Preview & Prediction: By Raphielle Johnson
In a non-conference game that should have an impact on both teams’ tournament resumes come March, #22 Miami (4-2) visits Kentucky (5-2) on Saturday afternoon. Two key events in both teams most recent games had an impact on who’s available for this one, but Jack McClinton (Miami) escaped a suspension for his swipe at an Ohio State player while Wildcats Michael Porter and Ramon Harris weren’t so lucky. The two players collided with each other early in their win over Lamar, with Harris being carted off on a stretcher. He’s out for this one, but Porter was cleared for and took part in Friday’s practice. It would be safe to consider the guard a game-time decision, but he’ll most likely be on the floor tomorrow.
Those two injuries make things even tougher for Billy Gillispie’s team in the backcourt, the area of many issues this season. The Wildcats, led by DeAndre Liggins in assists (3.4 apg), lack a true point guard and that problem cost them dearly in losses to VMI and North Carolina. They’ve got one of the better post players in the SEC in Patrick Patterson (17.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg) but the lack of a floor general has meant at times this season that he’s gone without touching the ball for long stretches. And with an interior player as talented as Patterson, such a happening is an absolute crime. Jodie Meeks will be the primary option on the perimeter for Kentucky, with his most impressive performance being the thirty-seven he posted on Kansas State out in Las Vegas. But he averages 4.6 turnovers per game, a number that has to improve if the Wildcats are to defend their home floor.
The Hurricanes will have the advantage in depth, with guards McClinton and Lance Hurdle leading the way for Frank Haith’s squad. Seven players average at least six points per game for the ‘Canes, and Dwayne Collins (12.7 ppg, 10.2 rpg) will be a good matchup for Patterson on the blocks. Supplementing Collins inside is Arkansas transfer Cyrus McGowan and Jimmy Graham. Swingmen Brian Asbury and James Dews will also knock down open shots when left alone, and a team that came within a whisker of knocking off Texas in the second round of last season’s NCAA Tournament has a serious chance at challenging in the ACC behind North Carolina and Duke.
As for a winner, look for the Hurricanes to pull out a close one on the road just days after losing to Ohio State at home in a game the Buckeyes controlled in the second half. Kentucky doesn’t have the same kind of depth inside, so if Miami can get Patterson in early foul trouble they could run away with it. And Kentucky is averaging twenty-two turnovers per game (including a season-high 31 against Kansas State), a direct indication of their lack of a point guard.
Winner: Miami Margin: 5-9 pts.
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About Raphielle Johnson
College sports has always been a source of excitement for Raphielle Johnson, be it through watching, writing, or taking a shot in the dark and walking onto a college football team just to live the life (Arizona Football, 2001). Raphielle is the assistant editor, providing his own work in addition to helping out with the site operations. When not writing for CHN, you can usually find him in front of a television set watching one of many pay-per-view sports packages that he owns. He can be followed at twitter.com/raphiellej.
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