University of Miami Hurricanes (3-0) at La Salle Explorers (3-2)
The University of Miami Hurricanes will take their undefeated record on the road for the first time this season when they travel to Reading, Pennsylvania to play a “neutral” site game against La Salle University. I say “neutral” site because the Santander Arena where the game will be played is just a short 45-minute drive from the La Salle campus, whereas the Hurricanes will be traveling clear across the country. The Hurricanes are favored by 10.5 points, and the game total over-under is set at 135.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM EST.
The University of Miami is quickly gaining its swagger back. It was once one of the country’s premier sports schools with its high-profile football and basketball programs. Things settled down in Miami somewhat over the last decade, but this year with both the football and basketball teams undefeated, Miami has transformed back into the U. It is exciting to see Miami excel in basketball as the sport is just more fun with more of these glamour squads. They attract more media attention and that is good for the game.
Miami is just outside the top ten nationally, currently ranked number 11, and are poised for a jump into the top ten if they win this game against an overmatched La Salle team. The Hurricanes are as balanced as any team in the country with all eight players in their regular rotation averaging eight points a game or more. One player, in particular, that could really stand out in this matchup, is freshman shooting guard Lonnie Walker.
Walker is from Reading, PA, and is somewhat of a local celebrity. The high school standout was the high school player of the year for Pennsylvania and was also named a McDonald’s All American while playing in Reading. Miami head coach Jim Larranaga, expects the arena to be packed with Walker fans, and thus packed with fans rooting for the Hurricanes. So even though the ‘Canes had to travel further for this game, they might be getting somewhat of a home-court advantage.
La Salle, on the other hand, has a much less balanced approached. They are led by forward B.J. Johnson. There was some talk of Johnson trying to throw his hat into the NBA draft pool after last season, but he decided against making the jump and came back to La Salle for his senior season. The decision is looking to be a good one for Johnson as he has improved in every stat. Johnson is averaging 23 points and close to ten rebounds a game, he is also showing next level defensive ability, with over two steals a game. Johnson is setting himself up to be a first rounder in next years NBA draft.
Johnson’s personal success, however, has not really converted to wins for his struggling squad. La Salle is just 3-2 on the season and has lost their last two games to Northwestern and Boston College respectively. The three wins they have on the year are against St. Peters, Penn, and South Alabama, not exactly a murderers row of competition. It’s hard to really say just how good this team is this year as they haven’t been overly competitive in games against respectable competition. And this Miami team is more than respectable, they just might be elite this year.
I love the Walker storyline in this game. You have a young hometown hero that is going to be welcomed back to his little city with open arms and lots of fans in the stands. If this game were being played on Miami’s home court, I would expect them to be 17-20-point favorites. It really is a mismatch for every player on the floor with the exception of B.J. Johnson. I truly do believe that Miami will at worst, have a split of the fans in attendance, and this is not going to be a home away from home type of neutral site game like La Salle probably thought it had when they scheduled this game.
On a true neutral site floor with a near top ten and undefeated Miami team facing an average at best La Salle team? This smells like a blowout to me. B.J. Johnson will do his best to keep this game close but in the end, Miami’s depth is going to wear them down, and I see them pulling away late for the win and the cover. I expect Walker to get a couple of extra looks in front of his hometown fans and see him celebrating in the stands when this one is over. Give me the Hurricanes -10.5 tonight from Reading!