Georgia Tech, 0-1 in ACC play, is coming off a hard-fought effort that fell just short on the road against Notre Dame. Luckily the Yellow Jackets are able to turn their focus over to the Miami Hurricanes on Wednesday in a home tilt. The U is 12-1 on the season and was one of the five undefeated teams remaining before being knocked off against New Mexico State two days before Christmas. Some can say that their record is a little skewed due to the opponents they have played, with the best win coming on the road against Minnesota, 86-81. According to CBSSports.com Miami’s strength of schedule is 90th in the country.
The man leading the way for Miami is Jim Larrañaga. He is in his seventh year at the U, with two trips to the Sweet 16 along with ACC Coach of the Year in 2013. Before coming to Miami, he had long stops at George Mason and Bowling Green. Coach Larrañaga has been the National Coach of the Year according to AP & Naismith and is known as one of the top coaches in college hoops and has the hardware to prove it.
Jim Larrañaga has another nice squad this year with multiple pieces to work with, the main man being 6’5” sophomore guard #11, Bruce Brown Jr. Brown flirted with the NBA last year but decided to return to school to increase his stock. So far it is paying dividends as Brown is currently projected to go 20th to the Indiana Pacers on NBADraft.net. He is a beast when he drives to the hoop and attacks the rim. His outside game and shot is still a work in progress, which is one of the reasons why he came back to school, but don’t be fooled…he can still knock down the open shot, and force his way to the paint to get buckets.
Along with Bruce Brown Jr. is the 6’5” McDonald’s All-American and true freshman #4, Lonnie Walker IV. Walker was considered one of the top players in the 2017 class and was a huge get for the Hurricanes, not only for his unique Elfrid Payton style hair, but also his crazy athleticism. He is widely considered to be a 1-and-done and is projected to be the 14th overall pick to the New York Knicks according to NBADraft.net. His potential leaves me a little confused with the way he is being used so far this season, as he has yet to have constant minutes nor find a solid place in the rotation. His season high for minutes was 29 against Pittsburgh, but before that it was 28 minutes against Boston University (where he scored 26 points in that time). It might be that Coach Larrañaga was waiting for ACC play to unleash him, but you would think that you would want to utilize a talent such as Lonnie Walker IV as much as possible.
Running the show for the Hurricanes is 6’3 senior #0, Ja’Quan Newton. He attacks the paint hard like Brown Jr. and has the combination of speed and strength to be successful. He is as sound as it gets on defense and plays tough in your face D all game. One of the few downfalls for the steady upperclassmen is he sometimes coughs the ball up. When you make him go left on the drive he can get out of control, which can be beneficial if Georgia Tech takes advantage of this.
The other guard is 6’3” sophomore out of Melbourne, Australia #1, Dejan “Can I Buy A Vowel” Vasiljevic. At first glance with Vasilievic, you'd think "who let this guy from the Rec League put on a uniform?" But then he starts shooting. Swish, swish, swish. He is a pure shooter who can also take you off the dribble. It might be on purpose, but he has a floater that is highly similar to fellow Aussie and NBA player Matthew Dellavedova. He will hit you with a pump fake after nailing two threes, then complete a nice floater to keep you from closing out on him the next time down.
On the wing for Miami is 6’7” junior #3, Anthony Lawrence II. He is the nice solid player that every team needs. Lawrence is good on defense, can set up his teammates, hits the boards, and can knock down the three. It is hard to find a weak spot in his game. He is that reliable upperclassman that can be trusted in ACC play and the tournament to make the right play.
Down on the block is 6’11” sophomore #20, Dewan Huell. He is long and physical with a filled-out body for such a young player. He hits the boards aggressively along with nicely set screens. He has nice touch around the paint and is starting to hit the mid-range jumpers. He is the type of player that Ben Lammers tends to have a challenging time against as he's relentless and active.
Prediction: Jose Alvarado and company will have the opportunity to get some turnovers. It just comes down to if they take advantage of them. I want to see better free throw shooting and continued tough defense. I expect a big game from Tadric Jackson with Vasilievic guarding him and most of the points coming from Tad. But after playing it out, it is hard to imagine a scenario where Tech can get it done. Anything can happen in the ACC but Miami by 9.