Don’t look now but while we were all worrying about COVID, the holidays and that whacky weather we’ve been having, the Miami Hurricanes have become one of college basketball’s hottest teams.
Yes, Miami. The team on an eight-game winning streak, the team that sits atop the ACC at 4-0, wins over conference foes Clemson, NC State, Wake Forest and Syracuse. They trailed Syracuse 44-30 at intermission in their most recent game and scored 58 points in the second half to pull out an 88-87 win.
Most of their firepower is concentrated on the perimeter. Kameron McGusty is a 6-5 senior. He’s averaging 18.3 points per game. Isaiah Wong is a 6-3 sophomore. He’s averaging 16.3 points per game. Then there’s Charlie Moore. He’s 5-11, a senior who started his college career at California before going to Kansas before going to DePaul before ending up in Coral Gables.
At least, I assume he’ll end up in Coral Gables. There’s always next year. But Moore has certainly impacted Miami in a good way. He’s averaging 12 points and four assists per game and scored 25 against Syracuse.
Miami’s fourth-leading scorer is 6-7 Jordan Miller, a George Mason transfer. Expect to see lots of uptempo, small ball.
Rock meet hard place. Duke’s perimeter trio of Wendell Moore, Jr., Trevor Keels and Jeremy Roach wants to be the nation’s best defensive perimeter group and they’ve certainly staked a claim, leading Duke to a 12-1 start.
Moore shared his thoughts on that crucial match-up in a Thursday media Zoom.
“They have three or four really good guards. We make it tough for opposing teams because I don’t think other teams have three guards like we do who can switch all three of those positions. It will definitely be a big match-up for us, a huge match-up for the team. We’ve definitely got to come in locked in and kind of take their perimeter out of it.”
McGusty is listed at 6-5, 190, almost exactly the same size as Moore and the two have squared off against each other before.
“I’ve been watching a lot of film of him. I’ve been guarding him for the last two years, so I’m definitely accustomed to how he plays. So, we’ll watch some more film and try to pick up some more tendencies and stay locked in come Saturday.”
McGusty and Wong get most of the headlines but Duke’s Moore says don’t sleep on Miami’s Moore.
“I think he’s one of the keys to the team. I kind of think he makes their team go, with the energy and enthusiasm he brings.”
Joey Baker also talked with the media. He says Duke will prioritize stopping Miami’s perimeter.
“They have a group of really good guards and they carry a lot of the load offensively for them. We know that coming into the game. We’ll prepare to guard and try and take away what they want to do, which is get into the lane, drive and kick for 3-pointers.”
Of course, Miami will have to guard Duke. The Blue Devils weren’t very good offensively against Georgia Tech. Call it tired legs, lack of sharpness, loss of rhythm, but the long layoff definitely showed up when Duke had the ball.
Moore says expect better come Saturday.
“Some of the rust started to come off in the second half. We’ve got another day of preparation, another day to get better, to get back in the groove of things.”
“It’s a gradual thing,” Baker added. “We come to practice every day and we work as hard as we can. Extra work, putting in the time to work on your conditioning, that’s something that’s necessary and varies from person to person. But we’ve got a great staff and they’re on top of all that stuff and making sure we’re doing what we need to be doing to play at a high level.”
You may recall that Miami upset Duke last year at home so there should be no reason for Duke to overlook the Hurricanes.
“They’ve had a good core group over the past few years and they’ve really put it together this year,” Baker said.
Of course, only four current Blue Devils played in that game, so most of the team is starting with a clean slate.
Duke’s young guys “come locked in every day,” Moore said. “Since day one they’ve been ready to work every single day, just keeping each other motivated and locked in for the next game.”
Locked in is going to be a necessity Saturday night in what’s shaping up to be a big early-season contest.