Miami: 2017 March Madness

Conference: ACC (At-Large)

Record: 21-11 (10-8)

NCAA Tournament Seed: 8 (Midwest)

How they got to the Big Dance

The Miami Hurricanes began the season at 4-0 in nonconference play before dropping two consecutive games to Iowa State and Florida. They rebounded quickly, as they finished the early part of their schedule with six straight wins to put them at 10-2 entering ACC play. The Hurricanes went 10-8 during the regular season conference schedule, but suffered no bad losses and pulled out impressive wins over North Carolina, Duke and Virginia. Miami was led by the two-headed attack of guards Davon Reed and Ja’Quan Newton. Reed averaged 15 points per game while Newton scored just under 14 per contest. The Hurricanes also used a strong defense to win games as they held both Duke and Virginia to less than 55 points. Miami is currently ranked 24th in defensive scoring at 63.7 points per game. Back-to-back losses to end the regular season landed Miami with the eighth seed for the ACC Tournament. The Hurricanes beat Syracuse in the second round before falling to North Carolina in the quarterfinals. They will play Michigan State in the round of 64.

Why they’re a legitimate contender

The Hurricanes are a balanced team that can defend and put the ball in the basket. On offense, Reed and Newton are complemented by freshman guard Bruce Brown who averages 11.9 points per game and ranks second on the team in rebounds. The Hurricanes won’t shoot any teams out of the gym, but with their defense, they won’t have to. A consistent offense paired with a strong defense gives Miami a chance to compete in any game, no matter how explosive the other team is.

Why they’re not a legitimate contender

The Hurricanes may have three impressive guards, but their lack of a dominant frontcourt could be a problem in the tournament. Miami has two forwards in Kamari Murphy and Anthony Lawrence Jr. who averaged 7.3 and 6.9 points per game respectively, but the Canes are clearly a guard-heavy team. This type of play could backfire if Miami were to run into a team who has one or two dominant big men on the court. Against a smaller opposing lineup, Miami’s guards would have no problem taking over the game but a team with size, strength and skill in the post could give the Hurricanes fits in the tournament.

Player to watch: Forward Kamari Murphy

As mentioned above, Miami’s frontcourt is a wild card. This means that the play of Kamari Murphy could be a determining factor in how far the Hurricanes can advance. In the regular season. Murphy averaged seven points and seven rebounds per game while shooting above 50 percent from the field. Opponents could try and lock down some of Miami’s guards, which would give Murphy more opportunities around the basket. If the big man could turn these into easy buckets, the Miami offense would gain an extra weapon that could propel them to that next level.