Arkansas Wrap-Up/Miami Preview

The Providence Friars are now playing for hardware. On Sunday night, they play the Miami Hurricanes in the Championship game of the Puerto Rico Tipoff. With composure and aggressive play on both ends of the floor, the Friars went to 2-0 on the season, beating Arkansas 67-51.

The Friars pulled off a tight comeback win vs. Temple, and Friday night they employed a combination of pressing and aggressive zone defense that transformed the Razorbacks into "40 Minutes of Turnovers."

The win over the Arkansas Razorbacks Friday evening was a great improvement from the generally poor play the Friars exhibited against Temple, which necessitated a big comeback to achieve a win over the Temple Owls.

On Friday, it wasn't nearly as close, as the #18th ranked Razorbacks shot themselves in the foot all evening with some horrible ball handling that led to a nightmarish 32 turnovers. However, much of that had to do with some outstanding Friar defense that confused and perplexed the entire Arkansas team.

Tim Welsh used a combination full and three quarter court pressing, and had his team fall back into an aggressive zone defense that baffled the Hogs all evening. For the Friars, Brian McKenzie made his first start for Providence, and the sophomore responded in fine fashion, scoring a career high 18 points.

Geoff McDermott, proving he is a leader on this team, steadied the Friar attack all game long against an Arkansas squad known for their pressure defense themselves. Besides doing much of the ball handling, McDermott scored 15 points, and pulled down eight rebounds. It's clear that the Friars' team confidence flows from Geoff McDemott's example.

Miami Game Preview

Miami's Coach Frank Haith would like to forget last season. Three of Miami's front court players sustained injuries that ended their season last year, and another was out with a broken hand for an extended period. Moreover, Coach Haith had to discipline two other players, starter Denis Clemente and Raymond Hicks for violations of team rules. Those losses in personnel lead to ugly results in the unforgiving ACC, resulting in the Hurricanes finishing last in the conference at a record of 4-12, and winning just 12 games all season. It was the first time Miami missed the post season entirely since 1999.

This year is already off to a much different start, as Miami is currently 3-0, which includes wins over both Marist and Virginia Commonwealth in the Puerto Rican Tipoff. They have some depth this year that includes four big men in the post that can all contribute. The big front line of Miami is clearly the strength of the team, and is anchored by 6-9 Anthony King, a 242lb load who can score and rebound, averaging a double-double so far this season. King is good shot blocker, and he also gets to the line, where he has become a good free throw shooter.

The Hurricanes also have acquired a sharpshooting guard in Jack McClinton, a transfer from Siena College. McClinton is averaging over 16 points a game this season, including a team high 23 points in their 69-63 win over VCU on Friday. James Dewes, Brian Asbury, Dwayne Collins, and Ray Hicks round out a top six that is big, athletic, and balanced for Miami. This former Big East member is a team that has a chance to be in the middle of the pack in the ACC this year if things break right for them.

Keys to the Game

1) 40 minutes of TO's, the Sequel? While it's unrealistic to expect Miami to experience the extreme ball handling problems that Arkansas had, the Hurricanes also lack a true point guard, and have a tendency to turn the ball over at a higher than average rate at (18 per game) The Friars should make every effort to harass the Hurricane backcourt with the intention of turning them over.

2) Clean the glass. Providence needed to hold their own rebounding vs. a big Arkansas team, and they did so extremely well. The same task versus Miami may be even more difficult, as the Hurricanes have thus far dominated their opponents in the rebounding department. Whoever is playing the small forward spot for the Friars is going to have to help the Friar front court and ‘play big', boxing out well to keep Miami off the offensive boards.

3) Beware of the Three. Miami likes to shoot the 3 ball, and has attempted about twenty attempts per game, making a staggering 40-50% of them. The take here is that teams have been so concerned about the Hurricane front line, they've left shooters open too often have paid the price. Providence surely will use their press to various degrees, but they may have to be very judicious about playing zone defense in this game. Showing a good amount of man to man defense may be the way to go, as Miami can shoot the ball well from downtown.

4) Don't force the outside shot. While three point shooting is one of the Friars' best assets, they can't fall in love with it to the detriment of the team. Miami's front court is likely to be aggressive, and if the Friars can penetrate the lane as well as attack the basket with good interior passing, they may catch the Hurricanes moving and may be able to get to the free throw line in this matchup. Eric Maynor, the creative point guard from VCU, had a big game against Miami, (27pts) and many of those points were on drives to the basket and from the free throw line.

5) Value each possession. Providence has generally done a decent job protecting the ball without their starting point guard Sharaud Curry. However, they must stay vigilant by valuing each possession, not turning it over, and ensuring that they get a good shot every time down the court. You can shoot yourself out of a game quickly with poor shot selection and turnovers, and while the Friars maintained a lead throughout the game vs. Arkansas with some great defense and timely scoring, there were still numerous instances when a lack of patience on the offensive end led to squandered scoring opportunities and a low field goal percentage overall. (38% shooting, 20 turnovers)

Game time: 7:30pm EST TV: ESPN2 Radio:103.7FM WEEI

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