The path back to the Final Four is set. On Tuesday night, the ACC released its 2023-24 basketball conference schedule to complete Miami’s previously announced non-conference games. Jim Larrañaga’s crew will have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate that Miami has earned its status as a flagship basketball program for the ACC.
- (Mon. 11/6) vs. NJIT
- (Fri. 11/10) vs. UCF
- (Mon. 11/13) vs. FIU
The season opens with a tune-up match against the New Jersey Institute of Technology, before Miami hosts UCF and FIU in Coral Gables. For those not in Tallahassee that weekend, head down to the Watsco Center and catch our first glimpse of this year’s squad against Power 5 competition.
Miami earned a slim, two point victory over UCF last year in Orlando. The Knights went on to finish a competitive 18-12 last season. UCF is dealing with significant roster turnover and will be a bit of unknown this year. Eight players are gone from last year, including Taylor Hendricks who was taken 9th in the NBA draft, so Head Coach Johnny Dawkins will rely on five transfers in their inaugural Big XII season.
The following Monday our cross-town rival FIU visits Coral Gables. The Golden Panthers were only 14-18 overall last year despite playing virtually nobody. Their only Power 5 contest was a 107-74 thrashing by NC State in Raleigh. Still, surprises can happen as demonstrated by Final Four participant Florida Atlantic needing overtime to beat FIU.
- (Fri. 11/17) vs. Georgia
- (Sun. 11/19) vs. Kansas St. or Providence
The Hurricanes open against the Georgia Bulldogs, who were 16-16 overall but struggled to a 6-12 conference record. The Bulldogs started the year strong at 13-4, including wins over Auburn and Notre Dame, but completely collapsed during SEC conference play. Georgia should be improved this year, bringing in four freshmen including three with 4 star ratings as well as several transfers such as RJ Melendéz from Illinois and RJ Sunahara from Division II champion Nova Southeastern.
Miami’s second matchup will be against either Kansas State or Providence. Kansas State reached the Elite 8 last year behind star point guard Markquis Nowell, who turned pro and signed a two-way contract with the Toronto Raptors. Providence would be a holiday tournament rematch for Miami who defeated the Friars 74-64 in last year’s Hall of Fame Tip Off Championship.
- (Tue. 11/28) at Kentucky
The Hurricanes get a Thanksgiving break and then head out for Lexington, KY to face blue-blood Kentucky in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge. Kudos to ESPN and the conferences for scheduling Miami as one of the primetime matchups. Other highlights in the challenge include Duke at Arkansas, Tennessee at North Carolina, Clemson at Alabama, and Texas A&M at Virginia. Perhaps a ‘Canes bias is showing, but Miami’s matchup against Kentucky looks like the premier contest of the whole slate.
Kentucky was a 6 seed last year and suffered a second round exit in the NCAA Tournament to Kansas St. It was a disappointing result considering that Kentucky opened the year ranked 4th in the nation. This Wildcat team will be very young with eight (!!) freshmen headlined by consensus 5 star, likely one-and-done recruits Justin Edwards, Aaron Bradshaw, and DJ Wagner Jr. We’ll know a bit more about this teenager-dominated team after they play Kansas on 11/14 in Chicago.
- (Sat. 12/2) vs. Notre Dame
- (Wed. 12/6) vs. LIU
- (Sun. 12/10) vs. Colorado
After three weeks on the road, Miami returns home for its first ACC game against Notre Dame followed by a mid-week matchup against LIU. A home matchup against the Irish is an ideal ACC opener. Notre Dame struggled last season to an 11-21 record, and without any high profile recruits or transfers there’s little reason for optimism in South Bend.
Thereafter, the Canes head north to New York to face the Colorado Buffaloes in the NABC Brooklyn Showcase. Colorado was a mediocre 18-17 last year, but our SB Nation colleagues at the Ralphie Report call this “the most hyped CU basketball team in years.” Why? This offseason the Buffs went out and signed Cody Williams the No. 1 overall recruit according to On3, and a consensus 5 star recruit by all recruiting services. Cody is the brother of Jalen Williams, who was selected 12th overall by OKC in the 2022 NBA Draft. Cody is a legitimate candidate to be the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft, so defending the 6’8” small forward should be a stiff assignment for Matthew Cleveland.
