With Louisville and Miami heading into this weekend's rematch at the Yum Center both in desperate need of a win, we thought it would be the perfect time to check back in with our friends at State of the U and see how things have been going since Feb. 3.
CC: Miami's gone 3-1 since last we met, but all 4 of those games were against teams in the middle (Clemson) or at the bottom of the conference. What's changed since the last time these two teams played? Do you think the Canes have gotten better?
SOTU: Definitely. UM's only loss in that span was to a Wake Forest team that knocked down 11 first half threes (beating their previous season best for an entire game of 10), so the 'Canes ran into a buzz saw that game, and despite the loss they played relatively well in my opinion. Yes, BC took them to double OT. But again they faced a team that put together a nice effort, and Olivier Hanlan was unstoppable. Last time out against Virginia Tech, the Hurricanes absolutely dominated the second half en route to a 76-52 win. They had 21 assists on 26 made buckets. When they move the ball that well, they are a handful for anyone. Just ask Duke.
As far as what has changed, Angel Rodriguez has been more selective in his shot taking, Sheldon McClellan has been more aggressive looking for his, and Coach Jim Larranaga has been as fiery as ever, even drawing his first technical as Miami's Head Coach Vs VT to spark the team.
CC: The U is pretty squarely on the bubble right now, and only has one game left after this against a ranked team. Do you think that means Miami's going to be coming into the Yum Center looking to throw some (figurative) haymakers?
SOTU: They are going to need to. Everyone knows that the Cardinals are a great team and an outstanding program. And coming into this game with a 2 game losing streak, I am expecting U of L to throw a few bombs of their own. Additionally Rodriguez and McClellan, not to mention the team as a whole, really seem to step out when the competition is better and the stakes are higher. For all of the Hurricanes' inconsistencies this season, it is easy to forget they own road victories over Syracuse, Florida, and Duke. So look for Coach L's squad to give their very best in this game.
CC: Angel Rodriguez had a rough game against Louisville at the beginning of the month, and afterward Jim Larranaga said he was going to have a talk with him. How has Rodriguez been since that game and what do you expect to see from him on Saturday?
SOTU: Despite the fact that he is only shooting 33% from the floor over that span, I'd say he is playing much, much better. The assist totals (17 in 4 games) are not off the charts, but he is definitely focusing on getting his teammates involved more often, especially early in the game. Rodriguez gambles some on D, but he does come up with big steals and big plays overall. I think you will see an Angel who trusts his teammates more and gives the ball up. But one who can still make a huge shot or a key stop in a clutch situation.
CC: There was a fan sitting courtside when we played at your all's place who refused to sit down even though nobody around him seemed willing to answer his call to arms. I was kind of fascinated by him. Do you know anything about this guy? I hope he's here for the game Saturday.
SOTU: Sorry to disappoint, but I have no idea who that person is. Hopefully it's not this kid (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBzLKZk9iy8). If it is, he has to go to road games, as last I heard his home seats were revoked.
CC: If Miami walks out of the Yum Center with a win, how did they make it happen?
SOTU: First, the combination of Joe Thomas, Ivan Cruz Uceda, and Omar Sherman somehow has to slow down Montrezl Harrell. The 'Canes defense at the 4 spot has been a weakness all year. Keeping Harrell from dominating needs to be priority 1. Next they need for Rodriguez to at least hold his own with Chris Jones, who was a headache for the 'Canes all game long on both ends, last time they matched up (16 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 6 steals). They also need McClellan and Davon Reed to continue their recent run of solid play.
When Miami is sharing the ball, has balanced scoring, and they have a good team assist to turnover ratio, they can be a handful for anyone. Lastly they need the ACC leader in rebounding, Tonye Jekiri, to stay out of foul trouble. Jekiri has been the most consistent player on the team all season long. The only thing that seems to keep him from making an impact, is when he is on the bench.
CC: Louisville's entering this game at its lowest point of the season and Miami desperately needs another resume win. Is there a feeling among the Hurricane fan base that the recipe for an upset is there? What's your prediction?
SOTU: Honestly, given the Jekyl & Hyde nature of the Hurricanes, I don't think the fan base knows what to expect. If Jones' suspension was still a factor, the hopes would have been significantly higher. That being said, I like what I have seen of late of UM. As I mentioned earlier, even in the loss to Wake, they played well. They will need to take it up a notch against Louisville, but I think they do it. I see Miami winning in a highly competitive game, 68-66.