ALBANY, N.Y. – The danger for fifth-seeded Miami when it comes to Indiana is obvious. The Hurricanes have to find a way to hold down Trayce Jackson-Davis’ production. Not an easy task when Miami’s frontcourt isn’t one of its strengths.
However, Indiana has a different problem when it comes to dealing with Miami’s strength -- an experienced backcourt with proven NCAA Tournament success and a group of guards who can be excellent individually or in tandem.
The Hoosiers and Hurricanes will match wits at 8:40 p.m. at MVP Arena in a Midwest Regional second-round contest. The winner advances to the regional semifinal at Kansas City, Missouri, next Friday.
Miami’s two leading scorers -- Isaiah Wong (15.8 points per game) and Jordan Miller (15 points per game) -- have nine years of experience between them, and both were on the Hurricanes’ Elite Eight team from 2022.
Nijel Pack (13.4 points per game), an Indianapolis native who transferred from Kansas State, has three years of experience and two NCAA Tournament runs with the Wildcats. He brought that polish to Miami and helped the Hurricanes win an unexpected Atlantic Coast Conference co-championship.
“They’re experienced. They’ve been through these battles before,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “I think our guys play with a great deal of confidence. I’m very, very confident in them. They know exactly how we want them to play, but they know the opponent’s going to try to keep us from doing that.”
Miami’s guards smoothed over the Hurricanes’ rough edges in their first-round contest against Drake on Friday. After struggling mightily from the field and trailing for much of the game, Miami (26-7) turned to its backcourt for a finishing kick.
Trailing Drake 55-47 with 5:40 left, Miami’s guards combined to score 14 points in a game-finishing 16-1 run that flipped the outcome in the Hurricanes’ favor.
Indiana doesn’t lack backcourt experience. Trey Galloway and Miller Kopp have nine years of experience between them, too. However, the fulcrum of Indiana’s backcourt is freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino.
“He’s just much bigger than our guards. So he’ll be a handful for us tomorrow,” Larranaga said.
Hood-Schifino hasn’t been an ordinary freshman, but Indiana’s concentration level defensively will have to try to knock Miami out of the poise its backcourt possesses.
“They’re coach driven. They’re a reflection of their coach. I know our team has to come in and commit for 40 minutes and see what happens. That’s the only way I can tell our team. You can’t run from it,” Indiana coach Mike Woodson said.
Indiana has not always responded when it has faced experienced backcourts through the season. Northwestern’s Boo Buie and Chase Audige helped the Wildcats sweep the Hoosiers, and both were excellent.
Penn State’s Jalen Pickett, Seth Lundy and Andrew Funk also torched the Hoosiers, particularly in an 85-66 win in State College, Pennsylvania, on Jan. 11.
On the other hand, Indiana also rose up on occasion.
Xavier’s Colby Jones and Sydney Boum were kept from having big games. Michigan State’s backcourt of A.J. Hoggard and Tyson Walker were held in check at Assembly Hall. Indiana handled Maryland’s Jahmir Young in the Big Ten Tournament.
Indiana (23-11) did a good job against Kent State’s backcourt in Friday’s 71-60 win over the Golden Flashes, too.
“I think it can flow from one game to the next. You get a lot of confidence through your defense, and I think we kind of showed that yesterday, playing tough and defending,” Galloway said.
Both teams are dealing with aches and pains. Jackson-Davis said he suffered a hip pointer early in Friday’s game against Kent State but said he will be fine for Sunday’s contest.
Similarly, Miami center Norchad Omier had an ankle injury that left him questionable for the tournament. He did return with a flourish as he had 12 points and 14 rebounds against Drake.
Indiana is trying to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2016. It would mean a lot to the Hoosiers’ seniors to go that deep in the tournament again.
“Tomorrow’s not promised. So you go out there, you give it everything you’ve got and you kind of got to live with the result as long as you’re leaving it all on the court,” Indiana forward Race Thompson said.