The Miami Hurricanes go on the road for the first time this season to face the UCF Knights in Orlando on Tuesday. The Hurricanes are 1-1 on the season, having lost on opening night to Louisville in Coral Gables, Fla., before bouncing back against Florida Atlantic. The loss to No. 4 Louisville was not a surprising one, though the 87-74 score was not indicative of how one-sided the game actually was.
Miami is trying to rebound from a disastrous 2018-19 season where it simply didn’t have enough bodies. Head coach Jim Larranaga is one of the most underrated coaches in the Power 6 conferences and does have more to work with this season.
UCF is 1-0 after a win against Prairie View A&M over the weekend in somewhat dramatic fashion. The Panthers were actually beating the Knights with just over seven minutes to go in the second half before UCF got it together and put them away by four, 73-69. The game could be attributable to it being the first game of the season and UCF playing without point guard B.J. Taylor and center Tacko Fall for the first time in what seems like a decade.
Miami is a two-point favorite in this one despite playing on the road. The over/under for the contest has been set at 138.5.
Can Miami Blow Out Of Town With A Win?
The Hurricanes are a team that has the opportunity to finish in the middle of the Atlantic Coast Conference this season. Led by high-scoring point guard Chris Lykes and three-point specialist Dejan Vasilijevic, Larranaga has experienced weapons at his disposal.
Early on this season, transfer Kam McGusty and freshman Harlond Beverly have also contributed at a high level, with both averaging in double-digits in scoring while the Hurricanes as a team are shooting 36 percent from behind the arc. The frontcourt-by-committee approach with Sam Waardenburg, Anthony Walker, Rodney Miller, and Deng Gak is deep, if unspectacular.
Can The Knights Defend Their Castle?
The UCF program finds itself in a bit of a transition year this season. Coach Johnny Dawkins lost his three leading scorers from a Sweet 16 team a season ago but is not without talent this year.
Alabama transfer Dazon Ingram is a capable player from all over the court, while junior forward Collin Smith has the opportunity to make this team and program his. Dawkins is almost certainly still trying to find out what works after losing so much production at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season.
Hurricanes Get The Win
Looking at this matchup, I feel more comfortable with Miami, even on the road. The Hurricanes seem to have an identity and cohesion within their group that UCF may still be searching for. Lykes is the best player in this game, and Larranaga has the coaching edge. Ingram could present a matchup issue for the Hurricanes, but McGusty should be able to stick with him on the wing.
The X-factor in this game is the shooting of the Miami wings. Lykes, Vasilijevic, Beverly and McGusty are all threats from deep, and UCF did not defend the arc particularly well against Prairie View A&M, allowing the Panthers to go 11-for-21 from deep. Miami has hoisted 42 triples in its first two games and will continue to bomb away in this game.
The line for this game has Miami -2, but I like them at a little bit more than that given that UCF struggled so mightily in its opener. Give me the Hurricanes laying two on the road along with the under.