It is time to party in the city where the heat is on. Purdue is headed to Coral Gables to face Da U tomorrow night, thus making for the rare House Divided in my home. I really wish could go to this game. It’s been 21 months since I have been to Miami and I desperately want some Big Cheese and Titanic Brewery. In a normal time this would be a fun game. Miami has a very intimate on campus arena that is only about 8,000 and is less than 20 years old. I have been there a few times and really, with a full crowd it can be a superb place to watch basketball.
As for this game, it is a test for Purdue. At 3-1 Purdue has a decent win over Liberty, but faltered in its first major conference test against Clemson. We got the expected home wins in guarantee games with Oakland and Valparaiso (and admittedly had to work pretty hard against Valpo). Now we get a road game against a major conference team that was around .500 last season just like us. This should be very similar to the Clemson game.
From: Coral Gables, FL
Location: Coral Gables, FL
Venue: Watsco Center (Capacity 7,972)
Odds: Purdue by 1
Date & Time: December 8, 2020, 5pm ET
Live Stats: Purdue Sports
Blog Representation: The State of the U
2019-20 Record: 15-16, 7-13 ACC
2020-21 Record: 2-0
NCAA Tournament History: 10 appearances, last in 2018. Reach Three Sweet 16s, last in 2016.
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 3-0
Last Purdue win: 76-65 at Purdue on 11/29/2011 (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)
Last Miami win: None
Coach: Jim Larrañaga (192-113 in 10th season at Miami, 608-480 overall)
This game feels like the back end of a football home and home, like many of our ACC/Big Ten Challenge games are. It is the second time we have played the Hurricanes in this event, the first coming back in November of 2011 in Mackey Arena. The most famous game in our brief series came in the 1999 NCAA Tournament when Purdue as a 10 seed upset 2 seed Miami 73-63 to reach a surprise Sweet 16.
A lot of people don’t realize that Miami didn’t even have a basketball program for a long time. They boast Rick Barry as an alum but in 1971 the university dropped the program and it wasn’t restarted until 1985. Their appearance in the 1998 NCAA Tournament was only their second ever and first in 38 years. Since then they have had modest success, winning the Big East in 2000 and winning a surprise ACC championship and conference tourney title in 2013.
Jim Larrañaga has done pretty well in Coral Gables since they hired him after he took George Mason to the 2006 Final Four. In five of his nine season before this year he got Miami to the NCAA Tournament, they reached tow of their only three Sweet 16s ever, and in 2013 he had possibly the best season in school history when they went 29-7 and won the ACC.
The last two seasons have been a bit down, however. After going 22-10 and reaching the 2018 tournament. The Canes have been under .500 each of the last two years. He has had some great recruiting wins with a star commit Lonnie Walker IV and several other four-star guys.
They also were expecting a strong year with leading scorer Chris Lykes returning. Lykes averaged 15.4 points per game last season and is an excellent senior guard. He has been over 15 points per game in each of the last two seasons. He has 1,256 points in his career and will likely finish his career in the top 10 in school history. He did turn an ankle against Stetson on Friday night and is questionable for tomorrow. He was a preseason all-ACC selection, so his loss would be huge.
Isaiah Wong, a 6’3” sophomore guard from New Jersey is having a great season so far. He is averaging 18.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists through two games. Both Lykes and Wong can get to the rim and give the Hurricanes a pair of excellent guards. Kameron McGusty was also a double figures scorer last eyar and is averaging 10.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Another great guard is Harlond Beverly, who is averaging 8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
Their top post player so far is 6’7” freshman Matt Cross, who is at 10.5 points and 5 rebounds per game. They also have some decent size to match up with us. Nysier Brooks is a 7’, 240 pound senior center that averages 7.5 points and 6 rebounds per game. He is a transfer from Cincinnati that started 35 games for them in 2018-19. Rodney Miller Jr. is another 7-footer that backs him up.
Miami does not rely on the three much. They have only shot 39 threes through two games and they have hit 13 of them. The bulk of their offense comes from Wong, Lykes, and McGusty getting to the rim. They are also a disruptive defensive team with 17 steals so far.
This is going to be a similar game to the Clemson game. We’re facing an experienced team with an all-ACC guard that likes to get after it defensively. Part of their numbers could stem from facing North Florida and Stetson, two teams that are not very strong, but North Florida was a conference regular season champion last year at 21-12. The Hurricanes will present a strong challenge to a young Purdue team that has to travel, so this won’t be easy.