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What UVA Basketball fans need to know: Miami is ranked, but we’re not sure why

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Photo: UVA Athletics

Miami is 22nd in both national polls this week, which is probably what you should expect for an ACC team off to an 11-1 start.

The best victory to this point for the ‘Canes, though, is Rutgers, which is sneaky decent (7-4, KenPom: 27), but still, it’s Rutgers, and it was at home.

Cornell (7-3, KenPom: 176) dropped 105 on them, albeit in a loss – 107-105, on Dec. 7.

Miami (11-1, KenPom: 48) is 123rd nationally in adjusted defense (0.997 points per possession).

That’s bad.

They’re good on offense – 12th (1.143 PPP).

They’ve got some dudes – Isaiah Wong, Nijel Pack.

The Pack kid was lured to South Florida by a pending two-year, $800,000 NIL deal, so somebody with money, anyway, thinks he’s good.

This Miami team should end up in the NCAA Tournament, but nothing right now except the 11-1 record screams ranked team.

The matchups

Isaiah Wong, a 6’4” junior, is the nerve center for UM (16.7 ppg, 4.5 rebounds/g, 4.4 assists/g, 46.1% FG, 26.2%3FG).

I presume that Tony Bennett puts Reece Beekman (9.3 ppg, 4.7 assists/g, 41.7% FG, 45.0% 3FG) on him defensively.

Beekman hasn’t been what he was last year on the defensive end this year. According to Synergy Sports, Beeks, a year ago, held opponents to 0.675 PPP and 30.9 percent shooting; through nine games this season, he’s allowing 0.833 PPP and 41.2 percent shooting.

This will be a test that Bennett will need Beekman to pass.

Jordan Miller (15.1 ppg, 6.1 rebounds/g, 54.2% FG, 34.1% 3FG), a 6’7” senior, gives up 50 pounds to his opposite four, Virginia’s Jayden Gardner (11.8 ppg, 6.3 rebounds/g, 52.7% 3FG).

Arkansas State transfer Norchad Omier (13.8 ppg, 9.9 rebounds/g, 62.9% FG), is an undersized five (6’7”, 245 pounds).

Omier will match up at the outset with 6’11” Virginia center Kadin Shedrick (9.9 ppg, 4.6 rebounds/g, 72.1% FG), but expect Bennett to use 6’8” grad transfer Ben Vander Plas (6.8 ppg, 3.9 rebounds/g, 38.3% FG, 28.6% 3FG) and 6’8” freshman Ryan Dunn (3.0 ppg, 2.4 rebounds/g, 53.3% FG) at the five spot for stretches.

Nijel Pack, the 6’0” Kansas State transfer, has seen his productivity drop (from 17.4 ppg last season to 11.3 ppg this season) – with his shooting also down (he’s below 40 percent from the field, and just 32.8 percent from three).

Pack missed Miami’s 91-76 win over St. Francis (Pa.) on Saturday, but coach Jim Larranaga expects him back for Tuesday’s game.

Bensley Joseph (6.4 ppg, 2.8 assists/g, 48.1% FG, 42.4% 3FG), a 6’2” sophomore, got the start at point in Pack’s absence, and put up good numbers – 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Pack and Joseph will have to match wits with UVA’s timeless Kihei Clark (11.3 ppg, 5.3 assists/g, 40.8% FG, 38.7% 3FG), who is 5-0 all-time against Miami.

Wooga Poplar (8.3 ppg, 50% FG, 33.3% 3FG), a 6’5” sophomore, gets 6’4” senior Armaan Franklin (10.9 ppg, 43.1% FG, 42.5% 3FG), who hasn’t done much since his 26-point night in the win over Baylor last month.

Bennett has been giving more minutes of late at the big guard slot to 6’4” freshman Isaac McKneely (4.9 ppg, 35% FG, 38.7% 3FG), so expect to see iMac for 20-25 minutes Tuesday night.

Projections

  • KenPom: Virginia 69-67, 57% win probability
  • Bart Torvik: Virginia 67-66, 56% win probability
  • ESPN BPI: Miami +1.3, 55.7% win probability

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Chris Graham

In addition to being the editor of Augusta Free Press, I've written seven books, including Poverty of Imagination and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, both published in 2019, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For my commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to my YouTube page, youtube.com/chrisgrahamAFP. Want to reach me? Try [email protected].