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Men’s Basketball Off Season Updates: Portal Targets, Departures, and Scheduling Announcements

Just 2 weeks removed from the Final Four and a lot has happened

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NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Practice Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

If you can believe it, we’re already two weeks removed from the Miami Hurricanes’ exit from the Final Four, ending their greatest season in program history. Much has happened since including end of season polls, some scheduling announcements for 2023-24 season, and a few transfer portal announcements.

End of Season Polls

Miami finished the season ranked No. 3 in the final Coaches Poll, behind national champion UConn and runner-up San Diego State. This was the highest finish in program history. Other notable finishes in the final poll:

  • Fellow Final Four participant, and South Florida neighbor, FAU finishing No. 5 behind Alabama, the overall top seed in the NCAA Tournament;
  • ACC programs Duke and Virginia respectively finishing No. 18 and No. 23, while Pittsburgh was the only other ACC program receiving votes (2) effectively finishing 39th; and
  • Miami’s NCAA Tournament opponents finishing at No. 6 (Houston), No. 7 (Texas), and No. 24 (Indiana), while Miami’s non-conference, holiday tournament opponents Maryland and Providence finished unranked but receiving votes.

Looking ahead, most have Miami somewhere in their Top 15 in their way-to-early polls for next season. Sports Illustrated slots Miami at No. 11 and predicts that Wooga Poplar “seems poised for a big jump offensively” to replace the departure of Jordan Miller and possibly ACC Player of the Year Wong. ESPN put Miami at No. 14 in its way-to-early poll, with the presumption that Wong would turn pro. Sporting News also has Miami ranked 14th.

By contrast, CBS Sports ranks Miami No. 4 based on the belief that Isiah Wong returns next season. 247 Sports has Miami at No. 8 also under the presumption that NIL compensation will bring back every starter except eligibility-exhausted Miller.

Bottom line is that everyone picks Miami to be good next season. How good depends on whether Wong returns and whether Miami can land a top transfer portal target or two like it did last season with Omier and Pack.

2023-24 Scheduling

Last month, ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips lamented the conference’s frustration that for the second season in a row the ACC only had five NCAA Tournament bids. Far fewer than the eight bids the SEC and Big Ten each received. “We have to portray ourselves in a different way” said Phillips, and acknowledged that the ACC teams needed to be more aggressive in their non-conference scheduling.

Miami was probably as guilty as anyone of scheduling a weak nonconference slate. It’s telling when the ACC regular season champion only earns a five seed. It’ll still be a few months before we learn Miami’s full slate for the 2023-24 season - last year’s schedule wasn’t released until August - but there’s already been a few scheduling announcements.

For starters, Miami announced its holiday tournament will the Baha Mar Hoop Classic held in the Bahamas. It’s a four team tournament, and Kansas State and Providence are also confirmed participants. The fourth team is presently to-be-named.

Fans may also recall that this past year was the final year of the ACC/BigTen Challenge. This is a casualty of the shifting media rights agreements as Fox takes a greater hold over the Big Ten football and basketball broadcasts. No worries - ESPN announced that this year will begin a new ACC/SEC Challenge. While I suspect Kentucky and Alabama would be matched against UNC and Duke, or possibly Virginia, for the ratings, don’t be surprised to see a ranked Miami team draw Missouri, Tennessee, or Auburn - any of whom would be an improvement over Rutgers, last year’s ACC/BigTen Challenge opponent. Florida is another possibility due to the in-state rivalry. While it’s always fun to beat up on the Gators, I’d prefer an opportunity to face one of the stronger SEC teams.

The last bit of scheduling news to report is that Miami and UCF announced a multi-year series between the two programs. Don’t underestimate the scheduling importance of this series. Remember, starting next season UCF is a Big XII member, which is arguably the toughest basketball conference in the nation. If the Knights can hold their own against Texas and Kansas, grabbing a win against our Orlando neighbor could be a major resume boost come March.

This might be wishful thinking, but I sure hope Dan Radakovich is trying to hammer out something with Florida Atlantic. Both Final Four participants were grossly under-seeded, and both could benefit from the non-conference matchup. One option might be the Orange Bowl Classic, which has yet to announce its 2023 participating teams. An Owls versus Hurricanes matchup would surely sellout the FLA Live Arena in Sunrise.

Canes Players Departing

Last year, Miami was one of only 9 programs to not have a single player transfer out. That won’t be the case this year as Harlond Beverly has already announced his decision to transfer to Wichita State. Beverly was a clutch defender and key rotational player who will be missed.

