The Miami Hurricanes are on the menu today in our latest ACC basketball team preview.
We’re going in alphabetical order through every team in the new-look ACC, but we’ll be excluding Duke – seeing as how the Blue Devils already receive a fair amount of coverage on this site.
If you’ve missed any of our previews, I encourage you to check them out to get an idea of the landscape around the ACC. We’ve already covered Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Louisville.
Jim Larranaga had a tough year last season after leading the Hurricanes to the ACC Championship in the 2012-13 season. Here’s a more in-depth look at what’s ahead for Miami this year.
2013-14 Record: Overall – 17-16 | ACC – 7-11 (10th Place)
Games against Duke this season: Tuesday, January 13 at Duke
Everyone expected the Hurricanes to take a step back last season after losing so much talent from the previous year, and that’s exactly what happened. You simply can’t lose so many experienced playmakers and not suffer.
However, Jim Larranaga still deserves credit for guiding Miami to a 17-16 record and seven wins in the ACC, including victories on the road against North Carolina and N.C. State, two NCAA Tournament teams.
It was a year of transition in Coral Gables and many of the faces from last year’s team are no longer with the squad, including leading scorers Rion Brown and Garrius Adams. However, unlike last season, this year’s group appears to have more potential and should be ready to immediately compete in the ACC.
Key Players: Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan
Coach Larranaga has had success with the Miami program in part because of his effectiveness in getting impact transfers and junior college players. This season will be no different.
Angel Rodriguez is a transfer from Kansas State who should give the Hurricanes one of the better true point guards in the conference. He was an all conference player (and a member of the Big 12 All-Defensive Team) during his sophomore season at Kansas State and should be able to provide steady leadership for the team and playmaking ability – something that was lacking last season after the departure of Shane Larkin to the NBA.
Along with Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan is another transfer from a Big 12 school who should play an important role in the Miami backcourt. At 6’5”, 205 pounds, McClellan offers good size at the combo guard position and he averaged 13.5 points during his sophomore season as a Texas Longhorn. He’s a guy who can create his own shot and has a good chance to emerge as the primary scoring option for the team.
X-Factor: Tonye Jekiri
With 6’10” junior college player Cruz Uceda ineligible for the first half of the season, it’s critical for Tonye Jekiri to become a consistent presence in the paint for the Hurricanes. Jim Larranaga has said he expects the 7’0”, 235-pound junior center to be the type of guy who averages a double-double, and that’s the type of contribution this team will need from him if it’s to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
Miami is emerging as one of the trendy picks to be one of the surprise teams in college basketball this season. With Manu Lecomte, Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan, and redshirt freshman Deandre Burnett the Hurricanes certainly have a backcourt that will be able to match-up with any team in the ACC. The biggest question is whether or not there will be enough production in the frontcourt to provide balance.
With home games against Virginia, North Carolina and Louisville, the Canes will have opportunities to notch some signature wins that would look impressive to the selection committee. I just don’t know if they’ve got the pieces needed to contend in the paint with guys like Montrezl Harrell, Kennedy Meeks, Jahlil Okafor and Mike Tobey.