ACC Preview: Miami’s Burning Question

Posted by Matt Patton on October 30th, 2014

How quickly can Jim Larranaga rebuild at the ACC level?

There’s no denying Jim Larranaga is a great coach. He won at George Mason and he won when he got to Miami. But the question is whether he can put together a program in Coral Gables like Leonard Hamilton or Tony Bennett have in Tallahassee and Charlottesville? There are two parts of coaching at any level: player development and game coaching. Two seasons ago, Larranaga showed he was a master at both. But at the college level, there’s a third equally important factor in play: recruiting.

Jim Larranaga needs this team to improve on last year's. (photo credit: AP)

Jim Larranaga needs this team to improve on last year’s. (photo credit: AP)

Leonard Hamilton is the better comparison because Miami doesn’t have nearly the investment in basketball as Virginia, but both Hamilton and Bennett run sustainable programs. He also turned Miami into a strong Big East program before moving on to Tallahassee. Hamilton’s team has had its ups and downs, but Florida State is always competitive and will be a contender every few seasons. It’s important to remember that building a program takes time, but this year should say a lot about Miami’s momentum. Last season, Larranaga established his floor: close to .500 overall, bottom of the middle tier of the ACC, and a win in Chapel Hill. The team was competitive. Rion Brown stepped up as the only important returnee from the 2013 conference champions. Now he’s gone, leaving junior Tonye Jekiri and sophomore Manu Lacomte to take the reins here.

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ACC Team Preview: Miami Hurricanes

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 6th, 2013

Last season was a historic one for Miami basketball. The Hurricanes became the first school from outside the state of North Carolina to win the ACC regular season title outright and the ACC Tournament in the same year. Along the way came two home blowout wins over perennial league powers Duke and North Carolina, and a level of local support never seen before at Miami. They even had LeBron James and Dwayne Wade attend a game! Unfortunately, the top six players from that squad are now gone, so this will clearly be a rebuilding year for the Jim Larranaga’s squad.

Miami Preview 2013

The good news is that the man in charge is still Jim Larranaga. The 29-year head coaching veteran swept conference and national Coach of the Year awards last season, but he is best known for leading George Mason to the 2006 Final Four. Larranaga excels at putting pieces together to form a cohesive team and, despite his age, is known as a progressive thinking coach. He’s constantly looking for new teaching and motivational techniques, and has also embraced the new advanced statistics now available. To prepare for this season’s rules changes limiting contact, Larranaga has put a greater emphasis on defending without fouling. As he explained to the media at the recent ACC Operation Basketball, the Hurricanes’ goal each game is to limit opponents to less than one point per possession. If you put someone on the free throw line, all they have to do is hit one out of two to beat their goal. To combat that tendency, Miami preseason practices are stopped when the defense fouls and everybody runs sprints. Although the Hurricanes will have a dropoff this season, the program is in good shape moving forward. Next year, two transfers from Big 12 schools will be eligible, when Angel Rodriguez (Kansas State) and Sheldon McClellan (Texas) will form a solid junior backcourt.

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