Scouting the UB Bulls’ NCAA Tournament opponent Miami Hurricanes
The Buffalo men’s basketball team (20-14, 10-8 Mid-American Conference) has received the No. 14 seed in the South region of the NCAA Tournament and will play No. 3 seed Miami in Providence, Rhode Island on Thursday night.
The Miami Hurricanes (25-7, 13-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) enter the tournament as the No. 10 team in the country and received an at-large bid after losing to No. 4 Virginia (26-7, 13-5 ACC) in the ACC Tournament Semifinals.
Led by ACC Coach of the Year Jim Larrañaga, Miami features a veteran-laden team with an explosive offense. The Hurricanes like to play the game at a slow pace, which provides a contrast to Buffalo’s up-tempo offense.
The Spectrum scouted the Hurricanes’ projected starting five as well as some matchups to watch out for.
Angel Rodriguez, senior guard
A two-year starter and transfer from Kansas State, Rodriguez provides Miami with a solid distributor and playmaker in the backcourt. His 4.4 assists per game lead the Hurricanes.
While Rodriguez isn’t the most proficient three-point shooter on the team, he’s great inside the arc. He shoots 55 percent on two-pointers overall and 59 percent at the rim. The Bulls would be wise to stifle Rodriguez, as he has 35 percent of Miami’s assists this season.
Sheldon McClellan, senior guard
McClellan is Miami’s best player and a dynamic shooting guard who can do a bit of everything. His 15.8 points per game lead the team and his 3.2 rebounds per game is good for fourth on the team.
What makes McClellan so dynamic is his ability to score inside and outside. McClellan is shooting 39 percent from three-point range and 68 percent at the rim. Much like Buffalo junior wing Willie Conner, McClellan has the ability to stretch a defense and finish at the basket, which makes him a tough guard.
Davon Reed, junior guard
The third guard in Miami’s three-guard backcourt, Reed provides a similar skillset to McClellan: a big guard who can space the floor and provide another rebounding element to Miami’s backcourt. He averages 11.3 points per game.
Kamari Murphy, junior forward
Murphy, a transfer from Oklahoma State, isn’t the most prolific scorer on the team, but he makes up for it in other ways. Much like former Bulls forward and last season’s postseason hero Xavier Ford, Murphy is a solid offense presence who does the little things to help his team win.
With the three-guard backcourt, Murphy is the team’s second best rebounder with 5.8 rebounds per game. The athletic power forward also has the ability to defend at the rim and on the perimeter, which makes him a solid defensive player capable of guarding multiple positions.
Tonye Jekiri, senior center
While McClellan is Miami’s best player, 7-foot Jekiri might be the player to cause Buffalo the most trouble Thursday.
Jekiri is a solid scorer (8 points per game), but it’s his ability to defend, rebound and be an overall presence that may help the Hurricanes move on. Jekiri is first on the team in rebounds (8.9 per game) and blocks (1.1 per game). The Bulls will have to throw players like freshmen forwards Nick Perkins and Ikenna Smart at Jekiri.
Buffalo’s fast pace versus Miami’s slow place
Buffalo wants to get up and down the floor and get as many possessions as possible, while the Hurricanes want to slow the game down and make every possession matter.
The Bulls will get up the floor with the help of guards Lamonte Bearden and CJ Massinburg pushing the pace, but will also have to get stops against one of the best offenses in the nation.
The Hurricanes rank 12th in the nation in adjusted offense. The Bulls have the talent to match Miami shot-for-shot, but they have to get stops – something the Bulls have struggled to do for much of the season.
Will Buffalo’s three-point streak keep up?
Three is worth more than two, and in order to pull the upset Thursday, the Bulls will have to knock down some three-pointers.
The bad news is that the Bulls’ 33.7 percent shooting from three-point range ranks 224th in the nation. The good news is the Bulls are in the midst of a hot streak from three-point range, as they shot 43 percent from beyond the arc in three MAC Tournament games. Miami keeps its opponents to 33.6 percent shooting from three – almost exactly Buffalo’s season average
If the Bulls can knock down 12 or more three-pointers, they have a chance to upset the Hurricanes.