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SOTU Season Preview: Hurricanes Hoops 2013-14

State of the U takes a closer look at this season's Canes Basketball squad.



Years from now we will probably look back at the 2013-14 Miami Hurricanes Men's Basketball Team as the meat between two wonderful slices of basketball heaven.

Following up on last season's ACC Regular Season and Tournament Championships will be a tough act to follow. That team, led by sensational PG Shane Larkin (now with the Dallas Mavericks) and core seniors Trey McKinney Jones, Reggie Johnson, Julian Gamble, ACC Defensive Player of the Year Durand Scott, and Kenny Kadji, was the most successful in program history

And with next year's team featuring a top caliber back court (transfers Angel Rodriguez of Kansas State and Sheldon McClellan of Texas become eligible in 2014-15) as well as a top 15 recruiting class featuring Ja'Quan Newton (and hopefully Dante Buford), this year's squad knows there is big time help on the way.

But that doesn't mean this version of UM Cagers can not have a successful and surprising season.

"Learning a whole new way of looking at the game of basketball. We have so many new players. Everybody comes from a different background. Learning the game from their high school or AAU coach and now they come to the University of Miami and they’re looking at an entirely different way of teaching and learning. It’s going to take them some time. We have to be very, very patient with them. Some kids learn faster than others. Hopefully, once they all learn what we’re teaching, we can develop into a very fine team." - Miami Head Coach Jim Larranaga

Seniors Rion Brown and Garrius Adams will lead the way.

Brown averaged 6.4 ppg last year coming off the bench, but did produce 20 points or more on 3 occasions, including UM's 2nd round NCAA Tournament victory over Illinois. Miami will need him to contribute consistently this season, so he will have to improve his shooting from long distance (29% last season). Look for Brown to return to his sophomore form when he nailed close to 40% of his trifectas.

Adams exhausted his medical redshirt and sat out all of last season. But the coaching staff raved about his game when he returned to practice mid-season. At 6'5 he has the silky smooth handles to run some point, but can also create his own shot from the wing, or knock down open jumpers. The 'Canes will need Adams to be a double figure scorer as well as a regular distributor in order to have a big season.

In the middle, 7'1 Tonye Jekiri returns for sophomore season, with much muscle added to his frame. Jekiri saw limited time last season behind Johnson and Gamble, but did impress with his athleticism and defensive prowess. Look for Jekiri to get more involved in the offense, while establishing himself as one of the premier defenders/rebounders in the ACC.

Perhaps the most intriguing position on the roster is the point guard spot.

Belgium freshman Manu Lecomte will get the first crack. Lecomte is quick enough and creative enough to run the team. But at 5'9 159 it remains to be seen if he has the size and strength yet to hold up defensively in the ACC. If Lecomte struggles, Adams will have to move over from the wing, and this would give UM one less scorer. Come January, Miami should get more help in the form of Corn Elder, who is currently providing depth to Al Golden's defensive backfield. Elder is a legit 4.4 guy on the gridiron, who's athleticism could supply an instant spark defensively. But running a team in the ACC is no small task, especially coming in mid-season.

UM's success could very well hinge on one of the options above taking care of the ball with decent proficiency. The Hurricanes had a very palpable advantage in this area last season with Larkin.

After a hiatus from the program, transfer/former recruit Donnovan Kirk will round out the starting five at the 4 spot. Kirk showed a nice ability to knock down open threes in his time at DePaul. He also provided a spark on the back end defensively blocking 1.6 shots per game last season. Look for Kirk to get some looks on the post this season as well.

The bench will be ignited by the scoring prowess of freshman Deandre Burnett. The 6'2 Burnett is natural scorer who loves to put up points in bunches. The young man from Miami Carol City, spent a year at prep school to hone his point skills, but will likely be asked to be UM's version of Vinny "The Microwave" Johnson. Burnett is so explosive, it would not shock me to see him lead the team in scoring.

Another freshman, 6'6 swing man Davon Reed, could also turn some heads this season.

Davon Reed is a long, rangy, and versatile guard who probably doesn't know how good he can be yet - Coach L will help him figure that out pretty quickly. - SOTU Hoops Analyst Josh Kaufman

Also figuring to see plenty of time is 6'8 James Kelly, a JUCO transfer who put up big numbers (17 and 10) last season albeit against lesser competition. The coaches love his athleticism and versatility so much he has been compared favorably to former 'Cane DeQuan Jones. Kelly could be a key figure in supplying depth up front this year.

