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Preview: No. 7 Miami @ Notre Dame

Notre Dame catches a hot Miami – winners of seven of its last eight – as the Hurricanes seek their second ACC regular-season title in four years.

Game 29: No. 7 Miami (23-5, 12-4) vs. Notre Dame (19-9, 10-6)
Date: March 2, 2016
Place: Purcell Pavilion; Notre Dame, Ind.
Time: 7:00 ET
TV: ESPN2
Opponent nickname: Hurricanes
Head coach: Jim Larranaga (32nd year overall – 584-388: 114-54 in 5th year at Miami; 273-164 in 14 years at George Mason; 170-144 in 11 years at Bowling Green; 27-26 in 2 years at American International.
Location: Miami, Fla.
2014-15 record (25-13, 10-8)

ONE (OR TWO) STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK

Notre Dame is proud of the fact that it hasn’t lost two games in a row since the 2013-14 season, and rightfully so. The ability to bounce back from defeat shows the resilience of a team/program when adversity strikes.

But Notre Dame’s positive response to defeat in 2015-16 generally has been short-lived. The longest winning streak of the season is just four games, and three of those were at home against a struggling Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Boston College.

The Irish had three winning streaks of at least four games last year, including an eight-game run at the end of the regular season, through the ACC tournament and well into the NCAA tournament.

A disturbing pattern has emerged as well with four separate instances of responding to a loss with a win, only to follow up with another loss:

• After losing to Monmouth by two in Orlando, the Irish bounced back with a six-point victory over Iowa. A day later, a sub-par performance resulted in a one-point loss to Alabama.

• Notre Dame fell decisively at Virginia (by 11) to open ACC play, but responded with an even more decisive win (by 28) at Boston College. In their worst performance of the year at home – and their only loss at Purcell Pavilion this season – the Irish fell to Pittsburgh (by 4).

• A three-game span of at Syracuse, Wake Forest at home and at Miami was a tall order in late-January, early-February. The Irish failed, losing to the Orange by 15, defeating the Demon Deacons by 23, and losing to the Hurricanes by nine in a game in which the point differential just as easily could have been 19.

• Notre Dame’s only three-game road trip of the season came against three of the lower-echelon teams in the ACC. The Irish didn’t play particularly well in any of those games, falling to Georgia Tech by one, defeating Wake Forest by 11 in a game much closer than that, and getting hammered by 21 at Florida State.

Tonight, Notre Dame shoots for its 14th consecutive bounce-back victory.

BY THE BYE…

Notre Dame controls its own destiny as it pertains to landing one of four coveted double-byes heading into the ACC tournament, which begins Tuesday, March 8.

If the Irish defeat Miami and North Carolina State (Saturday at Purcell Pavilion), they would be the No. 4 seed in the ACC tournament, even if Duke defeats North Carolina Saturday to equal Notre Dame’s 12-6 conference mark by virtue of a Jan. 16 victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Louisville – currently 12-5 – will not participate in the ACC tournament due to a self-imposed ban.

If the Irish are the No. 4 seed, they’d play Thursday, March 10 at 2:00 ET vs. the winner of the No. 1 seed vs. the No. 8-9 seed winner.

If the Irish are the No. 5 seed, they’d play Wednesday, March 9 at 2:00 ET vs. the winner of the No. 12 vs. No. 13 game.

If the Irish are the No. 6 seed – Pittsburgh would have the tiebreaker against Notre Dame if there is a tie (the Panthers are currently 9-7 with trips to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech) -- they’d play Wednesday, March 9 at 9:00 ET vs. the winner of the No. 11 vs. No. 14 seed.

MIAMI SCOUTING REPORT

The Hurricanes are as hot as any team in the ACC with victories in seven of their last eight games to propel them to the No. 7 position in this week’s Associated Press poll.

After falling to Virginia and Clemson to slip to 2-2 in the ACC, and a loss at North Carolina State that took its conference mark to 5-3, Miami went on a roll, defeating Pittsburgh (by 2), Virginia (by 3) and Louisville  (by 8) at home and Florida State on the road (by 2).

The only blemish during that four-week span was an apathetic 25-point loss at North Carolina when the Tar Heels were coming off a devastating one-point loss to Duke at home.

While the Irish are known for their offensive efficiency – the recent three-game road swing notwithstanding – the Hurricanes aren’t far behind, averaging 117.7 points per 100 possessions, which ranks 13th nationally.

The Hurricanes are led by 6-foot-5 senior Sheldon McClellan, who is averaging 15.6 points per game while shooting well from the field (.506), the three-point line (.402) and the free-throw line (.856).

When Miami struggles, it’s often a result of 5-foot-11 senior point guard Angel Rodriguez’s wildly inconsistent shooting touch. He made just 1-of-10 shots at Purcell Pavilion in a 75-70 regular-season loss to the Irish a year ago.

Notre Dame held the Hurricanes to just 36.4 percent shooting in quarterfinal action of the ACC tournament last year before vanquishing Duke and North Carolina. Rodriguez had tamed his shooting issues by then, but McClellan managed just 10 points as the Hurricanes missed 15 of 20 three-point attempts.

Rodriguez has the second-most three-pointers made by the Hurricanes, but he’s shooting just 30 percent from distance.

Davon Reed, a 6-foot-6 junior, scores and an 11.1 clip while shooting a solid 37.8 percent from three-point range.

Miami will be without 6-foot-2 sophomore Ja’Quon Newton (10.9 ppg.) tonight as he serves a three-game suspension for a violation of team rules. Newton scored 12 points against the Irish a few weeks back and tallied 16 at Notre Dame last season.

Anthony Lawrence, Jr., a 6-foot-7 freshman, is capable of picking up the slack. Averaging just 4.5 points per game, he tossed in 18 points against the Irish a month ago.

The challenge for Notre Dame’s Zach Auguste tonight is huge – literally and figuratively. Tonye Jekiri, a 7-foot-0, 244-pound senior, plays less than 30 minutes per game, yet averages 8.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.

Miami separates itself from Notre Dame on the defensive end, allowing four points less per game and a full five percent less from three-point shooting distance.

The Hurricanes have plenty to play for with four days left in the regular season. If Miami defeats Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, and North Carolina falls at Duke Saturday, the Hurricanes will win the ACC regular season for the second time in four seasons.

Prister/O’Malley Prediction: Notre Dame 75, Miami 71
ACC Prediction Record: 11-5 straight up; 10-6 vs. points


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