ACC Team Previews: Miami HurricanesPosted by mpatton on October 29th, 2012
Throughout the preseason, the ACC microsite will release a preview for each of the 12 teams. Today’s victim: the Miami Hurricanes.
Miami never really clicked last season. The team showed flashes of brilliance like in its overtime win at Duke or their home dismantling of eventual ACC champion Florida State. However, more often than not, Jim Larranaga’s team looked mediocre and inconsistent. Reggie Johnson added trying to recover from a knee injury to his ongoing weight issue, which meant he couldn’t stay on the court for extended stretches nor run the floor very well. To make matters worse, senior sharpshooter Malcolm Grant lost his stroke last season, regressing at an alarming rate to an abysmal 34% from the field. This year looks much better on paper, though history certainly calls for caution when prognosticating Miami’s season.
Consensus three-star center Tonye Jekiri and shooter Steve Sorenson are the only freshmen joining Larranaga in Coral Gables this season. However, redshirt freshman Bishop Daniels may prove to have the most impact, as he’s spent the most time with the team. Daniels redshirted last season after missing the first half of the season with a foot injury. He’s a very athletic combo guard known for his leaping and could provide an offensive spark off the bench backing up Durand Scott or Shane Larkin.
Miami lost Grant and DeQuan Jones from last year’s roster. While no one would’ve said this a year ago, both losses could prove to be addition by subtraction — especially if Larkin improves, as expected. Grant’s shooting woes made his biggest asset into a burden last season, and Jones never managed to live up to his high school hype. Larkin is the x-factor for this team. If he really steps up, Miami could make a run at winning the conference, but the team could just as easily find itself back in the NIT if he doesn’t make the leap. Last season Larkin felt like a spark plug, although his inconsistent shot and tendency to commit untimely turnovers hurt his overall efficiency. An offseason doing college weight training combined with an extra year of maturity and practicing with his teammates should help.
On the wing, Larranaga will need to choose between Rion Brown and Trey McKinney-Jones to be Scott’s sidekick. Look for both to see significant minutes, as each brings different skills to the table. McKinney-Jones plays best inside the arc; Brown excels outside the arc and in transition. Both complement senior Durand Scott very well. Scott has the potential to become a first team All-ACC player this season, though expect bigger improvements from the players surrounding him. Inside the Hurricanes have the best offensive combination in the league with Kenny Kadji and Johnson. Kadji burst onto the scene last season and can play inside-out, using his height on the perimeter and rarely turning the ball over. Johnson may have the best hands in the league, but his well-documented conditioning struggles are definitely something to keep an eye on.
The Hurricanes will get a shot at Michigan State at home for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge this season. However don’t sleep on the games immediately before and after the Spartans either. The weekend prior to that Larranaga’s squad will take on a talented Detroit team that will make some noise in the Horizon League this season. After playing MSU, the Hurricanes head north to play UMass, a team that should put up points and not be afraid to run with Miami. In conference play Miami has to play North Carolina, Duke and Florida State twice while only playing NC State on the road. Miami needs to win two of those games at a minimum to be in a good place for an at-large bid.
Expect the Hurricanes to finally start playing equivalent to the talent they have on the roster. However, they’ll still probably finish near the bottom of the contenders because of a lack of depth. This team is very strong through its top six players, but it has a lot of questions after that. Look for the team to steal some big wins but also own some puzzling losses en route to a 11-7 or 12-6 conference record this season.