‘The U’ is back in football, the hype around campus and the buzz around the team with College GameDay in Coral Gables this week, is real. This weekend against Notre Dame is the biggest game for the Canes in over a decade. The Miami football program has a real chance at making it to the Playoff, and the basketball team is poised to make just as good a run...if not better.
Miami returns six of their top eight scorers from last year, and welcomes in a top-10 recruiting class which includes Lonnie Walker, the highest-rated commit in the history of the program.
Coach Jim Larranaga is now in his seventh season at the helm and this could easily be his most talented roster. He’s guided Miami to the NCAA tournament back-to-back years, but this team is trying to go further than Canes basketball has ever gone before. Coach L has taken the program to the ‘Big Dance’ three of the last five seasons (Miami’s best stretch since making four NCAA Tournament trips from 1997 to 2002) but the orange and green have never made it past the ‘Sweet 16’...
This year they start ranked #13 in the AP poll, their highest ranking to start the basketball season in school history, and deservedly so.
The frontcourt this year will primarily consist of Dewan Huell, Ebuka Izundu, and Anthony Lawrence Jr.
Huell is a sophomore former five-star recruit that should breakout on to the scene this year after seeing some struggles last year. He shows great athleticism for a man his size (6’11”, 220 lbs) which makes him versatile on the defensive end, and capable of getting to the rim on offense. Look for Huell to be a key contributor this year and be a guy that can average close to double-double numbers throughout the season.
Izundu averaged 4.2 points and 3 rebounds in his 13 minutes per game last year. He played in 32 games and started 9. Izundu’s minutes should be up a lot this year and he’s a real rim protector that will be a key cog on defense.
Lawrence Jr. returns as the biggest contributor from last year’s frontcourt, but seems to be flying a bit under the radar on a team with so much talent and youth. He started 18 games last year and appeared in 33, hitting a 3-pointer in 20 games and dishing multiple dimes in 16 games. Lawrence Jr. shot 35.4% from three last year and if he can improve that clip a bit it will key, as he’s a stretch player who can get opposing forwards to leave the paint and open up driving lanes for guards.
As good as the frontcourt is expected to be this year, the backcourt is...well...the sexier part to write about.
Bruce Brown returns for his sophomore campaign after a terrific first year. In the last decade of Canes hoops Brown posted the most points (391), field goals made (134), free-throws made (90) and minutes played by a freshmen in a season (1,053). And he recorded the second most rebounds (186), three-pointers made (33), assists (106) and steals (49) by a freshmen in a season. Brown is going to be a beast this year, probably one of the best players in the ACC, the question going forward for him is does he stay for his junior year or go to the NBA?
His partner in the backcourt (maybe not the first few weeks Coach L decides to have him come off the bench) will be Lonnie Walker, the most highly touted incoming freshmen in the history of Miami basketball. He’s coming off summer knee surgery but should be fit for the opener. Walker was a McDonald’s All-American and he’s already one of 20 player on the Jerry West Award Watch List for college basketball’s best shooting guard. According to some experts he’s a projected first round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Walker hasn’t played a second of college basketball but if he can live up to all the praise, he will be special to watch.
That Canes duo is complemented by the likes of Miami’s only senior Ja’Quan Newton (who was 2nd on the team in points and 1st in assists last season), sharpshooter Dejan Vasiljevic who has been shooting at a very high clip all offseason, and 45th ranked recruit, according to ESPN, 5’7” guard Chris Lykes. The 2107-2108 Canes have one of the best and deepest backcourts in all of college basketball.
So how far can they go? How high can they fly? How strong can this hurricane be? Ok sorry you get the question.
According to Vegas, Miami is tied with a handful of other teams for the 18th best odds to win it all (66:1). Their odds are significantly worse than the top four teams, consisting of Duke (4:1), Michigan State (6:1), Kentucky (7.5:1) and Arizona (9:1).
Now remember, ‘The U’ has never been to the ‘Elite 8’.
But this year it could happen.
And this isn’t a prediction of what I believe will happen, it’s my analysis of the best outcome this team can accomplish. So with that said what is the ceiling of this team?
Winning. It. All.
Is it national title or bust? God no.
But can they cut down the nets and hear “One Shining Moment” ringing in the background?