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Friday, March 6, 2009

A look at Miami, again

Rank and Records NCST
Strength of Schedule#67
Top 251-6
RPI Top 501-7

Looking at Miami's Four Factors chart, you can see that they've been trending in the wrong direction in three of the four in the month-plus since the Pack last faced them: Offensive Rebounding Rate, Free Throw Rate and Turnover Rate have all gotten worse since late January.


As such, it's not surprising that Miami is a team who's been one of -- if not THE -- biggest disappointment of the conference this year. A preseason top-20 team, the Hurricanes enter their final game of the year with no hope of a winning conference record and no realistic shot at an at-large bid to the big dance.

So the only thing left to play for (other than a #9 seed in the ACC tourney) is pride on senior night. Jack McClinton will be playing his final home game as a 'Cane, and will go down in Hurricanes history as one of the best ever.

Which makes this game a very difficult one for the Pack. Just as we saw Ben McCauley and Courtney Fells (prior to his injury) come out firing in their final home game, State should expect the same from McClinton. And when McClinton gets it going, he's nearly unstoppable.

Making this an even dicier proposition for the Pack is that the aforementioned Fells -- the man State turns to as a defensive stopper -- is out with a groin injury. Javier Gonzalez will likely draw the short straw as the man assigned to get in McClinton's jersey and stay there for the night.

If I'm coach Sidney Lowe, I'm tempted to force McClinton to attack the basket by applying close pressure on the perimeter. I know he's just as deadly inside the arc as outside of it, but if McClinton is reduced to driving to the basket he's at least limited to two points per bucket versus three. If the help defense is effective inside, perhaps you can challenge enough shots to keep him under 50% for the game. Further, if he's taking shots closer to the basket rather than farther away, it should limit the long redounds that so often wind up back in the offense's hands and improve State's defensive rebounding numbers.

As they say, you can't stop him, but perhaps they can contain him to ONLY 15-20 points or so on sub-50% shooting, forcing the rest of the Miami squad to beat the Pack.

For the Pack, they just need to keep feeding Tracy Smith and hope that the absence of Fells in the lineup doesn't hinder them too much offensively and defensively. The Big Three Two will need to show up, and whoever fills Fells' slot in the lineup (CJ Williams?) will need to contribute in some form or fashion.

This game will further shape the tone of the program as it concludes year three heading into the postseason and year four of the Lowe era.

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