Four Big Ten Offseason Storylines to Follow

Posted by Brendan Brody on April 27th, 2017

Now that the 2016-17 college basketball season has been put to bed, it’s time for hoopheads to peer into the future and prepare for the 2017-18 season. There is a fair amount of intrigue attached to how the Big Ten will look next season, so here’s a quick look at the biggest stories to consider within the league over the next several months.

The draft decision of Miles Bridges set the bar for the 2017-18 Big Ten championship. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

  • The Return of Miles Bridges: Michigan State’s uber-talented forward decided to stay in school for his sophomore season, making the Spartans the clear favorite to win the Big Ten and enter next season ranked among the nation’s top five. Plenty of solid pieces were already slated to return to East Lansing next season — sophomores Nick Ward, Cassius Winston, and Joshua Langford — but having the future lottery pick back means Tom Izzo is smiling this offseason.

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ACC Preview: Miami’s Burning Question

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 4th, 2015

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Can Jim Larranaga lead another experienced team to a magical season?

When the USA Today/Coaches Preseason Poll was released in October, we were a little surprised to see Miami among the others receiving votes grouping rather than listed in the Top 25. Even more shocking was that the Hurricanes came in 37th in the overall voting, behind seven other ACC schools. The recently released AP Preseason Top 25 gave Miami slightly more respect, placing them 31st in the voting. It’s our view that the Hurricanes are going to be better than that, and several notable media members seem to agree; both Gary Parrish (CBS) and Dick Vitale (ESPN) rank Miami at #21 in their Top 25s, and the ACC Media listed the Hurricanes as the ACC’s fifth-best team heading into the season. Our main reason for optimism regarding this year’s Miami squad involves the long and demonstrated coaching track record of Jim Larranaga.

Larranaga ProfileIn looking at Larranaga’s last 12 seasons, a clear pattern emerges that shows that experience on his teams really matters. And it REALLY matters. From 2005-15, there have been four occasions in which Larranaga brought back a more experienced squad than the previous year. In each case, his team’s conference wins rose dramatically (average of +4.5 wins) and Larranaga led all four of those squads into the NCAA Tournament, including the George Mason team that made the 2006 Final Four. With a returning roster that includes four seniors and two juniors among his top eight players, this year’s Miami club is well-poised to make another similar jump. It says here to watch out for the Hurricanes as a possible darkhorse league championship contender. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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