Puerto Rico Tip-Off Preview and Predictions

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Nov 16, 2015; Coral Gables, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Angel Rodriguez (13) at the free throw line against Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajuns during the second half at BankUnited Center. Miami won 93-77. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami and Mississippi State tip-off at 5 pm in a pivotal opening round game. The Hurricanes have the talent to reach the tournament finals but they must first take down the “other” Bulldogs in this game before they can advance in Puerto Rico.

Game 2: Butler (1-0) vs. Missouri State (0-1). 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday.

Game 3: University of Miami (FL) Hurricanes (2-0) vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (1-1) 5 p.m. ET Thursday.

Miami: The Hurricanes handily defeated both UT Rio Grande Valley and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and are one of the tougher teams in the Tip-Off tournament in my opinion. Against the Ragin’ Cajuns, six Miami players scored in double figures, and as a team shot 52 percent from three point range. The Hurricanes have several players willing and able to take over a game at a moments notice, including 7-foot senior center Tonye Jekiri, who holds several University of Miami records. Jekiri had 11 double-doubles last season and averaged more than 10 rebounds in ACC play. He came in third place in the voting for ACC defensive player of the year. Overall, the Hurricanes are long and quick, and profit from a fast-paced tempo. It would not surprise me to see them in the tournament finals.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs don’t look to be a contender in this tournament, especially after a tough four-point loss to Southern in their second game of the season. Only two players scored more than 10 points in that matchup, and the team shot only 65 percent from the free throw line. 6-foot-3-inch senior guard Craig Sword appears to be one of the Bulldogs’ biggest offensive threats, and is able to knock down 3’s from long range. Still, Mississippi State lacks the firepower needed to advance in this tournament.

Prediction: I’m taking the Hurricanes by at least 15 points. The Bulldogs just don’t have the offensive firepower to keep up with this fast-paced Miami squad.

Next: Game Four Preview and Predictions