Well, we're halfway through the ACC slate, and unfortunately we've tied our worst first half conference record (2-6) we've had since becoming a member in 2004. But, there are some very winnable games remaining and we are coming off of a win. So there's that. To kick that second half off the Hokies travel to Miami on Thursday for a tilt with the Miami Hurricanes. The game will air at 9 p.m. on ESPN2. Joining us for this preview are Jerry and Josh from Category 6, a Miami sports blog that's making a lot of noise. Read further to get their take on the 'Canes and the Hokies as we get ready for Thursday's game. Also here's a link to my answers of their questions.
1. Miami is coming off of a HUGE OT win over the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor and managed to come away with another big 2-OT win over Maryland the game before that. Is it safe to say this team is flying right now?
C6: Yes. The one thing that comes with "flying high" is the tendency to have a letdown at some point. We don't think Coach Larranaga is going to let the team's focus wane, but traditionally after such a monumental win there's some blow-back. Hopefully, the 'Canes won't fall into this trap and can fly away from the BUC with a win over the Hokies.
2. This shouldn't come as a shock to anyone, but the 'Canes were picked 5th in the pre-season ACC media poll. Right now they sit tied for fifth (record-wise) with UVA. Do you think they've met the expectations this year? Exceeded them?
C6: Interesting question. Based on the fact that their roster was seriously depleted due to a rash of injuries and suspension, Miami hasn't been at full strength until recently. The 'Canes are surging right now and could have a big finish to the season. The injuries dampened expectations for a while, but beating Duke @ Cameron pretty much blows the term 'expectations' out of the water.
3. Against Duke the 'Canes got a monster game from Reggie Johnson, forced Duke into a TON of 3's and played really great FT defense, but that only tells the story on the surface. What can you tell some of our readers who didn't watch the game about this one?
C6: Johnson had an amazing game but he's still rounding (no pun intended) into playing shape. Kenny Kadji has been their most consistent big man this year and has turned himself into one of the best in the ACC. Kadji was 4-5 from 3pt range and had 8 rebounds against Duke. He blocks shots, runs the floor and plays solid defense. Look for him to have a big game against the Hokies. Also, Durand Scott, Shane Larkin, and lately, DeQuan Jones should play a key role in the upcoming game.
4. With eight regular season games remaining, UMass being the highest quality non-conference win and a 14-7 (5-3) record, what do you think Miami needs to do down the stretch to secure an NCAA bid? With 3 ranked opponents left and an NC State team that is surprising everyone (and has beaten the 'Canes once already this season), do you feel like the 'Canes need to steal one of those games? More?
C6: After beating Duke, Miami sits at #35 in the RPI. If the 'Canes win the games they are supposed to, they're a bubble team at worst. Going into Duke and winning has to be big for the team's confidence. This team has a lot of talent and the new system Coach Larranaga has been teaching (man defense and scramble instead of zone) is starting to gel with the players. Miami needed a signature win and got it. I don't know if any game is a steal (besides UNC and maybe @FSU). The 'Canes can match-up well with anyone in the ACC.
5. Against Virginia Tech you're likely to see a polar-opposite of the team you just played. The Hokies are weak inside, experienced on the perimeter and a team that is struggling to find its way (although we do pop a LOT of 3's like Duke). Is their any fear that the 'Canes will play down to a Tech team that is talented, young and able to surprise?
C6: We expect Coach Larranaga to have the 'Canes ready to play. At this point the team is really starting to gel. It would be a BIG setback if the 'Canes came out and laid a stinker against VT. Anything can happen in a college basketball game, but I'd be shocked if Miami played flat. All you can ask is for the team to show up and play hard. Everything else tends to take care of itself.
Prediction: We say Miami wins 74-68.