Miami: ACC Outlook

Reggie Johnson is down to a svelte 284 pounds.

Record to date: 9-4

Strength so far: Three-point shooting. Despite attempting the second-most three-pointers in the ACC, Miami is second behind Duke in three-point percentage (39%). The Hurricanes have been hot lately, too: in their last four games, they have shot 48% from three, including a scorching 14-of-20 that saved them from an embarrassing loss to Florida Atlantic.

Needs improvement: Rebounding. Miami is eighth in the league in defensive rebounding percentage but 10th in offensive rebounding percentage. The good news is that it already has been improving: in the last three games, Miami has out-rebounded its opponents by an average of +7.0 after being out-rebounded in its first ten games by 2.3.

Most important player: Reggie Johnson. The 6-10, 284-pounder has lost nearly 40 pounds since he arrived as a hefty freshman in 2008. He’s nearly doubled his playing time since his freshman year (up from 13 minutes to 26), and he looks better than ever physically. Johnson has been back for just four games, but he has shot 50% and averaged 10.8 points. But his team is clicking since his return; Miami has averaged 88 points on 56% shooting (48% from three), adding 27 free-throw attempts a game. In the first nine games, Miami didn’t shoot over 50% once (39.9% overall) and averaged 67.2 points, making 35.5% of their three’s and averaging 21.9 free-throw attempts.

Reason for optimism: Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji have given the Canes an inside duo. Johnson has always needed someone to take attention away. Kadji has exploded in the last six games, two prior to Johnson’s return, averaging 16.5 points on 61% shooting (62% from three), adding six boards and 2.2 blocks in 29.7 minutes. In Miami’s first seven games, he averaged 5.6 points on 45% shooting and missed the only three-pointer he took, averaging just 18.9 minutes. With Johnson, he has averaged 18 points on 63% shooting in 30.8 minutes. If Kadji can continue to be an offensive threat, teams can’t concentrate on slowing down Johnson. The emergence of those two down low allows Miami to be a truly balanced offensive team for the first time perhaps since it joined the ACC in terms of perimeter and post scoring threats.

Reason for pessimism:  Statistically, their defense is one of the worst in the league right now (9th in efficiency, allowing nearly 49% effective field goal percentage and allowing 36% from three). Even with Johnson, they let UNC-Greensboro go for 89 points, the most they have allowed in regulation.

Surprising stat: Miami is 56th nationally in block percentage (12.5%), despite missing their best shot-blocker for most of the season in Johnson. Reflecting his absence, though, they’ve had 10.3% of their shots blocked (221st).

Most likely wins (6): Clemson (1/18), NCST (1/22), @Ga. Tech (1/24), Wake (2/18), @BC (1/29), BC (3/3)

Most likely losses (5): @UVA (1/7), @UNC (1/10), @Duke (2/5), @FSU (2/11), UNC (2/15)

Toss-ups (5): Maryland (2/1), Va. Tech (2/9), FSU (2/26), @Maryland (2/21), @NCST (2/29)

Best-case scenario: 10-6

Worst-case scenario: 7-9

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