Vegas Line: Miami -11.5
Series History: Miami leads 10-5 all-time, including beating Rutgers 73-61 in 2016
Q&A With State of the U here
Notes: This game is part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Jim Larranga is in his eighth season as head coach of the Hurricanes, having taken them to the NCAA Tournament four times, including the past three seasons. They enter Wednesday’s game with a 5-1 record. Miami owns one KenPom top 100 victory this season over Fresno State, but lost Sunday in the Wooden Legacy Championship to Rutgers rival, Seton Hall, 83-81. They are a balanced team with a seven man rotation made up of three seniors, one juniors, two sophomores, and one freshman.
The backcourt is Miami’s strength and they are led by 5’7” guard Chris Lykes, who has had a great start to the season, averaging 19.3 points, 3.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.3 steals per game. 6’3” Dejan Vasiljevic is shooting lights out from three-point range, making 21 of 40 attempts this season for 52.5%. He averages 14.7 points and 2.2 assists, but can also rebound, as he is grabbing 4.8 boards per contest. 6’2” senior guard Zach Johnson attacks the rim often and is posting 13.8 points, 2.8 assists, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.0 steal per game.
6’7” Anthony Lawrence does a little bit of everything on the wing, averaging 13.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.2 blocks per contest.
The frontcourt rotation is comprised of a trio of 6’10” big men in Ebuka Izundu, Sam Waardenburg, and Deng Gak. Izundu will need to be dealt with in the paint, as he is averaging 11.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game. Waardenburg is a solid role player, averaging 7.0 points and 4.3 boards, while Gak is more of a defensive threat, grabbing 4.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in just over 14 minutes of action per contest.
Miami is a good shooting team, as they are making 47.2% from two-point range, 38.7% from three-point range and 73.8% from the free throw line. They are proficient in every aspect of the game, ranking in the top 100 of Kenpom in seven offense categories, five defensive categories, and have both an adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency rating overall of 26th out of 353 Division I teams.
Keys To Victory
Contain Chris Lykes
Rutgers has struggled against smaller, quick guards and Lykes will be the best one they see so far this season. He is Miami’s primary scorer and he can spot up from three, as well as look to create off the dribble from the opening tip on. Whoever defends him, and it will likely be more than one Rutgers player, needs to keep Lykes in front of them as much as possible. Containing Lykes on the break and in transition will key.
Second Chance Points
Miami is far more proficient offensively than Rutgers, so a big factor in keeping up with them will be capitalizing on second chance opportunities off of offensive rebounds. Rutgers has the size to matchup with Miami and the backcourt’s ability to rebound in this game could be a x-factor that could help keep this game close.
Don’t Force Shots
The last time Rutgers played a superior opponent against St. John’s, they didn’t follow the game plan and forced way too many jump shots. They need to be more disciplined in this game, especially on the road, to prevent Miami from springing any 10-0 or 12-2 type runs that could bury them. Rutgers needs to continue to share the basketball in the halfcourt and make Miami work on the defensive end. When the opportunity is there to run in transition, Rutgers needs to capitalize and turn turnovers into points.
Rutgers can’t afford to fall too far behind early on in this game. That’s what happened two years ago at Miami and while that team fought admirably and ultimately lost by 12 points, this year’s team is far more green. This will be the first road game of the season and the first of their careers for several key players, including Ron Harper Jr, Myles Johnson, Montez Mathis and Caleb McConnell. The second unit is primarily the four of them, so the first run they get in this game will be so important for them to stay level and find their way. As for the experienced starting group, they need to get off to a fast start and attack the game plan from the opening tip on.
Play With Poise
As I mentioned, it’s the first road game of the season, which brings another set of challenges in this game, aside from playing a very good team. Miami likes to apply on the ball pressure, so Geo Baker will need to maintain his composure handling the ball. If Rutgers wants to make this a game, they need to take care of the basketball and minimize turnovers. The entire team needs to play within themselves and maintain poise throughout 40 minutes, otherwise Miami could win this game easily. The Hurricanes are coming off a loss so they’ll be hungry to play well and win this game in blowout fashion.
In The Bonus
This is the first of three extremely difficult games that the Big Ten scheduled for Rutgers. After tonight, Rutgers will face #9 and conference favorite Michigan State (5-2) Friday night in front of a sold out RAC crowd, followed by a road trip to #22 Wisconsin (6-1). It’s a ridiculous gauntlet to play in just six days, so the more confidence that Rutgers can gain from tonight’s game, the better. It will be a major challenge to leave Miami with a victory (double digit underdog/KenPom 12% chance to win), but for a team still developing, playing together and executing the game plan at a high level is the most important thing overall. If they can feel good about their performance and take some valuable lessons away from it, win or lose, this game will help them in Big Ten play, starting on Friday.