Jan. 3 – Miami @ Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets have been a disappointment so far this young season. Sitting at 6-6, they hold the worst record in the ACC heading into conference play. Last season, they caused issues for a few top-tier teams, riding a stellar defense led by then-junior big man Ben Lammers to upset three different ranked ACC opponents on their home floor. G-Tech finished as a NIT finalist.
While Lammers is back and patrolling the paint to the tune of three blocks per game, the Yellow Jackets’ offense has held it back. Georgia Tech is shooting just 44 percent from the field – putting it in the bottom third of the country – and averaging a woeful 67.2 points per game, which ranks in the bottom 15 percent of the nation.
While G-Tech has the defensive capabilities to bother Miami, the Hurricanes have dealt with a shot blocker of a similar pedigree to Lammers in Minnesota’s Reggie Lynch. In that matchup, the Canes bested the Golden Gophers with a steady diet of pick-and-roll, which forced Lynch to move his feet in order to corral UM’s group of quick guards. This opened up Dewan Huell’s dunk fest and a career-high 23 points. Keep an eye out for a similar gameplan in this one.
Prediction: Miami 75 – Georgia Tech 65
Jan. 7 – Florida State @ Miami
Finally returning to the friendly confines of the Watsco Center, Miami welcomes rival Florida State in its ACC home opener.
Coach Leonard Hamilton’s squad was expected to fall off a bit from last year, when the Seminoles finished tied for second place in the ACC. Losing Jonathan Isaac, Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes to the pros certainly drained some firepower from a team that earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament, but FSU has rebounded nicely.
An 11-1 non-conference record has raised expectations, and the Noles picked up one of their most impressive wins in a 17-point thrashing over the No. 5 Florida Gators in Gainesville. Like last year’s team, FSU employs a deep, ten-man rotation. After facing mediocre offenses in their first two conference games, the Hurricanes will face one of their toughest tasks of the season defensively in trying to contain the efficient Seminoles, who rank inside the top 30 nationally in both scoring (85 points per game) and field-goal percentage (50 percent), and have three players making more than 42 percent of their three-pointers.
This could be a game that requires a more deliberate, grind-it-out style from Miami in order to slow Florida State’s offensive attack. The Canes should be able to avenge last year’s losses and dispatch their rival in a back-and-forth slugfest.
Prediction: Miami 78 – Florida State 74