Miami men’s basketball to face early challenges in Puerto Rico Tip-Off

SPORTS_Angel Rodriguez_NG
Redshirt senior point guard Angel Rodriguez (13) observes the Louisiana defense during Miami’s 93-77 win Monday evening at the BankUnited Center. Nick Gangemi // Editor in Chief

The Hurricanes men’s basketball team will enjoy a nice business trip down to the sunny beaches of Puerto Rico over Thanksgiving break. The Puerto Rico Tip-Off has a deep field of teams, including No. 22 Butler and No. 16 Utah. The other five teams competing will be Temple, Minnesota, Missouri State, Mississippi State and Texas Tech.

One of the headlines for the Canes will be redshirt senior point guard Angel Rodriguez’s return home to Puerto Rico, where he lived for the first 15 years of his life. Rodriguez is coming off an 18-point performance on Monday night and will look to continue his hot shooting in front of hometown fans, friends and family.

Miami (2-0) tips off the tournament this Thursday against a solid Mississippi State squad. This will be the Canes’ first real test of the season and a nice measure for how far Miami has come in defense.

The team focused on defense in the offseason and protected the basket well in the first two games, but Mississippi State (1-1) is a tougher offensive assignment. The Bulldogs scored 106 points in their season debut and are led offensively by senior forward Gavin Ware and junior guard I.J. Ready. Not only are they a strong offensive team, but they will also certainly be motivated after a close 76-72 upset during their loss to Southern University on Monday night.

If the Canes can get past the Bulldogs on Thursday, they will most likely play Utah in the tournament semifinal. This would be a great early season challenge for the Canes, as they could get their first shot at a ranked opponent if they make it past the first round. The Utes are a Pac-12 favorite going into this season and would test the Canes in all phases of the game.

If Miami emerges out of the first two contests victorious, another interesting matchup that the Canes could encounter in the championship game would be against a strong Minnesota team. This matchup could also prepare Miami for a couple of ACC games later on in the season against Louisville, as Rick Pitino’s son Richard Pitino is the Golden Gophers’ head coach.

They run similar styles, and Minnesota would implement a full-court press similar to Louisville’s throughout the game. This would give the Canes a good idea of how Louisville’s full-court press could affect them differently this year now that the shot clock has been reduced to 30 seconds.

Regardless of outcomes, the Canes will play three quality opponents that will challenge them more than their first two opponents, UT Rio Grande Valley and Louisiana.

The Canes face Mississippi State at 5 p.m. on Thursday in San Juan, Puerto Rico.