Let's breakdown what we have seen so far from the 3-2 'Canes.
First the good.
#1 - The cupboard is not as bare as many prognosticators portrayed. Freshman PG Manu Lecomte has had his own ups (13.0 ppg 50% FG 4.5 apg 3.5 rpg in wins over Texas Southern and Charleston), and his downs (scoreless with 3 TO's Vs UCF) but that is to be expected from any freshman PG, even one with decorated international experience. The key is, he is clearly a talent. Fellow freshman Davon Reed (8.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.8 apg 50% 3P) already has the look of a potential star. And James Kelly (9.4 ppg 4.2 rpg 59% FG 60% 3P) has been better then advertised. All three players need more seasoning, but none of the three look as if they will be overwhelmed in ACC play either this year or in years to come.
#2 - Rion Brown has developed an all-around game, and Garrius Adams has finally started taking the ball to the basket. Oh yeah Donnovan Kirk is pretty darn good too.The three seniors are absolutely vital to Miami's chances at a successful season. Neither Brown nor Adams have been particularly consistent, but the signs are there that they will improve. Adams finally canned his long distance stuff (an abysmal 13% 3P) and started taking the ball to the hoop in the second half against UCF. He ended up with a career high 20 points and 8 rebounds. UM desperately needs him to create more often off the dribble. The final 20 minutes of last night's game were a good sign. Brown too, has struggled with his jumper (24% 3P). But his floor game has improved dramatically this season (3.4 apg) and his defense and rebounding (7.2 rpg) have also been on point. Kirk has been sensational so far averaging 12.8 ppg 7.4 rpg and 2.2 blks. They need to get him more touches.
#3 The ACC might not be as big and bad as we all thought. BC is off to a 1-4 start including losses to Toledo and Providence. UNC lost to Belmont their last time out. NC State lost to NC Central. Notre Dame lost to Indiana State. Heck, Syracuse was down 4 with 4 minutes to go against St. Francis (yes the same St Francis that beat Miami opening night). The point being, a lot of teams are still finding themselves. If Miami can do the same, they can compete in the ACC this year.
Ok now time for me to be Captain Buzz Kill. Here's what gone wrong.
#1 Tonye Jekiri has yet to show the big time improvement we were expecting, in a game. To a man all of UM's players praised TJ as the most improved player on the team in preseason media sessions. Jekiri (4 ppg 4 rpg) has yet to have a break out performance. Some may be attributed to an ankle injury sustained 3 games back, and some maybe due to decreased minutes against the mostly smaller line-ups the 'Canes have faced. Bottom line though, UM needs more from Jekiri going forward.
#2 Depth is a major concern. UM essentially goes 7 deep, with Reed and Jekiri coming off the bench, to supplement starters Kelly, LeComte, Kirk, Adams, and Brown. And Jekiri's minutes (just over 15 a game) as mentioned earlier, have been limited. Erik Swoope and Raphael Akpejori get the occasional cameo, but 6 players are logging heavy minutes. Brown (37 mpg), Adams (33.4 mpg), Kirk (32.6 mpg), and LeComte (33.8 mpg) may run out of gas at some point if this keeps up. There is potential help on the way in Corn Elder, once football season ends.
#3 Consistency. The Hurricanes have 3 very good performances bookend-ed by two stinkers. When things are going right, they are a balanced team that shares the ball on offense, and a quick footed defense that protects the rim and mixes in some "scramble." When things are going wrong, they are stagnant on offense with no consistent inside threat, and can't stop dribble penetration nor clean up the glass. If the season is to be a success, UM needs to know that the former and not the latter is going to show up game in and game out.
Well there you have it 'Canes fans, plenty of reason for hope and yet plenty for concern as the UM Men's Basketball team pushes forward in their season. Next up a trip to Anaheim (11/28-30) for the Wooden Classic. it should be interesting with Miami first facing a very solid GW squad, and Marquette potentially waiting in the wings in the 2nd round.