Injuries stink, no two ways about it. When it was revealed that sophomore guard Bruce Brown Jr. would miss time with an injured left hand, there was a bit of concern.
Brown Jr. leads the Hurricanes in rebounds per game (8.6) and assists per game (5). Prior to the injury, he also started coming into his own getting buckets, scoring 47 points in his last three games.
So needless to say, his injury hurts Miami in the short-term. But can it help the Canes in the long-term?
For the Hurricanes to become the team that everyone thinks they can be, which is an elite Final Four contender, then freshman Lonnie Walker IV needs to step into more of an alpha role. He did just that in Miami’s most recent game, a 69-54 win over Boston University. In his first start, Walker IV finished with 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting and 5-of-7 from three-point range, seven rebounds and two assists.
Even though it was only one game, it was a glimpse into what has everyone so excited about Walker IV and the team as a whole. It also taught Miami how to succeed without a player as dynamic as Brown Jr.
Against BU, Canes head coach Jim Larrañaga went with an eight-man rotation. Freshman guard Chris Lykes was the only backcourt bench player to log playing time. One game is not a trend, but this could show that Coach L plans on running with a nine-man rotation during ACC play when Brown gets back. No matter who goes to the bench (it doesn’t seem like it will be Walker IV), it seems like the second unit will be about as good as it was to start the season when Walker IV was on the bench.
Miami has an embarrassment of riches in the backcourt and Brown Jr’s injury shows it. Most teams, even some in the top 25, would hurt bad with arguably its best player out. The Hurricanes kept on trucking. Now the theme of non-conference play has been how soft the schedule has been (and what was supposed to be the big win over Minnesota now looks rough because the Golden Gophers have lost two out of its last three).
Brown Jr’s absence would certainly be felt during conference play. But his return and presence is exciting to think about because of how much better and explosive the team will be when the schedule heats up.