Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Miami Preview

So, it begins.  The real season, as it were, where 12 teams play for one prize--a trip to the NCAA tournament.

The first opponent is Miami, a historically great MAC team that began to fall into hard times under the last Coles years and then have found the going rough under John Cooper.  They have won 13 games each of the last 2 years and Cooper is 35-59 in Oxford.

Even by those terms, the off-season was not kind.  He had two Australians--who would have been juniors--not return and lost a giant Moldovan post-man who was expected.

While they have seven seniors on the roster, they are still struggling. Miami is 6-7 and 5-7 in D1 games. They have a win over Northeastern at Millet, which is a quality win for sure. They also beat Wright State--a team that destroyed BG. And yeah, they lost to Xavier and Dayton, both top 15 teams, but they are only 3-2 against teams over 200, including home losses to Florida Atlantic and South Carolina State.

They are also 0-4 on the road.

Last year the teams split, each winning on the other's home floor.

The first thing to note about Miami is that they play very slow, much as they did in the Coles years.  They are going at 67 possessions per 40 minutes, which is the slowest in the MAC.  BG has played at a decent pace, so that will be the first battle.

As I noted in the review of BG for the pre-MAC season, BG has been playing good defense and struggling on offense.  Miami has been more or less struggling on both.  Their offense is just a little better than BG's and the defense is worse.  As you can see, they shoot about what BG allows, which is about 3.5% below the national average.  Defending the shot has been BG's strength, and they should be able to do it against Miami.  BG doesn't do much with turnovers and Miami takes slightly below average care of the ball.  The big battle will be on the boards.  BG has been very, very effective on the defensive boards and Miami is pretty good.  Finally, Miami does get to the line and they are very effective at hitting them---#21 in the country.

Flipping this around, the key element here is turnovers.  Miami is living on forcing turnovers.  They are just average against the shot, poor on the boards and they foul a lot. However, they are among the top 10 teams in the country at forcing turnovers--if the bulk number isn't that big, remember that they have a small number of overall possessions, so it is magnified.

BG's going to be tested with the ball.  The team has two seasoned PGs in Joseph and Ali, and yet has struggled against pressure in the past.

Finally, against a team that fouls this much, it wouldn't be a bad time to sink a few FTs.

They are led by Eric Washington.  You will remember him from last year.  He transferred in from Presbyterian and was a handful in the game in Oxford, with 16 and 6 assists.  This year, he is scoring 13.8 PPG on 45% shooting, which is good for a guard.  He hits almost 40% of his 3FGs and 85% of his free throws, with almost 5 assists per game.  His A/T is only 1.3, which is not especially good.

Geovannie McKnight, also a guard, is the only other double-figure scorer at 12.3 on 42% shooting.

Their leading rebounder is LJ Livingston, a 6'10" SR with 5 rebounds per game in 22 minutes along with a little over a block per game.  They also have 6'9" Serbian Jere Vucica, who is a graduate transfer from North Florida.  He scores 7 points in 14 minutes per game.  They also have 6'9" Logan McLane, so they do have size that the Falcons will have to contend with.

This is a depth-based team.  They play 11 players 10 minutes or more and only the two top-scoring guards play more than 30.

Here's the thing.  I don't think BG has any guaranteed wins on the schedule.  Given that, this is one you really need.

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