'It's the most fun thing in the world' VanVleet says of NCAA Tournament
Wichita State’s first two opponents tried to overwhelm the Shockers with size. It failed.
Miami will challenge the Shockers with the most experienced backcourt they’ve played in this tournament. Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan are fifth-year seniors and are unlikely to commit seven turnovers as Arizona’s Kadeem Allen did, or go 3 for 14 from the field as Vanderbilt’s backcourt did.
The Hurricanes will hit the Shockers with a lot of ball screens, which will challenge the big men to stay out of foul trouble and hustle to help guards and defend the roll man. WSU practices against Fred VanVleet, a clever practitioner of the pick and roll, so it shouldn’t see anything new.
An assistant coach whose team played the Hurricanes spoke to us on the condition of anonymity.
“I think they’re the best team in the country in using ball screens,” he said. “Their guards are very good. People think they drive and kick (to shooters). They more often drive and score or dump it off to their bigs.”
The coach said the usual tactic of hedging a ball screen (where the defender uses his body to slow the dribble and direct him away from the basket) isn’t always effective. Some teams switch the screens. Some teams use a zone defense.
“You’ve got to help on penetration,” our anonymous coach said. “You can’t give up threes and layups. You’ve got to take one away.”
Miami ranks 12th nationally in kenpom.com’s offensive efficiency, largely because of 53.3-percent accuracy on two-point shots.
▪ Center Tonye Jekiri is the key to Miami’s defense. He has blocked 35 shots in 33 games and is quick enough to harass on the perimeter and hustle back to the lane.
“Outside of him, defensively, they’re just OK,” our coach said. “I’m running things at him, something to get him in foul trouble. He’s very good at walling up and not fouling.”
Jekiri averaged 10.9 rebounds in ACC games, tops in the conference.
Senior Ivan Cruz Uceda is an outside-shooting big man who makes 45.3 percent of his threes. He started seven games, six to start the season, before giving way to Kamari Murphy, a better rebounder and defender.
▪ Rodriguez is the team’s decision-maker. McClellan is regarded as an NBA prospect.
“He’s a big-time scorer,” our anonymous coach said. “Unlimited range. He’s going to make big shots.”
▪ JaQuan Newton comes off the bench and averages 11.1 points, shooting 47.1 percent from the field and 73.4 percent from the line. He has attempted 143 foul shots, more than any Shocker, in 23 minutes a game.
“For 90 percent of the year he was the best sixth-man in the country,” our coach said. “He’s really good getting in the paint.”
▪ The Hurricanes are struggling in some key areas over the past five games. Opponents are making 35.4 percent of their threes, including Buffalo’s 10 of 26 on Thursday.
Miami has 57 assists and 60 turnovers in those five games.
▪ Kenpom.com picks WSU as the 66-64 winner. The Hurricanes force turnovers on 17.4 percent of opponents’ possessions, in the bottom 100 of the nation. The Shockers are one of the nation’s most careful teams, so that may foreshadow plenty of shots. Like the Shockers, Miami rarely turns the ball over.
- When: 11:10 a.m. Saturday
- Where: Dunkin Donuts Center, Providence, R.I.
- Records: WSU 26-8, UM 26-7
- Radio: KFH, 1240-AM, 98.7-FM; KEYN, 103.7-FM
- TV: KWCH, Ch. 12