Miami Hurricanes Basketball: Three Things You Need to Know Before Miami Takes on Notre Dame

Jan 17, 2015; South Bend, IN, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Davon Reed (5) drives to the basket as Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward V.J. Beachem (3) defends in the first half at the Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame won 75-70. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 17, 2015; South Bend, IN, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Davon Reed (5) drives to the basket as Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward V.J. Beachem (3) defends in the first half at the Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame won 75-70. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports /

Last season in Greensboro, NC, the Miami Hurricanes dropped a close one to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament. The 70-63 loss to Notre Dame was not only their second loss of the season to the team from South Bend, but it essentially eliminated them from NCAA Tournament contention as well.

If those two defeats aren’t motivation enough as Miami hosts Notre Dame on Wednesday night, then maybe the fact the Canes are coming off their worst performance of the season will be.

In a game which could provide the Hurricanes with another nice resume win, here are the three things you need to know:

Notre Dame may have one of the most balanced and threatening offensive starting five in the country.

For all the talk of how explosive Miami’s offense has been this season, it’s not a stretch to say Notre Dame’s has been just as good, if not better and that begins with their starting five.

The Fighting Irish currently have the No. 2 offense according to KenPom, five players averaging at least 11.6 points per game and a team field goal percentage of 49.5% that ranks 11th-best in the country. Those numbers are pretty staggering.

Those five players averaging double figures in points also make up the starting unit that has been put out there for the majority of the season by Coach Mike Brey. Demetrius Jackson, Steve Vasturia, Bonzie Colson, V.J. Beachem and Zach Auguste, five dangerous and experienced players. After getting dominated by a few of those types of guys at NC State, Miami has got a big job on their hands come Wednesday night.

Making matters a little more eerie for the Canes is the similarities between the lineups of NC State and Notre Dame. Like the Wolfpack, the Fighting Irish have one of the ACC’s top scorers in Jackson and while the 6’1” point guard doesn’t posses the same talent as Cat Barber, he’s still pretty darn good.

Also like NC State, Notre Dame has a whole lot of size that the Hurricanes are going to have to contend with outside of the point guard position. Every player besides Jackson in the Fighting Irish starting five is at least 6’5” and three of those players are pretty effective three-point shooters. Sounds exactly like NC State (at least against Miami) to me.

Notre Dame does have a few players that can contribute solid minutes off the bench, but those five guys are what make the Fighting Irish tick. You can’t zero in on one guy to stop, so if the Hurricanes hope to avoid their second two-game losing streak of the season, they better have one of their best defensive performances of the season come Wednesday night.

The Fighting Irish aren’t afraid of the big boys, especially away from home.

While Miami has had their fair share of struggles away from the BankUnited Center this season, Notre Dame has had some of their best moments away from the Edmund P. Joyce Center and South Bend.

The Fighting Irish had their first big game of the season against then-unranked Iowa in Orlando. Behind 16 points from V.J. Beachem, Notre Dame claimed a victory over a team that is now No. 3 in the AP Top 25 Poll and No. 2 in the KenPom rankings. The Hawkeyes might have been unranked then, but clearly that win is going to pay huge dividends for a team that is still looking to become a lock for the NCAA Tournament.

Over the next month, Notre Dame dropped one against Indiana in Indianapolis and lost a tough one in Charlottesville against Virginia. While they were both defeats, those games were close and once again showed Notre Dame’s ability to compete with the top teams with their combination of experience and talent.

Then, Notre Dame scored 95 points in a win at Duke doesn’t look as great this year, but winning at Cameron is winning at Cameron.

All I’m trying to say is that this team isn’t going to be afraid of Miami because they’ll have a number in front of their name coming into Wednesday. Especially since the Fighting Irish are still looking for a few more quality wins to inch closer towards an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament, they’ll be hungry for a win against Coach Larranaga’s team.

If Miami has watched tape of this team in big games though they’ll know that the key is limiting the Notre Dame offense. In the 21 games Notre Dame has played this season, Mike Brey’s team has only scored under 70 points four times, but in those games the team is 1-3. That sounds like a goal Miami can strive for.

Also when thinking about Notre Dame’s tendency to show up in the big games, just consider the fact that the Miami Hurricanes do that exact same thing.

Miami needs to attack the rim from the get-go.

Over the past two first halves against Duke and NC State, the Miami Hurricanes have attempted just four free-throws. Over the course of this season’s first halves overall, the Miami Hurricanes have been pretty mediocre.

A few games ago, Sheldon McClellan joked about how he maybe shouldn’t play in the first half since his numbers are often pretty low while he diagnoses the defense’s plan against him. The same goes for Ja’Quan Newton. For these talented guys and this talented team though, that’s got to stop at this point in the season.

Ignoring just a few first halves here and there, Miami has rarely brought a big lead into the break that they can look to expand and quickly pull out of range with. As the Hurricanes have begun to play tougher competition, they’ve been punished for it.

I know sometimes it takes awhile to get into the flow of games, but often you look up at the scoreboard to see McClellan or Newton with 0 points and just a few minutes left to go in the first half. I’ve pointed those two out because it’s most obvious with their contrast between halves, but it’s a team problem as well.

Against Notre Dame, Miami needs to come out attacking and trying to get to the free-throw line as much as possible in the first half. Even if the aren’t getting calls, the Canes just need to assert themselves at the start and not wait for one of their stars to pull them out of danger with a explosive second half run.

This team has gotten away with too many subpar first halves this season and if we see another one Wednesday night, that loss total might jump to five.