6'5 combo forward Erik Swoope and 6'9 big man Raphael Akpejori are high energy players who could also see time off the bench for the Canes.

Overall, this is a roster with intriguing possibilities. Miami will need optimum efficiency from the PG spot, and also will have to generate some form of consistent inside scoring.

But whether they play small and "scramble" or go with a more conventional line-up, one thing is certain. Coach Larranaga and staff will demand maximum effort, especially on the defensive end.

Buckle your seat belts Canes fans, this should be a very interesting season.


Most Important Player:

Jekiri. The Canes have limited depth up front. TJ can really run the floor, but his abilities in the post remain uncertain. If nothing else they need a consistent presence protecting the rim and cleaning up the trash offensively. Jekiri will be heavily counted on for both.

"It just a confidence thing. Last year with so many seniors being around, he just had a respect for them and their games, where this year he understands, ‘I am the big man. For us to be successful, I have to be a threat.’ He’s making that transition very quickly." - Erik Swoope on Jekiri

Breakout Performer:

Adams, if he can remain healthy. Like Julian Gamble did a year ago, Garrius Adams has the potential to be a major surprise performer if he can remain free of injury. His game is reminiscent of former Canes great John Salmons. Look for GA to put together a very solid senior campaign.

"He’s great, just like the old Garrius. He’s back 100 percent. He’s healthy, more confident. I can definitely see him getting back to his old ways or even better." - Rion Brown

Freshman to Watch:

LeComte. Burnett and Reed are going to make contributions, no doubt. But LeComte has been handed the keys to the team. Freshman PGs seldom make their rounds in the ACC unscathed (see Marcus Paige). LeComte needs to learn on the job quickly.

"From what I hear, from talking to the other guys, they are very impressed with him as a point guard. You’ll see him a lot during the season, either as a starter or someone coming in off the bench. He is going to earn a lot of playing time." - Coach L on Lecomte


Schedule Highlights:

UM starts off the season with with a few find themselves games, before heading out to Cally to participate in the Wooden Legacy (Nov 28 - Dec 1) where they will face George Washington in the first round. A very familiar and painful opponent potentially lurks in the second round in Marquette. Should the Canes advance to the Tournament finals they could potentially see San Diego State or Arizona State.

In the Big 10/ACC Challenge on 12/4 Miami will face Nebraska, who while not to be taken lightly, is not Michigan State. The game is in Lincoln though, so it should be a decent measuring stick for the Canes' progress. Just before heading into the full tilt of ACC play, UM gets a visit from a very tough LaSalle program 12/22.

From there, the schedule gets increasingly more difficult . The Atlantic Coast Conference is clearly the best in the Nation. On 1/4 UM heads to the Carrier Dome to take on perennial contenders Syracuse. Just four days later they head to Chapel Hill. Duke will surely have revenge on their minds when they come to the BUC 1/22. Just three days later the Cuse comes to town for the a return match-up with the Canes. Miami will also get arch rival FSU twice 1/15 and 2/10. On 2/19 the Fighting Irish come to town for the first time since joining the ACC.

If Miami finishes the regular season with a strong record, they will have certainly earned it.

