November is here, and that means the smell of popcorn in stuffy arenas and the sound of squeaky shoes on the hardwood have both returned.
It’s time for Miami Hurricanes basketball. The long offseason, which got off to an early start thanks to the heartbreaking loss to Loyola Chicago, has been dominated by the FBI probe and the effort to recover from any hit the program’s image may have suffered.
It got easier with the commitments of Isiah Wong and Anthony Walker, but coach Jim Larrañaga was still forced to bring in transfers Zach Johnson, Anthony Mack and Kameron McGusty— with the latter sitting out this year due to NCAA regulations.
Eleven days ago, fans got a look at this year’s Canes—albeit in a scrimmage. Playing division two and Sunshine State Confrence opponent Barry University, the Hurricanes only led by six at halftime en route to a 91-61 win. Barry is a good program that advanced to the D2 elite eight last season.
Friday night’s opponent is the Lehigh Mountain Hawks. Lehigh already played their season opener, in which they blew out Monmouth in a game where they ahead by 30 with less than four minutes left.
Last season, the Pennsylvania school finished fourth in the Patriot League with a record of 16-14 and 11-7 in Confrence. Two ACC teams played Lehigh last year, with the Pittsburgh Panthers and Virginia Cavaliers both beating the mid-major by double-digits.
The Mountain Hawks did win their last eight regular season games before loosing to Boston University in the conference tournament—ending their season.
Arguably the player to watch from Lehigh is Lance Tejada. The guard—who led his team in scoring with just under 15 points-per-game as a junior—hails from Miramar, FL and graduated from Blanche Ely High School, where he was a two-time letter winner and Broward County player of the year in 6A/7A/8A according to the Miami Herald in 2013-14.
While the transfer from East Carolina struggled on Tuesday, Miami’s defense cannot afford to let him get open, as he shot a robust 45 percent from beyond-the-ark last season, good for top in the Patriot League.
The Hawks also return three additional starters. Pat Andre was the team’s third-leading scorer (12.6 PPG) and second-leading rebounder (5.8). Despite his forward position, he was second in the conference in three-point shooting right behind Tejada (43%). He was also the leading scorer in their game against Monmouth earlier in the week, scoring 31 with the help of six three-pointers.
James Karnik is the leading rebounder from last year, hauling 6.5 boards per game. A center, his rebounding totals were good for 7th best in the conference.
Kyle Leufroy will also look to improve his 10 point and five rebound per game output from last season.
- Lehigh led the Patriot League in three-point percent in 2017-18, shooting 41 percent from deep.
- They also led their conference in free throw shooting (77 percent) and were second in total scoring (80 PPG).
- However, they also were last in total defense in their conference (78 PPG) and were second-to-last in turnover margin (-.80).
What will be interesting to see is how the fast-paced, high-scoring offense of Lehigh fares against the larger, dual-big man Hurricanes. If one team jumps out to an early lead, the game will still be far from over.
For those who cannot make it to the Watsco Center, the ACC Network Extra will carry the game through the WatchESPN app. WQAM 560 will also broadcast for those in South Florida.