Things are about to get truly difficult for the Miami Hurricanes.
Miami (8-3) plays host to Stetson (4-6) on Monday night in a nonconference game. After that, the Canes will face 19 consecutive ACC opponents to close out their regular season.
The Canes are on their best roll of the season, winning four straight games, including victories over Penn State and Clemson.
Then again, Miami already has lost to mid-majors UCF and Dayton and can’t afford to look past Stetson, a school more known for major league pitchers Jacob deGrom and Corey Kluber than basketball prowess.
The biggest strength for the Hatters is their stability with all five starters returning from last season.
Christiaan Jones is emblematic of Stetson’s experience. Jones has played in 132 out of a possible 133 games since joining the Hatters in the fall of 2017.
Jones is third on the team in scoring this season with 11.6 points per game, and he is coming off a game-high and season-high 23 points in Stetson’s most recent game, a 67-59 win over College of Charleston on Thursday night.
“Christiaan is playing like that leader we need him to be,” Stetson coach Donnie Jones said.
Stetson’s other double-figure scorers are also guards: Rob Perry (13.7 points) and Chase Johnston (12.5).
Miami is similarly constructed with its top three scorers as guards: Kameron McGusty (17.5), Isaiah Wong (15.5) and Charlie Moore (11.0).
Wong, a preseason first-team All-ACC selection, has made 50 starts in 69 games at Miami and has 43 double-figure-scoring games.
McGusty and Wong are old-school players in that they are better at attacking the rim than they are at shooting from deep.
Wong is making 60.9 percent of his two-point tries but just 26.2 percent on 3-point attempts. He shoots 80 percent from the foul line.
McGusty shoots 57.0 percent on two-pointers and 32.6 percent on 3-pointers. He is shooting 83.9 percent on free throws.
Up front, the Canes start 6-foot-6 Jordan Miller as an undersized forward and 6-10, 225-pound Sam Waardenburg at center.
Miller is averaging 6.9 points and 5.6 rebounds. Waarenburg averages 7.0 points and 3.9 rebounds.
Miami backup center Rodney Miller was recently ruled out for at least three weeks, opening a spot in the rotation for 6-11, 220-pound Deng Gak, who has played just 49 games in five years at Miami. In almost all of those games, Gak was a little-used reserve.
“It’s not about playing time,” Gak said, “it’s about playing well.”
Since the Canes brought basketball back in 1985, Miami is 10-0 against Stetson. During that span, Miami is 86-9 against in-state non-Power-Five schools.
“These games are fun,” Gak said. “(Miami coach Jim Larranaga) always warns us about these games.”
–Field Level Media