Full Schedule

Fri, Nov 8 St. Francis (NY) Terriers 10:00 PM BankUnited Center
Mon, Nov 11 Georgia Southern Eagles 7:00 PM BankUnited Center
Thu, Nov 14 Texas Southern Tigers 7:00 PM BankUnited Center
Mon, Nov 18 @ Charleston Cougars 7:30 PM TD Arena
Thu, Nov 21 UCF Knights 7:00 PM BankUnited Center
Thu, Nov 28 @ George Washington Colonials 2:00 PM Titan Gym
Wed, Dec 4 @ Nebraska Cornhuskers 9:30 PM Pinnacle Bank Arena
Sun, Dec 8 Virginia Tech Hokies 12:30 PM BankUnited Center
Thu, Dec 19 @ Savannah State Tigers 7:00 PM Tiger Arena
Sun, Dec 22 La Salle Explorers 3:00 PM BankUnited Center
Mon, Dec 30 Loyola (MD) Greyhounds 7:00 PM BankUnited Center
Sat, Jan 4 @ Syracuse Orange 2:00 PM Carrier Dome
Wed, Jan 8 @ North Carolina Tar Heels 9:00 PM Dean E. Smith Center
Wed, Jan 15 Florida State Seminoles 9:00 PM BankUnited Center
Sat, Jan 18 @ Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 2:00 PM McCamish Pavilion
Wed, Jan 22 Duke Blue Devils 7:30 PM BankUnited Center
Sat, Jan 25 Syracuse Orange 1:00 PM BankUnited Center
Wed, Jan 29 @ Maryland Terrapins 9:00 PM Comcast Center
Sat, Feb 1 Norfolk State Spartans 4:00 PM BankUnited Center
Wed, Feb 5 Pittsburgh Panthers 7:00 PM BankUnited Center
Sat, Feb 8 North Carolina State Wolfpack 2:00 PM BankUnited Center
Mon, Feb 10 @ Florida State Seminoles 9:00 PM Donald L. Tucker Center
Sat, Feb 15 @ Virginia Tech Hokies 6:00 PM Cassell Coliseum
Wed, Feb 19 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 9:00 PM BankUnited Center
Sat, Feb 22 Boston College Eagles 12:00 PM BankUnited Center
Wed, Feb 26 @ Virginia Cavaliers 7:00 PM John Paul Jones Arena
Sat, Mar 1 @ North Carolina State Wolfpack 12:00 PM PNC Arena
Tue, Mar 4 @ Clemson Tigers 8:00 PM Littlejohn Coliseum
Sat, Mar 8 Wake Forest Demon Deacons 2:00 PM BankUnited Center

Season Predictions:

Jerry Steinberg - I see UM finishing the season 19-12 (8-10 in the ACC) and finding themselves on the bubble selection Sunday. They have some very nice pieces that should make for a very good team when they get acclimated. PG play and inside scoring will be the keys.

Josh Kaufman - 18-13 (7-11 in the ACC). There are so many 'what ifs' on the roster that it's hard for me to pick the 'Canes to finish in the top half of the ACC. It's not out of the question - anything can happen and Coach Larranaga gets the best out of his players - but I'm looking forward to watching the young talent develop in preparation for next year's potential Final Four run.

Scott Salomon (18-13, 10-8) I do not think that any one really expected Miami to have the kind of year last year that they had. I think that this year, although there is a drop off in senior leadership, Miami can have an equally surprising year. I see Miami netting between 16-18 wins and sneaking into the NCAA tournament and getting an upset in the first round. I have learned one thing, when the chips are on the table, put your money on Jim Larranaga, especially in the NCAA tournament.

Charlie Strauzer Looking at our OOC schedule I can see the Canes winning 9-10 games. The key match-ups will be against Nebraska on the road in the ACC/B1G challenge and the Wooden Classic in Anaheim, CA. Those games will be a true test of how this young team can perform on the road. As for ACC play the Canes have an incredibly tough schedule but I could easily see us with 8-9 wins as much as I can see 5-6 wins. All in I predict 18 wins for the Canes putting us just below the middle of the ACC standings. A strong showing in the ACC tourney could put Miami on the bubble of the big dance but in reality they are looking at an NIT bid unless this team can mature quickly together.

Josh Frank My thoughts on the season. My feelings on the following number of regular season wins (total wins in parenthesis), keeping in mind we play 18 conference games:

Some would peg me as a pessimist, but I believe myself to be a realist with a tremendous amount of patience. The Hurricanes are incredibly inexperienced in spite of having five seniors on the team, and regardless of the talent level – which does not exceed that of countless other opponents – the adjustment to new roles and responsibilities will be difficult. This team has definite talent, but could lose several games that Canes fans are expecting to win – against potential NCAA tournament mid-majors like College of Charleston and LaSalle, and even to some improved ACC teams who have been "bottom feeders." We only have four games against the teams predicted below us, and the easiest one (VT at home) is a trap game in a rare early December match-up. Conservatively, I have us at 15-16 overall, and 6-12 in conference, which would leave us out of even NIT consideration. With this staff and a hard-working bunch of players, I do expect the team to improve over the course of the season, but the leap will have to be fast and furious for us to make a serious run at the postseason.

0-4 (0-11): Angry
5-6 (12-14): Disappointed, but understanding
7-8 (15-17): Content, right about where we should be
9+ (18+): Extremely pleased

Juan Toribio 18-13 Miami will do well enough in the non conference portion of the schedule and upset enough big name teams in the ACC, to be on the bubble.