Auburn vs. Miami: A matchup of extremes
Bruce Pearl says his Tigers haven't seen anybody quite like the Hurricanes — a guard-oriented team with an elite offense and a gambling defense.
(Matthew Shannon/Auburn Athletics)
Auburn has played 33 games this season against 27 different teams. The path to get to the second round of the NCAA Tournament covered a wide range of programs, with the strength of schedule currently sitting in the top 40 overall and top 60 in non-conference games alone nationally.
The Tigers played six of the top 25 seeds in this year’s Field of 68. They’ve played teams stacked with future NBA talent, and they’ve played upset-minded squads built on experience and well-drilled systems. They’ve seen countless offensive and defensive styles over the last four months.
But, according to Bruce Pearl, Auburn hasn’t seen anyone like the No. 10 seed Miami team it will play Sunday night in Greenville for a chance to go to Chicago.
“What Miami does is different,” Pearl said Saturday. “It's different. … We haven't played anybody like Miami all year. That's going to be, really, a challenge for us. Not the prep, but the actual contest.”
Miami is quite the outlier for Auburn, both statistically and stylistically. It pairs an elite offense with a not-so-elite defense — but one that can still cause problems.
Let’s start with the defense. According to KenPom, Jim Larrañaga’s Hurricanes entered the second round as the lowest-rated defense left in the tournament in terms of adjusted defensive efficiency. Miami is No. 144 in that statistic, and its raw effective field goal percentage on defense (53.6%) is No. 324 out of 358 Division I teams this season.
Some of that comes down to Miami’s size. The 6-foot-10 Sam Waardenburg, a fourth-year senior center from New Zealand, is a key piece on offense but isn’t a high-level shot-blocker or defensive rebounder. The Hurricanes also start 6-foot-7 forward Jordan Miller, but the 6-foot-9 Anthony Walker was the only other player taller than 6-foot-5 who saw action in the first round.
The Hurricanes don’t have great numbers in crashing the defensive glass (No. 261 nationally), defending the 3-point line (No. 278) or protecting inside the arc (No. 322).
So how did Miami get to the NCAA Tournament — and the second round, at that — with those kinds of defensive numbers?