Observations: Mature Miami capable of earning high NCAA seed

Guard play? Check.

Experience? Check.

A proven head coach that’s won big in the NCAA Tournament? Absolutely.

Miami’s 11-point win over Duke on Monday night in Coral Gables’ reiterated their defensive ability and penchant for unselfishness. Just two days after the Blue Devils scored 87 points in a road win at NC State, the Hurricanes held them to just 69.

Jim Larranaga’s interior combination of Kamari Murphy and Tonye Jekiri spearheaded a defensive effort that held Duke to just 41.7 percent from the field and the Hurricanes also had 24 assists to just seven turnovers.

Miami (16-3) starts four different players — Murphy, Jekiri, Angel Rodriguez, and Sheldon McClellan — who are in their minimum fourth year of college basketball and that type of savvy can’t be taken lightly.

This squad has all the requisites to challenge for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Kansas hasn’t had the same mojo since beating Oklahoma

The Jayhawks are 3-3 since their epic triple-overtime win over the Sooners in early January and have lacked the ability to put together a complete game against quality competition.

Bill Self’s squad was in complete control against Iowa State last night at Hilton Coliseum and led the Cyclones by seven points at halftime before being outscored by 20 in the second half and losing by 13.

Kansas had 37 assists and 21 turnovers in its first two Big 12 games. In the six games since the Jayhawks have had 74 assists and 79 turnovers.

It’s going to be tough to win the toughest conference in college basketball for the 12th straight year with that type of efficiency on offense.

The Jayhawks are 16-4 overall and next host Kentucky on Saturday at Phog Allen Fieldhouse as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

The Kohl Center will be a major barometer for Indiana

Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, and Bo Ryan may not be on the home bench Tuesday for Wisconsin, but that doesn’t mean that the Badgers aren’t going to push Indiana like it hasn’t been pushed yet in this Big Ten season.

Tom Crean’s squad takes the floor in Madison on Tuesday with a 17-3 overall record and has won all seven of its Big Ten games this year by an average of 16.6 points.

But the Hoosiers’ toughest game so far this season in conference play was a one-point triumph over Wisconsin on Jan. 5 in Bloomington and you better believe that the Badgers are a better team now than they were then.

Wisconsin (11-9 overall) is coming off back-to-back wins over both Michigan State and Penn State all while still boasting two starters in Bronson Koenig (14.0 points) and Nigel Hayes (16.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists) who have played in back-to-back Final Fours.

The biggest difference in this team since the first time these two teams played?

Ethan Happ.

The redshirt freshman has gotten to the free throw line 28 times in his last two games and is averaging 17.0 points and 9.5 rebounds during that span.

Indiana has done an unbelievable job at winning the games its had to win thus far in conference play, but the bar will be raised Tuesday for the Hoosiers at the Kohl Center.

This and That

  • One thing I’ve been thinking about recently: it may be harder to win a Big 12 regular season title than it is to reach a Final Four. Think about it for a minute and we’ll revisit the topic again down the road.
  • Iowa’s Fran McCaffery told CBS Sports on Monday that one of the reasons for the Hawkeyes’ 16-3 start has been due to the evolution of their bench. “We built a 10-point lead in the second half against Purdue on Sunday with Dom Uhl, Ahmad Wagner, and Brady Ellingson in the game,” McCaffery said. “I’m not sure I would have expected something like that in September.” Iowa is 7-0 in Big Ten play and next visits Maryland on Thursday night in College Park.
  • The Pac-12 is the most balanced conference in college basketball and it’s not even close. Eight teams are currently separated in the league standings by one game and you get the feeling that won’t change much during the rest of the season. Don’t be surprised if the team that wins the Pac-12 regular season title has five or six losses in conference play.
  • Devon Hall is quietly developing into an unsung presence for Virginia. The 6-foot-5 sophomore has started the past few games for the Cavaliers and allowed London Perrantes to slide off the ball. Hall has just two turnovers in his last 85 minutes played.
  • Stanford’s Rosco Allen is quietly one of the more improved players in the Pac-12. The versatile forward is averaging 14.5 points and 6.1 rebounds while shooting 43.3 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from long distance. Last year as a junior Allen averaged just 7.3 points and 4.4 rebounds.
  • Temple’s Devin Coleman is a combined 18-of-28 from 3-point range this season in four games against SMU, Cincinnati, and UConn. The 6-2 senior is doing what seniors do under Fran Dunphy — excel. Coleman is averaging 10.1 points and is shooting 39.8 percent from long distance. The Owls are 11-7 overall and next travel to East Carolina on Wednesday.
  • Kansas State is better than its 2-5 record in Big 12 play, but these are the Wildcats’ next four conference games: at West Virginia, at Kansas, Oklahoma, and Baylor. The epitome of brutality.
  • UAB continues to separate itself as the flagship program in Conference-USA under Jerod Haase. The Blazers are 17-3 overall and 7-0 in conference play with their three losses coming against power-five teams in Auburn, Virginia Tech, and Illinois. Haase can really coach — just ask Iowa State.
  • Hofstra’s Rokas Gustys is blowing up. The rugged big man is averaging 20.3 points and 15.3 rebounds over his last four games. You will hear from this guy in March if the Pride represents the CAA in the NCAA Tournament.

Senior guard Sheldon McClellan led Miami with 21 points vs. Duke. (USATSI)
Senior guard Sheldon McClellan led Miami with 21 points vs. Duke. (USATSI)

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