The Arizona Wildcats opened the Diamond Head Classic with a victory over East Tennessee State, as was expected. Now the Wildcats will turn their attention to the next opponent in the semifinal game on Sunday night, as Miami defeated host Hawaii in the late game.
The Canes have beaten numerous teams this season that are contenders to make the NCAA tournament in March. Along with Hawaii, Miami has given losses to Detroit, Massachusetts, and Michigan State. The only loss that the Hurricanes have suffered on the season was on the road at Florida Gulf Coast and that was without Durand Scott.
Miami will be without Reggie Johnson due to a thumb injury. Johnson is averaging 12.6 points per game and 10.1 rebounds and leads the team with 13 blocks on the season. Basically, Miami will be at a disadvantage should Johnson not play.
The bulk of the responsibility of the front court will now fall on 6-foot-11 Kenny Kadji. Producing stats similar to Johnson, the senior scores 11.3 points per game and has the team's second highest rebounding average with seven per game.
Miami’s leading scorer is senior guard Durand Scott. The 6-5 scorer from The Bronx was suspended for the first three games of the season by the NCAA, but returned with a fire to win basketball games. Only playing in five games so far, Scott is scoring 15.6 points each night and has dished out seventeen assists to just seven turnovers. He was a key player in the victory over Michigan State and has been one of the top players on the team since his return.
The final senior in the starting lineup for the Hurricanes is Trey McKinney Jones. The 6-foor-5 guard is a glue man on the Miami roster, but is still an effective scorer that is relied upon at times.
McKinney Jones actually came off the bench Saturday because he spent Friday in the hospital with a fever, so it will be interesting to see his minutes on Sunday.
The eleven points that he brings to the rotation are often big shots and the senior is often looked to on the perimeter to knock down big outside shots, as he is shooting 42-percent from beyond the arc this year.
Sophomore Shane Larkin is another key player on the Hurricane roster and currently presides in the starting point guard spot. At 5-foot-11, the point guard is often at a height disadvantage, but still manages to be the second most productive member of the team.
Larkin has the most points on the team throughout the season, averaging 14.8 per contest, but also accounts for at least four other buckets each night with his 4.1 assist average.
Miami relies heavily on the starting five for a majority of the game and those five average just about thirty minutes each, but Rion Brown has been the most consistent contributor off the bench.
The junior guard started and played 25 minutes on Saturday, but usually spells each of the guards, earning about 25 minutes for himself each night. He is averaging less than six points per game, but is a quality defender who can run the offense well.
The rest of the bench is questionable at times and few players have seen more than mop up minutes, but with the quick turn around between games, Arizona can expect to see Tonye Jekiri and Julian Gamble. The latter was a starter for two games early in the season, but had yet to see quality minutes before replacing the injured Johnson.
Gamble will get the nod on Sunday and before Saturday's career night, he played just thirteen minutes each game and scored four points each time out.
It remains to be seen how Gamble will respond to his second consecutive start, but his 16 points and 13 rebounds on Saturday were impressive, especially with eight of them coming on the offensive glass.
Jekiri is seeing only seven minutes of action in the six games he has played, scoring four points on the entire season.
On paper, Miami matches up well with Arizona. The four seniors have been tested already this season and have come out on top. However, the lack of depth is concerning for the Hurricanes. Playing two games in less than 24 hours is tough on teams that play an eight man rotation, but for Miami, the lack of depth may hurt in the second half considering it only went about seven deep on Saturday.
The Wildcats took care of business in the opening round and will have the chance to pad the resume with a win against a Miami team that will be in the NCAA tournament come March. The game could come down to how well the Canes can match up with the depth of the Wildcats.