Aside from Beverly, Jordan Miller (aka Mr. Perfect) is the team’s only other confirmed loss from its Final Four run. Miller, who is out of eligibility, arguably helped his NBA draft stock the most of any player in the NCAA Tournament. Miller could be a valuable “three and D” player at the next level, and most experts expect him to be drafted in the second round. The most underrated player in America will be greatly missed.

Anthony Walker is the other rotational player who has announced he’s entering the portal. Walker was reportedly visiting Arkansas State this weekend, which is ironically where Norchad Omier transferred from. I’d take that trade any day. Prior to announcing his intent to transfer, Walker was probably in line for a starting role as a stretch four. As discussed below, Miami has several shooting big men it’s focusing on in the portal to replace Walker’s role (including two visiting this weekend, both of whom I think would be an upgrade).

Freshmen Favour Aire and Danilo Jovanovich have also announced their intent to transfer. Neither saw much playing team this season, but both could have been in-line for a bigger roles next season.

Players who enter the portal sometimes chose to return, although the school doesn’t have to honor their scholarship once they’ve entered the portal. So while it’s likely that Walker, Aire, and Jovanovich are departing Coral Gables, it’s not an absolute certainty.

Of course, all eyes remain on ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong who has yet to confirm if he’s returning next season. Wong has until April 25th to decide if he’s entering the NBA Draft. This will be an interesting decision in the still fresh NIL era. Like Miller, Wong is projected to be a second round pick and could still stand to develop his game a bit more before turning pro. Second round draft picks don’t receive guaranteed contracts, so Wong arguably stands to earn more from NIL as a college star than if he were to turn pro, fail to make an NBA team, and have to play overseas for a year or two.

Recruiting and Portal Targets

The silver lining of losing at least two players, and likely five or six players, means that Miami has significant flexibility in hitting the transfer portal.

For the time being, the only confirmed addition to Miami’s 2023-24 roster is Michael Nwoko (C), Miami’s lone freshman recruit. His addition greatly eases the loss of Aire and Jovanovich in terms of developmental big-man talent. Nwoko is a 3 star prospect who is unlikely to play a major role next season unless Miami swings and misses on most of their portal targets, which would leave Omier and AJ Casey as the only returning post players. Nwoko had a strong performance last week at the Nike Hoops Summit.

Robbie Beran (F, Northwestern) is reportedly visiting Coral Gables this weekend. The 6’9” forward averaged 7.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game for the Wildcats. He’s a veteran player, with 99 career starts under his belt, and is shooting about 35% from beyond the arc. He’d be an upgrade over Walker, who most predicted would start at the 4 position next year if he doesn’t transfer.

Mustapha Amzil (F, Dayton) is another veteran stretch forward in town this weekend. The 6’9” redshirt sophomore started every game for the Flyers while averaging 9 ppg and 5 rpg with an effective outside shot. Amzil hails from Finland and could continue Coach L’s success in cultivating international talent.

Quincy Olivari (G, Rice) is an elite scorer who listed Miami as a finalist along with Auburn, Texas, and Xavier. Olivari averaged 18 ppg for the Owls and was a second team All-Conference USA selection. Olivari would be one and done as he only has a year of eligibility remaining. His addition could be critical should Wong move on to the NBA.

Matthew Cleveland (F, Florida State) is the highest profile recruit rumored to be considering Miami. Ranked 22nd in On3’s portal ranking, and a former five star high school prospect, Cleveland is the highest ranked portal player Miami is pursuing. As you can imagine, his recruiting is very competitive. Rumors are particularly rampant that Cleveland is leaning towards Auburn. Hurricane fans might recall this dagger that he delivered to Miami:

El Ellis (G, Louisville) is another portal target to keep an eye on. Ellis was the solitary bright spot in what was otherwise a disastrous season for the Cardinals. Like Olivari, Ellis is an elite scorer who only has a year of eligibility remaining. He scored a career high 33 points in Louisville’s 93-85 loss to Miami. Unlike Olivari, Ellis has yet to indicate that he’s seriously considering Miami, only that the Hurricanes have reached out to him.

The transfer portal is a fast moving, ever evolving beast. As this story was being drafted, VCU’s Jalen Deloach had to be removed from the potential transfer list. Deloach had Miami as one of his finalists, but on Saturday night he posted that he was committing to FSU. Point being: stay tuned to State of the U’s twitter feed for these quickly evolving updates.