College Basketball Preview and Prediction: Miami (FL) vs #16 Utah
To start off the college basketball season, the 16th ranked Utah Utes have been able to win despite poor shooting, while Miami (FL) has won because of their impressive shot percentage.
The Utes shot 46.9 percent in a nine-point win over Southern Utah to open the season last Friday, then beat San Diego State by five while shooting 40.0 percent. They struggled again Thursday, hitting 38.3 percent from the floor in a 73-63 quarterfinal win over Texas Tech.
Lorenzo Bonam finished with a game-high 20 points while Jordan Loveridge added 18 and Jakob Poeltl scored 15 for Utah, which hit 6 of 24 from 3-point range and is shooting just 30 percent from behind the arc on the year.
Utah clearly didn’t take any pointers from Miami’s performance earlier Thursday. The Hurricanes (3-0) shot 56.7 percent and hit 9 of 17 from 3-point range in a 105-79 victory over Mississippi State, the first time since 2004 they’ve scored at least 100 points against a Division I opponent. That performance was indicative of their first win of the season though. Miami shot 56.4 percent and drained 12 of 23 threes in Monday’s 93-77 win over Louisiana-Lafayette.
The Hurricanes, picked to finish fifth in the ACC, got 19 points from Sheldon McClellan, 15 from Ja’Quan Newton and 14 from James Palmer in the first round of this tournament to lead seven players in double figures. Their 59 first-half points set a tournament record.
Coach Jim Larranaga certainly isn’t going to complain about his squad’s offensive success, but he’d like to see his players continue to step up defensively as well. The Hurricanes have forced at least 13 turnovers in each contest and haven’t allowed an opponent to shoot better than 46.0 percent.
Something has to give in this matchup of likely NCAA Tournament teams. The winner of this contest will face No. 22 Butler as they beat Temple earlier today 74-69.
Prediction: Utah 74 Miami 65