Miami still looks quite a bit the same as it did last year, thanks to the return of its core of Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan, and Tonye Jekiri. All three have improved in one way or another, which has helped the Hurricanes go from NIT finalist to legitimate threat to make a deep NCAA tourney run.
Aside from those three, a big key to Miami's success has been the emergence of sophomore guard Ja'Quan Newton, who is a former top-50 recruit. Newton wasn't a huge factor as a freshman and didn't shoot well; this year, he's taking more shots than anybody else on the Hurricanes and making almost 53% inside the arc.
Toss in Oklahoma State transfer Kamari Murphy, newly-minted three-point shooter extraordinaire Ivan Cruz Uceda, plus the always-steady Davon Reed, and the 'Canes can get scoring in a number of different ways. Bullets:
-- Perhaps in part thanks to a lighter workload, Angel Rodriguez is shooting a career-high 53.8% inside the arc. So far it's even held up against the better teams on Miami's schedule. He has never cracked 40% for a season. But he's also shooting 28.9% from three, which is a career low.
-- Cruz Uceda is 6-10 but prefers to linger along the perimeter, probably because he is 30-61 from three-point range this season. That's eight more made threes than he had all of last season, in the same number of attempts. I don't know how NC State is gonna plan to match up with him, or Jekiri, for that matter. Jekiri's two-point accuracy is a career-best 56%, and he's still a monster on the glass.
-- McClellan is once again putting up efficiency numbers that warrant him All-ACC consideration. He's at 86.6% from the free throw line, 61% from two, and 39.1% from three. He's better in all three of those categories than he was last season, and he was pretty dang good last season.
-- Miami's offense ranks 19th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, though the Hurricanes are struggling to put the ball through the hoop in ACC games. The Canes are just 13th out of 15 teams in eFG% during league play, which has made for below-average production. They've been ice cold from three-point range, which I'm sure will continue, right, everybody?
-- The Canes' defense, on the other hand, has been excellent in league games. Miami ranks in the top three in three of the four factors (defensive rebounding percentage being the exception). So the Hurricanes' shooting troubles haven't been much of stumbling block for them, and if/when they do start cookin' from outside, they could be scary.
The Pomeroy Predictor has Miami by five.