The State of the Union address was last night. Jerry Steinberg from State of the U, SB Nation's Miami Hurricanes community, was kind enough to engage in a Q&A with Testudo Times before the Terps and 'Canes meet at Comcast Center Wednesday night.
TT: Last season was magical for the 'Canes. Has the regression this season simply been a function of losing so many key cogs to the NBA and elsewhere, or have there been other factors at play?
SOTU: Anytime a team loses its top six players and returns zero starters, you are in for a rebuilding year. Even Kentucky took a step backward after their national championship run, and they were replacing key cogs with McDonald's All-Americans. Miami also lost an expected major contributor when freshman guard Deandre Burnett was lost just before the season started to a wrist injury. Coach L [Jim Larranaga] and staff had hoped he could be one of their top scorers. Despite the record (10-9 2-5 in the ACC) I believe Canes fans feel this team is overachieving and competing hard, considering all they lost.
SOTU: I think UM plays good enough defense and gets enough soft spots in the schedule to win 6-9 ACC games. Some teams are just not going to match up well with the match up zone (see the Canes win over GT). And despite their shortcomings, Larranaga has Miami playing very hard every time out.
TT: In most critical categories, Miami has fared especially badly compared to the rest of college basketball. ESPN has the 'Canes 345th in points per game, 197th in rebounds, 289th in assists and 299th in field goal percentage. On some level, have they over-performed to get to 10-9, or am I reading too much into raw numbers?
SOTU: Miami, simply put, is scoring challenged. If you take a peak at their defensive statistics however, you will see they are top 10 in scoring defense. Also the poor numbers offensively are the result of them playing at a snail's pace, by design. Rebounding right now is even more an Achilles heel then offense. Miami got clobbered on the boards in their last 2 contests against Duke and Syracuse. In many ways it is very fair to say this team has overachieved to get to 10-9.
TT: If the Hurricanes are going to get a road win in Maryland, how are they going to do it?
SOTU: For Miami to win they are going to have to force a lot of turnovers in the match-up zone, make a few jumpers, and keep Tonye Jekiri out of foul trouble. UM F James Kelly is a 6-7 combo forward and one of the better athletes on the team, and is doubtful for this contest. As noted UM has really struggled of late on the glass. They need the 7 foot Jekiri, who has played well at times but is very foul prone, to stay on the floor. Ditto F Donnavan Kirk. It is also important that guards Rion Brown, Manu LeComte, and Davon Reed knock down a few shots, but with inside players now at a minimum, Jekiri needs to show up.
TT: Your score prediction?
SOTU: The Hurricanes really have their backs to the wall. Another loss and he season could spiral downward fast. Miami's 3 best performances on the year however, (Arizona State in the Wooden Legacy, at North Carolina and at Georgia Tech) were all away from home. I suspect UM gets it together enough to pull a minor upset and defeat Maryland 54-51 behind airtight defense and the scoring of Brown and Reed. If the game went the other way, I would not be shocked in the least.