The Hurricanes revealed their full season schedule for the 2022-23 NCAA basketball season on Tuesday. Most of these matchup previews will revolve around the star-studded backcourt of senior Isaiah Wong and junior Nijel Pack.
The Miami schedule starts off pretty soft with some out of conference games vs lower mid-majors, playing Lafayette, UNC Greensboro, and Florida A&M. Their first real challenge comes around Thanksgiving when they play in the Naismith Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament. In that tournament they first play Providence, then they get the winner of Maryland/Saint Louis, two teams both expected to be well above average in their respective conferences.
Providence poses a good matchup test for the Miami guards Nijel Pack and Isaiah Wong, as the Friars are a well-coached, very disciplined team that will test Pack & Wong’s decision making against constant pressure. The Friars were borderline top 100 in avoiding turnovers, and with an improved guard core, that should improve. Beyond that, they also were top 50 in forcing turnovers, so a low turnover game for both Wong & Pack would likely mean a win, barring poor efficiency.
If the Canes get Maryland, this will be a former ACC matchup, but beyond that, this is a great prospect-to-prospect matchup in the backcourt. Isaiah Wong and Nijel Pack pair up against one of the top new backcourts in the country, with Charlotte transfer Jahmir Young and Georgetown transfer Donald Carey. This replaces the Eric Ayala/Fatts Russell backcourt, and is an upgrade. Jahmir Young is a smooth lefty, someone I saw a lot of at Charlotte in the Conference USA. Young has good shooting touch, finds cutters well, and took a big jump in terms of efficiency last year at Charlotte as a junior, while also improving volume. His defense can come and go, so staying focused will be a big test for him.
As for Carey, he is one of the nation’s best shooters, so this shooting showdown between Pack and Carey will be a statement for both prospects. While Pack is a true junior and Carey is entering his sixth year in the NCAA, Carey still should latch on in the summer league, and Pack is a potential second rounder.
Miami closes out November against St. Francis (Brooklyn), UCF, and Rutgers. None of these games scream intrigue, but Rutgers could be fun given Cliff Omoruyi is likely to take a step forward as a draft prospect this year. I expect Miami to win all three of these games, as St. Francis is significantly overmatched, UCF lost Darin Green and should be far inferior to Miami, and Rutgers lost Ron Harper Jr, setting them back as well.
December essentially begins conference play, playing a conference matchup every other game for the month. They begin December matching up against Louisville, then Cornell, North Carolina State, St. Francis (PA), Virginia, Vermont, and Notre Dame.
I predict Miami to win all three out of conference games, and to have a close but successful ACC opener against Louisville. El Ellis against Isaiah Wong is a great matchup, and we also get a rematch in February. Ellis is an iso scoring guard, with great quickness, smooth shot creation and handles, and potential to be a three level scorer. He will test Miami’s bigs, because he can take such good advantage of switches on the perimeter, so this will also be a big test for Miami transfer Norchad Omier against an isolation guard.
Virginia will be another tough test for Miami. The Cavaliers are always a stingy defense under Tony Bennett, forcing tons of turnovers and playing at their own tempo. Reece Beekman has arguably the best hands in the country on defense, and will be matching up on both Wong and Pack. If either (or both) have big games in this one, expect scouts and teams to see this as a stock-changing game.
As conference play begins in full in January, the Hurricanes play North Carolina State again, which should be a win, since I don’t anticipate a significant change from last year for the Wolfpack, despite a good transfer class. Terquavion Smith versus Nijel Pack & Isaiah Wong is an outstanding matchup, testing Wong’s defense, as well as Smith’s off-ball defense on Pack, and on-ball defense against one of the best shot creators in the country, Isaiah Wong. While I expect a Miami win in both games, Terquavion Smith is likely to have a big game, as he is arguably the number one sophomore for the 2023 NBA Draft.
The next three games against Syracuse, Duke, and Florida State, will be big tests both for the team as a whole, and for draft prospects. Here are some intriguing matchups we get in the backcourt:
Nijel Pack & Isaiah Wong vs Judah Mintz (top 50 recruit) and Joseph Girard (high volume shooter). The zone defense Syracuse runs will test Pack & Wong’s passing & turnovers vs the zone, but they should pass the test. Mintz is an intriguing freshman that can do a lot on both ends, so that will be a matchup to monitor as he goes against both Miami guards.
Pack & Wong vs Dariq Whitehead (top five prospect and 3 level scorer) and Tyrese Proctor (elite shot creator from the NBA Academy). The Blue Devils host the number one recruiting class, and this will be a big test for Miami’s front court against an interior force in Dereck Lively II, who can also stretch the floor. Every game Duke plays will be highly scouted, so having Wong, Pack, Norchad Omier, or any other Hurricane having a big game will catch the eyes of an NBA team’s upper management.
Wong & Pack vs Darin Green, Caleb Mills, Jalen Warley, and Matthew Cleveland. While the two only draftable prospects of the bunch are Warley and Cleveland, Mills’ scoring ability and ability to get to the rim will be a big test for Isaiah Wong, and Darin Green being run off screens as a lethal shooter will be a big test for Miami and the prospects’ team defense. As for the marquee matchup, Warley and Cleveland should take a big jump as sophomores, which will be important for Wong defensively, and how he can handle both of their strong defensive abilities. While both FSU players are bigger, Warley at 6’6 and Cleveland at 6’7, Wong is likely to guard one of them a good portion of the game. This will also be an important test in playing against size in the backcourt, which will remain a question mark for both players in the eyes of NBA evaluators.
As February rolls around, and the season approaches the home stretch, we see the matchups repeat and increase in difficulty. Duke and Louisville again, and the only regular season game against North Carolina. Yet another great draft matchup in Chapel Hill for the Hurricanes backcourt to show out, as Caleb Love and RJ Davis are going to have lots of NBA eyes on them. Wong and Pack have a relatively easy assignment on Love: defend the 3 ball, and limit 2 point attempts. Love is one of the most inefficient guards within the 3 point line, but has a clean jumper; this narrative could change on him this year, but with Wong being a good defender at similar size to Love, I expect a good game from Wong in this top matchup.
The season doesn’t end terribly difficult for the Hurricanes: home games in three of the last four, including against Florida State in the second meeting of the season. Going to Virginia Tech could be a trap game for Miami, since right now the Hokies are a bit of an unknown in terms of expectations. They do have four star recruit Rodney Rice, who has good shot creation ability, so another guard matchup in the gauntlet ACC as the final road game of the year for Miami will have more draft eyes on the team.
I plan to be in Miami for the Wake Forest game, and if this follows through, I will have insight and potentially intel on what I see.
Overall, Miami has a winnable schedule; only playing UNC & Virginia once, only three road games in the final month of the regular season, and a light out of conference schedule for a team that just made the Elite 8 and got better on paper. I expect a jump back to sophomore year volume with junior year efficiency for Isaiah Wong next to Nijel Pack, and a constant mismatch roster across the board being able to go ultra small with potentially three or four guards at any given time.
Official Record Prediction
Last year Miami went 22-9 in the regular season and 26-11 overall. I predict similar results, with a slight regular season bump. 24-7 is my prediction, with a couple ACC Tournament wins, and a second weekend appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and maybe a second straight Elite 8 for the Hurricanes.