Feb. 18 – Clemson vs. Miami
The final breather before a late season gauntlet, Miami simply must take this game at home to avoid a late season free-fall. While bottom-four Clemson has a lowly conference record of 3-9, it is better than the numbers would indicate. For starters, the Tigers have lost six of those games by five points or less, and half of those by three or fewer, so some average late-game luck would have seen this team in the thick of the conference’s middle class. Instead, they have settled towards the bottom, despite the best efforts of top gun Jaron Blossomgame. The senior forward has put forth an excellent campaign, and he’s a threat to drop 20 points on any given night. Fellow senior Avry Holmes is this team’s other top scorer, with a perimeter game to complement Blossomgame’s interior scoring. Just over two-thirds of Holmes’ field goal attempts come from downtown, which he knocks down at a 43 percent clip. He’s been remarkably consistent, hitting multiple threes in nine of his last 12 outings, meaning Miami will need to close out hard and run him off the line. UM certainly shouldn’t look past this game because Clemson could surprise the Hurricanes if they aren’t careful.
Miami 72 – Clemson 70
Feb. 20 – Miami @ Virginia
A trip to Charlottesville kicks off a stretch of three ranked-opponents in four games, and Tony Bennett’s group will be raring to go in this ESPN-broadcasted game on Monday night. Pegged by many to drop off from recent seasons that brought top NCAA Tournament seeds, the Cavaliers have kept the good times rolling with their trademark pack-line defense and senior leadership. Senior guard London Perrantes, finally the top dog after recent seasons of being a supporting player behind Justin Anderson and Malcolm Brogdon, is putting together a great final year. Perrantes leads his squad in points, assists and made threes. While the numbers aren’t mind boggling (12.6 ppg and 3.9 apg), keep in mind that Virginia plays at one of the slowest paces in the country, which depresses the offensive stats of everyone on the team. Recent setbacks to Syracuse and Virginia Tech aside, Virginia generally beats who it’s supposed to beat and fights close battles with fellow ranked opponents. Miami might have the juice to get an early lead like against Louisville, but its offense isn’t good enough to overcome Virginia’s signature defense.
Virginia 77 – Miami 64