For 35 minutes, No. 12 seed Drake was the better team against fifth-seed Miami. The Bulldogs had played with poise and frustrated Miami’s shooters, giving themselves all the ingredients needed for an upset.
And then it all collapsed. Over the five minutes of the game, Miami outscored Drake 16-1, turning an eight-point lead into a seven-point loss. The Bulldogs’ last made basket came with 5:40 to go on a Roman Penn jumper, costing Drake what would have been its first win in the main draw since 1971.
So how did it go wrong? Here’s why the Bulldogs fell short against the Hurricanes and here is how you can still bet on March Madness in Iowa.
Drake Couldn’t Handle the Pressure
Normally, a senior-laden team like Drake has been in these situations many times before and knows how to handle it. But when Miami unleashed pressure on the Bulldogs, Drake crumbled.
The Bulldogs’ final nine possessions came up empty, and worse, they failed to even get a shot off on four of those final nine possessions. Miami came up with three steals and forced one additional Drake mistake, and the Hurricanes made all of them count. Out of four gifted possessions, Miami scored seven points, hitting two shots and going 3-for-4 from the free throw line. You don’t have to be a math major to recognize that’s the difference in the final score.
This is often the difference between success or failure in an upset bid: which teams make the plays in the final few minutes. When the pressure intensifies, some teams rise to the moment, and some do not. Drake wasn’t able to meet at the moment, and there are a couple reasons for that.
One was because for all of their experience, the Bulldogs really hadn’t been there before. It’s hard to get good games when you have a mid-major name and good players, because bigger names don’t want to chance losing to you. But the bottom line is Drake didn’t really play a good schedule and didn’t have that experience to fall back on against Miami.
The other is because Miami stepped up. Sometimes, you have to give credit where it’s due, and the Hurricanes had to go out and win the game. But that said, Miami only had a chance to win because Drake didn’t do in the first 35 minutes.
𝐈𝐧𝐜𝐫𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐠𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐩. 𝐈𝐧𝐜𝐫𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐫𝐢𝐝𝐞.
𝐅𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐀𝐥𝐛𝐚𝐧𝐲
— Drake Basketball (@DrakeBulldogsMB) March 18, 2023
The Bulldogs Didn’t Hit Their Shots
When you’re a lower seed, you have two things you usually have to do to win the game: get the other team out of its offensive rhythm and hit some shots of your own. Drake followed the first part perfectly, holding Miami to 30.4% from the field. The Hurricanes usually shoot around 48.7% from the floor, so Drake’s defense played extremely well against them. Two days later, Miami shot 48.6% from the floor against Indiana, which underscores what the Bulldog defense did.
But Drake didn’t handle the second part of the equation. Tucker DeVries could not hit anything in Albany, going 1-for-13 from the floor and 1-for-11 from deep. The rest of the Bulldogs weren’t much better outside of Darnell Brodie. Other than Brodie, the Bulldogs shot just 31.7% for the game, which won’t get it done most nights in the Missouri Valley, let alone against an ACC foe.
Drake needed a source of offense that could blunt Miami’s momentum when the final minutes arrived. Remember, Miami could only tie the game until Nijel Pack’s jumper with 1:03 to play. Drake needed someone to step up and knock down a shot. But the Bulldogs couldn’t, allowing the Hurricanes to steal the victory.
Sardaar Calhoun corner three! 👌
Drake Committed Too Many Fouls
Drake’s defense deserves a lot of praise for how it threw Miami off its game. But the Bulldogs didn’t do it cleanly enough, and they fouled at the worst possible times. For the game, the Bulldogs committed 19 fouls, and the overwhelming majority of them resulted in free throws for Miami. Eleven of the Bulldogs infractions were shooting fouls, and Drake sent Miami to the line on five other occasions by getting into the bonus. For the entire game, only three of Drake’s 19 fouls didn’t give Miami at least one free throw.
And that is how you end up with 29 foul shot attempts for the Hurricanes against just eight for the Bulldogs. When you send your opponent to the line that often, you’re relying on them to collapse under the pressure. Miami didn’t, knocking down 23 of 29 from the line. This also isn’t an unknown quantity for Miami; the Hurricanes normally knock down 77.8 percent of their foul shots, ranking 18th in the nation and second in the ACC.
When a good free throw shooting team isn’t hitting its shots, you cannot give them chances to make up for it at the line. Drake played great defense for 40 minutes, but Miami didn’t need to make shots because it knew it would get plenty of chances to score unimpeded from 15 feet. That’s simply not a recipe for finishing an upset.
Drake did a lot of good things in this game with Miami. It gave itself a chance to win in the final five minutes, and that’s a lot more than some lower seeds can say. But this game’s going to sting for a while in Des Moines, because it was there for the Bulldogs to win. They just didn’t execute the ending.
𝟯𝗝 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗶𝗴 𝗗𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲
— Drake Basketball (@DrakeBulldogsMB) March 18, 2023
Credits on Featured Image: Phil Roeder