The ACC dynamic when it comes to college basketball has always been centered around things such as: speed, depth, physicality, intensity and champions. This year will be no different. Of course we have the front runners in UNC, Duke and new favorite NC State that will battle week in and week out in order to position themselves to make a run to the title. It will not be an easy road. Not only do the teams have to play each other multiple times, but they’ll have to play teams such as Florida State who will have to talent to hang with anyone for forty minutes and will put you away if you are not careful. Another wild card team in the conference will be the Miami Hurricanes. I can confidently say that Miami doesn’t have a shot to steal the ACC title crown away from one the Tobacco Road teams the way that Florida State may, but I can guarantee, that Miami will make their mark in the overall landscape of this year’s ACC race before it’s all said and done.
The Roster: Coach Jim Larranaga is a very experience coach with final four experience (George Mason in 2006) and is boasting a very veteran team that went 20-13 and 9-7 in conference play a season ago. Miami returns four of five starters from a season ago that includes start guard Durand Scott who averaged 12.9 ppg last season, 6-11 forward Kenny Kadji who averaged 11.2 ppg and the big boy down low at 292 lbs in Reggie Johnson who put up 10 ppg. Freshman Tonye Jekiri a 7-0 freshman adds length and depth to the Miami front line and classmate Bishop Daniels adds great speed and athleticism to the Hurricane back court and should par well with Scott.
Inside the Numbers: While Miami has scorers on their depth chart, the Hurricans only averaged a 71 ppg a year ago. The teams they’ll be competing against this season in the upper third tier of the ACC will have teams that can put up points. The question for Miami will be, can they keep up the pace and score consistently. Their team’s field goal percentage last year finished at 43% which ranked them 187th nationally. It should be a cause of concern for the Canes that the three North Carolina teams and Florida State all placed within the top 90 teams nationally when it came to field goal percentage.
Prediction: Miami has the talent to be a NCAA tournament team and an above average ACC team. I think best case for Coach Larranaga is that his team finishes 4th ahead of a Florida State team that has lost six players to graduation. However, the Seminoles bring back Michael Snaer and a solid core of guys that will keep them plenty competitive within conference play. Realistically, Miami will finish fifth in the conference. There are definitely areas of improvement for the veteran squad especially after dropping their preseason scrimmage to Division II St. Leo 69-67 last Friday night. That being said, there are enough experienced players on the roster to not let that type of setback affect them in the long run. With a force down low in Johnson and an effective shooter in Scott, the Canes will be a tough out for any team on any given night.