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Canes Hoops: Where is Bruce Brown Jr.?

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The preseason national player of the year candidate has struggled this season

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Miami
Bruce Brown hasn’t been the leader the Canes needed during ACC play
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Canes Hoops is in the midst of a week break that couldn’t have come at a better time, as the Canes lost 2 games in 3 days last weekend. A 2-3 start is not what Miami fans were expecting to see, especially after spending much of the season ranked in the top 15 of the country. In my last article, I gave 3 suggestions for how Canes Hoops could right the ship after the collapse to Duke, and one of the readers gave this response:

While I still believe the Canes will still make the tournament, I thought that Tommy1954 made a great point, Bruce Brown Jr. is not contributing near as much as expected. One reason for the optimism early in the season was the presence of sophomore guard, who had a stellar freshman campaign for the Canes. Brown looked poised to build on his early success starting this season off with a triple-double against Gardner-Webb, but has been marred with inconsistency ever since. Add in a wrist injury, and this season has not been optimal for the Canes guard. His struggles have been illuminated as the Canes have dropped 3 of their first 5 ACC games. In the 3 losses, Brown is averaging 6.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 2.3 steals, 2 blocks, and 3 turnovers per game on 25% shooting. Brown has still been active on both ends of the floor, which has justified his team-leading 33 minutes per game, but his effectiveness has been limited.

Dewan Huell has made huge strides in his second season with the Canes, even outperforming likely top NBA Draft pick Marvin Bagley III on Monday. His consistent production inside has been a welcome surprise for this young team. Lonnie Walker IV and Chris Lykes are realizing their potential right in front of our eyes. These were all uncertainties that needed to happen for the Canes to reach the lofty heights they aspired to this season, however those positives have been cancelled out by the struggles of returning players like Bruce Brown and Ja’Quan Newton. Fox Sports basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb had this to say after the Duke game:

While I don’t believe the Canes are a dumb team (and no win for the Blue Devils is good in my book), I agree that Miami can be a frustrating team to watch, and we currently lack a point guard. All of our guards right now are scoring guards, which have left us without playmaking for extended periods of time. If there’s anyone on the Canes who can fill that void, its Bruce Brown Jr. For the season, he is averaging just under 4 assists per game compared to 2 turnovers per game. In the 3 ACC losses, Brown is averaging less assists and more turnovers. Can Brown give the offense more direction going forward by returning to the do-it-all point guard role instead of the ambiguous guard role that all of the Canes’ backcourt fills? The offense needs the steadying hand of their best playmaker to navigate the different defenses the Canes will face throughout the rest of the season. Brown is definitely still capable of putting in a quality performances, as evidenced by his game-high 23 points to lead the Canes to a big win against a ranked Florida State team. Let’s hope Brown raises his level of play starting this Sunday, when the Canes travel to Raleigh, NC to take on a tough NC State squad.