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.
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.