Early First Look at Maryland-Miami

Lazy Sunday morning. Nothing better to do until football returns this afternoon. And like I said on Twitter, the future looks good, so let's stare at it. Might as well take a look at Maryland's next opponent, the Miami Hurricanes, a traditionally vexing team for Maryland (the Terps are just 1-4 against Frank Haith's squad the past three years).

Now this is a game Maryland has to have much the same way N.C. State was - they'll live if they don't win it, but a top 3 finish generally requires winning these types of games. Win this one, and the road is a lot easier.

Miami is basically the antithesis of N.C. State recently. The Wuffies were riding a hot-streak, coming off a win over Duke and surprising play against good teams. Miami is as cold as be (ironic, for a school situated in Miami), losing three in a row to three teams that can hardly be described as top tier - Virginia Tech, Virginia, and Boston College. Shockingly, this marks the second time the Canes fell to BC, who Maryland destroyed up in Chestnut Hill.

Miami's better than this. They've won a few nice games - they beat South Carolina, Minnesota, and Wake Forest earlier in the year. They have some nice pieces in Dwayne Collins, whom Maryland has no answer for, James Dews, an experienced perimeter player, and Durand Scott, a young'un that will eventually take Jack McClinton's place.

But for now, this team is young. Really young. Collins and Dews bring experience, but four of the six biggest contributors are freshmen or sophomores. That'll get you in trouble in ACC play, especially when they start slowly, which has happened recently. Frank Haith said that the young guys "press too much" in attempts to get back in it, which only makes the situation worse.

And it has made the situation worse, or at least bad enough to lose to UVA, VT, and BC. They've fallen victim to an inability to put together a good 40 minutes of basketball, whether its the start or the finish. Against UVA and VT, they averaged 18 points more in the second half than the first, but it really didn't make a big difference that point. Against BC, they dropped 15 more in the first half than the second before losing focus, missing shots, and blowing a 17 point lead.

Like N.C. State, however, they can break out of their slump at any moment, and that's a cause for concern. They did beat Wake Forest just two weeks ago, albeit at home and only by one. Collins presents major matchup problems for Maryland as a somewhat dominant big man. He'll be a good preview to see how Maryland handles Trevor Booker, because I assume the methods will be similar. The double-down on Tracy Smith technique had mixed results - Smith was quiet for much of the game, but still somehow ended up with 18 and 10.

If Miami wins, it'll likely be on the back of Collins, who leads the Canes in both scoring (12.7) and rebounds (8.8) despite checking in at 4th in minutes. Actually, statistically, he's one of the best rebounders in the country, checking in at 8th in offensive rebounding % and 28th in defensive rebounding %. While Dews (the second leading scorer) and Scott will have to turn in good performances, Maryland has more than enough guard play to counter them. They don't have that inside presence. This will be a very trying time for Jordan Williams, but an important one in his development.

As a team, the Canes are actually one of the better shooting teams in the country, shooting 53% from the field (18th best in the NCAA) with an eFG% 22nd in the country. That's one major reason the past few games have hurt so much - Miami has been getting good looks, but they haven't been falling. The shooting percentage has dropped from that nice 53% to a much lower 37%. They rely on making their open looks, many provided by teams doubling Collins, and that hasn't happened lately.

It's rare for teams to break out of slumps against good opponents on the road. It's just not normal. Is it possible? Certainly. But teams that lose to Boston College at home generally don't turn around and beat a streaking team in their place.

For the moment, I'm reserving judgement. Miami has a history of messing with Maryland and they're an ACC team, so anything can happen at any given day. That said, I don't not feel confident, if that makes any sense. (Desperately trying to avoid the daggering blogger preview jinx).

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