Louisville Cardinals (9-1, 4-0) at Miami Hurricanes (5-6, 1-5)
Game Time: 8:05 p.m.
Location: Watsco Center: Coral Gables, Fla.
Television: ACC Network
Announcers: Jay Alter (play-by-play) and Malcolm Huckaby (analyst)
Favorite: Louisville by 4
Officials: Roger Ayers, Jeffery Clark, Tony Henderson
Series: Louisville leads, 13-4
Last Meeting: Louisville won, 74-58, on Jan. 7, 2020 in Louisville
Probable Starting Lineups:
Miami’s Season to Date:
A trendy darkhorse pick in the ACC heading into the year, Miami has been rocked by injuries all season, resulting in a disappointing 1-5 start to conference play. The program seems to have been dealing with this sort of luck for four years running now.
The Hurricanes’ four returning senior starters have totaled just eight out of a possible 44 outings in which they were available from start to finish. Chris Lykes (15.5 ppg/6.5 apg) hurt his left ankle late in game two and has missed the last nine contests. Kameron McGusty (10.2 ppg) injured his hamstring early in game four and has missed six of the last seven affairs. Big man Rodney Miller Jr., missed two games with injuries and is now out for the year with a right knee injury. Fellow center Sam Waardenburg hurt his left foot in October and will not play all season. Freshman guard Earl Timberlake, a top-40 recruit, has also missed five games with a right ankle injury.
Miami head coach Jim Larranaga said Saturday morning that both Lykes and McGusty will be game-time decisions against Louisville. Timberlake has been back in action for the last three weeks.
Due to the injuries to all four returning senior starters, 64.1 percent of Miami’s minutes thus far have gone to either freshmen or sophomores. Another 20.6 percent have been played by transfers in their first year competing for the Hurricanes. In total, 84.7 percent of all minutes have gone to players in their first or second season with the program.
Miami has also dealt with some tough luck on the court outside of all the injuries. The Canes lost conference games to Clemson, Virginia Tech and North Carolina by a combined five points, making them the first ACC team since Georgia Tech in 1989-90 to achieve such a feat. They appeared to right those wrongs with an impressive road win over NC State last Saturday, but then turned right around and lost to Boston College by 22 three days later.
The biggest thing The U has going for it right now is the consistently stellar play of sophomore guard Isaiah Wong. One of only two players to start every game for Miami this season, Wong leads the team in scoring (16.5 ppg) and is second in rebounding (5.9 rpg). Though he’s scored in double figures in all but two games this season, Wong is coming off arguably his worst performance of the year, a 6-point effort against BC where he went 0-for-5 from three. That followed up a stellar effort in the win over NC State.
Wong is an elite offensive talent who has thrived on his own do far this season, but who will be helped greatly by the eventual return of Lykes and McGusty.
If Lykes does play, it’s more likely than not that he’ll post a solid offensive number. In four outings against Louisville, the diminutive point guard is averaging 16.5 points per game, logging 18 in each of the last three meetings. If you’re reading this, you’re likely at least somewhat familiar with Lykes’ game. He’s crafty, he’s quick, and he’ll pull from just about any spot on the floor.
McGusty, who played the first two seasons of his college career at Oklahoma, is sort of jack-of-all trades guy for Larranaga. He scores effectively from multiple spots on the floor, rebounds fairly well from his position, and is a rock solid defender. Miami needs him healthy.
Timberlake, who was heavily recruited by Louisville, ranks in Miami’s top three in scoring, rebounding, assists, minutes, steals, blocks, field goals made and free-throws made. Though just a true freshman, he was the team’s most reliable player down the stretch in its win over NC State, scoring six points in the final minute to lock up the victory. Against North Carolina, Timberlake became the first ACC player since 2010 to record at least 10 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals and 2 blocks in a game. He does virtually everything at least moderately well, and he’s only going to get better.
Harlond Beverly, a former top 50 recruit, hasn’t quite made the type of sophomore leap that Wong has, but is still considered an NBA prospect because of his absurd athleticism. Every game, Beverly seems to make at least one play that wows everyone watching, but questionable decision making and poor outside shooting are both issues that have carried over from his freshman season.
I know pointing this out is the kiss of death, but Miami has been an abhorrent outside shooting team so far this season. The Hurricances’ team three-point shooting percentage of 26.8 ranks 330th in Division-I. They’re also allowing opponents to shoot 37.5 percent from beyond the arc, good for the 292nd best perimeter defense in America.
To sum up, it’s virtually impossible at this point to predict how the remainder of Miami’s season is going to go. If they can get moderately healthy, this has the potential to be one of the six or seven best teams in the ACC. If they can’t, well, the next month and-a-half seems likely to look a lot like the last month and-a-half. You just have to hope that any sort of monster turnaround doesn’t start against your team.
What Miami does well: Block shots, create steals, defend inside the arc, avoid fouling.
What Miami does not do well: Shoot the three, defend the three, take care of the ball, shoot free-throws, avoid injuries,
—Louisville is off to its best conference start in its seven years in the ACC, and its first 4-0 conference start since 2008-09. That year, the Cardinals won their first eight Big East games.
—Louisville has started with at least a 9-1 record through 10 games for the 10th time in the last 13 years. The Cards have won at least 10 of their first 11 games on eight occasions over the past 10 years.
—Miami has been rocked by injuries all season. The Hurricanes’ s four returning senior starters have totaled eight–of a possible 44–outings in which they were available start to finish.
—In total, 84.7 percent of all Hurricane player minutes have gone to players in their first or second season with the program.
—Carlik Jones is the only player in the ACC to rank among the top 15 in scoring (17.2 ppg, 4th in the ACC), rebounding (6.6 rpg/14th) and assists (4.7 apg/2nd). Jones has 92 career double-figure scoring efforts, including the last 32 consecutive games (all nine this year).
—Louisville has held six opponents below 40 percent shooting from the field this year. The Cardinals lead the ACC in field goal percentage defense (.388, 23rd in the nation) and are 32nd nationally in scoring defense (63.0 ppg).
—Louisville’s 47.6 field goal percentage is second in the ACC (54th in the nation). The Cards have made 21-of-49 threes over their last three games (.428).
—Miami is the second team in ACC history to lose three consecutive games by five (5) total points or fewer, joining 1989-90 Georgia Tech.
—Miami leads the ACC in blocked shots per game (4.5).
—Chris Mack is 3-0 all-time in games against Miami.
—Louisville is 5-4 all-time in road games against Miami.
—Louisville is 6-2 against Miami since joining the ACC in 2014-15
—Louisville’s last 4-0 start in conference play with three road wins was 1992-93, when it started with road wins at USF, Charlotte and Southern Miss, and a home win vs. VCU. The Cards haven’t played four of their first five league games on the road since 1994-95.
—In four outings against Louisville, Miami’s Chris Lykes is averaging 16.5 points per game, logging 18 in each of the last three meetings.
—Miami leads the ACC in 2-point defense (42.7%, 156-of-365), but ranks No. 13 in three-point defense (37.2%, 109-of-293).
—Louisville has a 44-13 record during the month of January over the last five years. The Cards have won 10 consecutive games played in the month.
—At 4-0, Louisville currently sits tied with Virginia atop the ACC standings.
—Since 2004, Louisville is 126-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.
—Louisville is 25-0 over the last two seasons when scoring at least 71 points, including 7-0 this season
—Louisville has won 162 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.
—Louisville has won 155 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.
—Louisville is one of just four schools which have won 20 or more games on the court in each of the last 18 seasons. Gonzaga, Duke and Kansas are the others.
Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 68, Miami 64