The road has not been kind to the University of Miami men’s basketball team in 2023, and things will get no easier Saturday afternoon against Clemson at sold-out Littlejohn Coliseum in a Top-25 showdown.
The 23rd-ranked Hurricanes lost four of five road games in January. Their only win was a blowout at Florida State. Clemson, which may have looked like an easy opponent in preseason, when the Tigers were predicted to finish 11th in the ACC, sits atop the league and is ranked No. 20 in the nation.
Miami enters Saturday’s game (3 p.m., ACC Network) with a boost of confidence after a 92-83 home win over Virginia Tech. Clemson is coming off a 62-54 road loss to Boston College.
Asked if he thinks the Tigers will have their fire fueled by that loss, UM coach Jim Larranaga said: “They don’t need their fire fueled, they’ve been fueled all season long. They’re playing at a very high level, have won some terrific games at home against high-quality opponents. The place will be sold out. It’ll be a great crowd.”
Clemson is 18-5 overall and 10-2 in the ACC. The Tigers defense leads the conference in field-goal percentage allowed. Forward Hunter Tyson is Clemson’s top scorer at 16.3 points, and he averages 9.7 rebounds.
Larranaga has been coaching against Clemson coach Brad Brownell for a dozen years since he arrived at Miami and for several years before that when they both coached in the mid-majors.
“We know each other very well and their personnel fits the Brad Brownell bill,” Larranaga said. “He has a lot of tough-minded defensive players. Offensively, they’re very well connected. Hunter Tyson and Chase Hunter are terrific, and they’re anchored by PJ Hall, who is a great go-to guy on inside. These guys are for real.”
Although the Tigers are ranked three spots ahead of the Canes in the AP poll, but Miami is rated higher than the Clemson in the KenPom.com rankings (36th) and the NET Rankings (40th)
The Hurricanes have a well-balanced offense led by guards Isaiah Wong, Jordan Miller and Nijel Pack, who dazzled fans Tuesday night with a 17-point barrage over a five-minute span in the second half against Virginia Tech. Bensley Joseph and Harlond Beverly provide sparks off the bench.
Although UM lacks a towering rim protector, powerful 6-7 newcomer Norchad Omier has more than held his own in the post against ACC centers. He leads the league in field goal percentage (60 percent), is the second leading rebounder behind North Carolina’s Armando Bacot, and ranks fourth in blocks.
“The ACC has so many big player who can hoop, but my mentality is that I am good too, so they have to worry about me, too,” said Omier, the former Sun Belt Player of the Year who transferred to UM this season.
Another reason the Hurricanes (17-5, 8-4 ACC) are winning is their team chemistry and lack of injuries. Miami has had the same starting lineup for all but one game.
“We’ve been consistently in good moods,” Larranaga said. “The team spirit has been there from start to finish. It started in the summer. We have very good team chemistry and bonding. Overall, we’ve been very, very close to the best we can be.”