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Meet the Miami Hurricanes, who are great on defense and wildly inconsistent at the offensive end

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Should be an adventure.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami heads into the game Sunday afternoon against NC State as losers of its last two and three of its last four. Most recently, the Hurricanes squandered a 66-53 lead over Duke with eight minutes remaining and lost, 83-75. It’s been a demoralizing stretch for Jim Larranaga’s crew, no doubt, but the ‘Canes (22nd in latest RPI) are still in good shape for an NCAA bid.

Miami returned a lot of quality production off the 2017 team, which was cause for a lot of pre-season optimism. The U’s recruiting efforts have also been on an upswing of late, as Larranaga has signed a total of three top-30 kids over the last two cycles, the latest being freshman wing Lonnie Walker.

But the Hurricanes do not appear likely to level up this season, and if they end up not being much better than they were last year, the fault will lie at the offensive end.

Hurricanes Offense

2018 Miami OFF_EFF eFG% TO% OR% FTR 2FG% 3FG% 3FGA/FGA
2018 Miami OFF_EFF eFG% TO% OR% FTR 2FG% 3FG% 3FGA/FGA
Overall (nat'l rk) 107.3 (109) 52.9 (91) 17.5 (84) 28.7 (186) 27.7 (308) 53.3 (63) 34.7 (180) 34.0 (258)
ACC Games (league rk) 95.8 (12) 46.7 (10) 18.9 (12) 28.9 (9) 26.4 (11) 47.6 (6) 29.9 (14) 32.0 (13)

(If this is unclear: top row is full-season numbers with national rank. Second row is conference-only numbers with league rank.)

Miami is both disinclined to shoot threes and not very good at making the ones they do take. (Sounds familiar.) The Hurricanes and Wolfpack are shooting an identical 29.9% from three in conference play, and if that doesn’t get you hype for the game I don’t know what possibly could. Hooray for perimeter ineptitude!

Miami has also been turnover-prone at times and generally iffy at the free throw line, and all this combined with average offensive rebounding is going to lead to problems. This is a young team that perhaps could get better quickly, but with more than half of the season in the books, that’s not likely.

Starters

Ja’Quan Newton (6-3, 191) — Newton is the sort of player you can set your watch to, dating all the way back to his 1986 freshman season. He’s a poor three-point shooter and won’t take many; he is reasonably capable of making shots inside the arc (career 47%); he is turnover-prone; he is often good at getting to the line, but not remarkable at said line.

DJ Vasiljevic (6-3, 203) — Your standard jump-shootin’ type. In 1+ college seasons he has attempted 237 threes and 76 twos. Won’t get to the free throw line much, and he isn’t a distributor.

Bruce Brown (6-5, 190) — Brown is one of those aforementioned five-star kids Larranaga’s managed to pull recently, and I like this kid a lot, though he is currently enduring the ol’ sophomore slump. His shooting percentages are down across the board, most notably from beyond the arc, where he is only 12-48 in 2018 after hitting about 35% as a freshman. If he starts to figure things out, Miami becomes much more difficult to manage.

Anthony Lawrence (6-7, 210) — Capable scorer both inside (53.6% career 2FG%) and outside (39.5%). He’s always been a light-usage secondary player, but maybe it’s time to get the kid more looks. Probably couldn’t hurt to try, anyway.

Dewan Huell (6-11, 236) — Huell is having an outstanding sophomore year, but Miami’s problem is that he’s pretty much the only useful true forward on the roster. Huell is hitting 64% of his twos this season while rebounding well at both ends, blocking a good number of shots, and doing a decent job for a big fella at the free throw line.

Bench

Lonnie Walker (6-5, 204), Chris Lykes (5-7, 161), Ebuka Izundu (6-10, 235). Walker nicely summarized the up-and-down nature of his first college season with his performance against Duke—he went 1-9 from two and 5-8 from three. Three-point shooting is not his strength, but he can have those days.

Lykes is accounting for way too many shots while he’s on the floor, and he is turning the ball over at a rate that is well beyond acceptable. Just a freshman trying to do a little too much, though he has made 39% of his threes on the year.

Hurricanes Defense

2018 Miami DEF_EFF eFG% TO% OR% FTR 2FG% 3FG% 3FGA/FGA
2018 Miami DEF_EFF eFG% TO% OR% FTR 2FG% 3FG% 3FGA/FGA
Overall (nat'l rk) 89.8 (7) 43.4 (8) 20.5 (86) 28.3 (145) 25.3 (22) 42.6 (9) 30.0 (9) 34.1 (69)
ACC Games (league rk) 97.8 (5) 48.6 (7) 21.5 (2) 29.3 (7) 35.6 (12) 46.0 (7) 35.9 (9) 32.7 (4)

Miami will be in most games the rest of the way so long as it maintains this level of defensive production. The interior defense has been superb and the Hurricanes are also one of the best teams in the league at stealing the ball.

Their three-point defense during the non-conference was a little fluky, and you can see that’s come back to earth a bit since ACC play started. But this is a unit that is more than capable of thriving despite that regression since it can be really good in a number of different facets.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes Miami by one. Flip a coin.