- (Sat. 12/16) vs. La Salle
- (Thu. 12/21) vs. Stonehill
- (Fri. 12/29) vs. North Florida
La Salle, Stonehill, and North Florida all had losing records last season and all should serve as relatively easy home contests before Miami jumps into ACC play. Onward to the new year...
- (Wed. 1/3) vs. Clemson
- (Sat. 1/6) at Wake Forest
- (Wed. 1/10) vs. Louisville
- (Sat. 1/13) at Virginia Tech
- (Wed. 1/17) vs. Florida State
- (Sat. 1/20) at Syracuse
Good news for advocates of student athletes actually attending their classes. During the first three weeks of conference play Miami is home for their midweek game while knocking out their road schedule on Saturday nights. Professors and parents rejoice!
More seriously...it’ll be critical for Miami to get off to a strong start in conference play because this is a pretty soft opening stretch. None of these teams were 2023 NCAA Tournament teams. Clemson is the best of the lot, but they’re being forced to travel to Miami over New Years Day. Good luck with that distraction. A road contest against Wake Forest could also be challenging, although last year’s ACC leading scorer Tyree Appleby graduated and is now playing overseas.
If Miami is going to compete for a regular season conference title, the Hurricanes need to exit this stretch at least 5-2 in conference play (including the early December home game against Notre Dame). Anything less may signal that this team will struggle to match last year’s squad (which started 4-0 in the ACC).
- (Wed. 1/24) at Notre Dame
- (Sat. 1/27) vs. Pittsburgh
- (Tue. 1/30) at NC State
The intensity picks up as Miami finally plays some in-conference NCAA Tournament teams. After a mid-week road contest in South Bend, Miami returns to Coral Gables for back-to-back games against Last-Four-In, No. 11 seeds Pitt and NCST.
Pittsburgh should be a tough contest, and the Panthers will be led by Second Team All-ACC small forward Blake Hinson. The problem is that Pitt lost First Team All-ACC guard Jamarius Burton to graduation. NC State is dealing with its own all-conference losses with the departure of Terquavion Smith and Jarkel Joiner, both Second Team All-ACC selections. But help is on the way for the Wolfpack as former McDonald’s All-American M.J. Rice transfers in from Kansas.
- (Sat. 2/3) vs. Virginia Tech
- (Mon. 2/5) at Virginia
- (Sat. 2/10) vs. North Carolina
- (Wed. 2/14) at Clemson
Now that’s a tough stretch. After playing Virginia Tech a second time, Miami gets only one day’s rest to travel to arguably its toughest matchup this whole season at Virginia. The Cavaliers were a 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the highest in the conference, and spent most of the season entrenched in the Top 10 of the polls.
Then comes the Tar Heels. On a Saturday night. At home. Nationally televised. Expect the Watsco Center to be packed! Yes, Hubert Davis’ squad was a huge let down last year, failing to make the NCAA Tournament after being the preseason No. 1 ranked team. It’s a new year, and expect the Tar Heels to be hungry to reclaim their success from two years ago when they played for a national championship.
Oh, and no rest for the weary as Miami will turn around to travel to Clemson for the second half of their home-and-home. This stretch will reveal whether Miami is good looking, or Zoolander level really good looking.
- (Sat. 2/17) at Boston College
- (Wed. 2/21) vs. Duke
There’s the Dukies! Miami’s lone contest against the likely pre-season conference favorite is a mid-week contest in Coral Gables. You read that right season ticket holders, we get to see both Duke and UNC at home this year.
Little more needs to be said about the Blue Devils - they’re a perennial conference power and are always a bellwether game on the conference schedule. Little also needs to be said about Boston College, which has only one winning season in 7 years under coach Jim Christian.
- (Sat. 2/24) vs. Georgia Tech
- (Mon. 2/26) at North Carolina
- (Wed. 3/6) vs Boston College
- (Sat. 3/9) at Florida State
The home stretch includes a Monday night visit to Chapel Hill (like Virginia on just one day’s rest...c’mon ACC!) sandwiched around what should be three of the four bottom tiered teams. Hopefully Miami hits the close of its season without finding itself needing quality wins, because an away game against UNC will probably be the last opportunity to get a Tier 1 or 2 victory.
Strap in ‘Canes fans, we’re in for another fun season!