Takeaways from Miami MBB’s two-game road trip

Fourth-year junior Norchad Omier attempts a jump shot during Miami's loss to Clemson on Wednesday, Feb. 14 at the Littlejohn Coliseum. Photo credit: Miami Athletics

As the regular season closes, each game becomes increasingly crucial, especially for a team that has spent much of the season on the tournament bubble, like Miami. However, the Hurricanes’ disappointing season continued as they dropped two must-win games on the road against Clemson and Boston College (BC), extending Miami’s overall losing streak to a season-long four in a row. During this two-game road stretch, a handful of storylines that have defined Miami’s season persisted.

Miami must win the ACC to earn a tournament bid

With a 6-9 in-conference record and matchups with Duke and North Carolina approaching, the ‘Canes have all but played themselves out of contention for an at-large bid. Last season’s ACC regular-season co-champions have already nearly doubled their loss total from the previous year.

The losses of stars Isaiah Wong and Jordan Miller to the NBA have not helped, but the talent on the roster is much better than the team’s record indicates. Juniors Norchad Omier and Nijel Pack have continued their stellar play from years past, but the Hurricanes as a unit have struggled to get on the same page this season.

As it stands now, the ‘Canes have one path to the NCAA tournament: run the table in the ACC tournament to earn an automatic bid. Crazier things have happened in college basketball, but with the strength of the ACC and Miami suffering a losing streak at the worst possible time, any tournament hopes for the Hurricanes are slim-to-none.

Injuries and lack of depth continue to plague Miami’s season

UM had all five starters active for its game against the Tigers, but Pack missed the matchup with BC due to a knee injury, continuing Miami’s unfortunate injury trend this season. All of Miami’s starters have missed time this season because of injuries, and it seems that in each game, there is always one key player out.

This has made it difficult for the ‘Canes to gel together, as everyone has been in and out of the lineup throughout the season.

However, it is a long season, and every team deals with injuries to some extent. The bigger issue is the lack of bench depth for the Hurricanes. When a star player such as Pack or Omier has missed time, their production has not been picked up by others in a large enough capacity to help the ‘Canes win.

The eight-man rotations that Miami usually runs put an immense amount of pressure on the starters to perform, even more so when one or more of these starters is inactive. The lack of production from Miami’s bench gives the Hurricanes a much smaller window for error than most of their opponents, so if a few starters play poorly, the ‘Canes stand little-to-no chance in many cases.

Injuries have helped to derail Miami’s season, but to avoid situations like this, bench depth must be addressed in the offseason.

Late-game offense falters in back-to-back games

The Hurricanes mustered only three points over the last five minutes in their loss to Clemson, as the Tigers eventually pulled away by 17 in what was once a tightly contested game.

Similarly, against Boston College, the two teams traded blows for much of the game, exchanging leads before Miami’s offense went ice cold down the stretch again. The Eagles closed the game on a 13-4 run, forcing turnovers and highly contested looks for the ‘Canes.

Last season, Miami’s explosive offense carried them all the way to the Final Four, but this year has seen UM struggle with consistency on that side of the ball. While there are still flashes of what made the offense so unstoppable last year, far too often the Hurricanes’ offense is stagnant, with many possessions ending with a poor shot or costly turnover.

Many times, these inconsistencies emerge in the closing minutes of games, as seen against Clemson and Boston College. Going forward this season and next season, the ‘Canes must offer more consistency on the offensive end to be successful.

The Hurricanes will now look to gain momentum going into the ACC tournament as they return home to gear up for a matchup with the No. 9 Duke Blue Devils. Tip-off at the Watsco Center is slated for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, with the game airing on ESPN.