Efficiency Stats: Keys to Weather the Hurricanes
Not many weaknesses to be found with this Miami squad.
Looking back at the keys for the Illini against Colorado, they did a pretty good job of executing on all five of them. They kept the Buffaloes from going to the free throw line (10-13 for the game), made Askia Booker the primary shooter (just 5-14 from the field), won the turnover battle 15-12, actually outrebounded the Buffaloes with better offensive and defensive rebounding percentages, and Tracy Abrams had a good floor game with six assists against three turnovers.
Colorado's weaknesses were pretty clear. They weren't a great shooting team, and they turned the ball over quite a bit. It's not as easy to find the weaknesses of this Miami squad. They rank in the top twenty in both offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency this season accordng to Ken Pomeroy. They shoot the ball well, with an effective field goal percentage of 52.4 (average is 48.6%). Miami takes good care of the basketball, only turning it over on about 17 percent of their possessions (average is about 20 percent). They also do a very good job of defensive rebounding, allowing opponents to grab an offensive rebound only about 28 percent of the time (average is about 32 percent).
So, how do the Illini beat this team? Here are a few keys.
1. Make Shane Larkin work for his points. You've probably heard Larkin being compared to Michigan's Trey Burke the last couple of days. For good reason. Like Burke, he's not the tallest guard around, but he can beat you in many ways. He's very quick off the dribble, but also a very good perimeter shooter, hitting 41% from three-point range this season. His offensive efficiency of 116.5 is the best on the Miami team, and his efffective FG% of 57.5% is insanely good for a guard. He will turn the ball over a little bit, but not excessively for a guard who handles the ball as much as Larkin does. The best case scenario for Illinois is if they can force Larkin to have a game like Trey Burke did against the Illini in Champaign on January 27, where they force him to shoot a low percentage with an assist/turnover ratio of less than two to one. It won't be easy.
2. Bring Miami's big men outside. There's no question that the Hurricanes have the size advantage inside. Starters Kenny Kadji and Julian Gamble measure 6'11" 242 pounds, and 6'10" 250 pounds respectively, plus you've got the guy to your left, Reggie Johnson, coming off the bench at 6'11" 292 pounds. The Illini don't really have anyone that can post up effectively against them. Their best chance for success offensively is to get some open looks for Tyler Griffey on the perimeter and Nnanna Egwu from midrange. That could potentially open up the middle for some drives to the basket. We've seen Griffey and Egwu both excel and struggle in hitting these open shots, but it's hard to see Illinois winning this game without at least one of them shooting well.
3. Win the turnover battle. Miami is much more careful with the basketball than Colorado was. It's hard to see Illinois forcing the Hurricanes into 15+ turnovers in this game. Rather, the key here for Illinois will to be to minimize their own mistakes. They committed 12 turnovers against Colorado on Friday. Against a Miami team that doesn't force too many miscues, this number will likely need to be in the single digits.
4. Pick up the pace. This is a Miami team that plays at one of the slowest paces in NCAA division one. Their adjusted tempo ranks just #277 out of 347 teams, according to Pomeroy. On missed shots, Illinois must look to push the pace and get some early looks in transition before Miami's big men can get back and set up defensively. So, the first key here is playing good enough defense to force those misses from Miami. The Hurricanes average just 63 possessions per game, the Illini average 66. Watch to see if Illinois can get this number to 66 or higher.
5. Have an effective field goal percentage > 50%. To review, effective field goal percentage is [FG + (3pt/2)]/FGA. It essentially gives you extra credit for made three pointers, since you get an extra point for them. When the Illini beat Indiana, their eFG% was 52.6%. When they beat Gonzaga earlier in the season, it was an impressive 59.2%. Illinois has been good enough defensively most of the season to win when they hit the 50 percent mark. Against Miami, it's hard to see an Illini win unless they make some shots.
Looking forward to this one. Hoping the Illini can pull off the upset. We'll talk about these keys and more on the Fasteners Etc. Postgame show afterward on WDWS and Lite Rock 97.5. Thanks for reading.
[thumbnail photo courtesy of sun-sentinal.com]
[blog photo courtesy of AP]