Wednesday, January 4, 2012

season preview: Miami

Miami Hurricanes

Media prediction: 5th

Last season:

Record: 21-15 (6-10) - ACC 9th seed
Postseason: NIT quarterfinals
KenPom: 58th of 345

Returning scoring: 80.3%
Returning rebounding: 68.7%
Returning assists: 88.7%

2010-11 All-ACC:

1st team: none
2nd team: none
3rd team: G Malcolm Grant
HM: C Reggie Johnson
Defensive: none
Rookie: none

(Italics indicate departed player.)

Starting lineup:

PG: Durand Scott (Jr.)
SG: Malcolm Grant (Sr.)
G: Trey McKinney-Jones (rJr.)
PF: Kenny Kadji (rSo.)
C: Reggie Johnson (Jr.)


G Shane Larkin (Fr.)
F DeQuan Jones (Sr.)
G Garrius Adams (Jr.)
G Rion Brown (So.)
F Erik Swoope (So.)

Coach: Jim Larranaga (1st season)

ACC schedule:

Twice: Boston College, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina, NC State
Once: Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

Fortuitous timing on this preview, since Miami happens to be the ACC season opener on Saturday.  Good thing, too; the last ACC game we played was also against Miami and it didn't go so well.  This should hopefully be a little bit cathartic.

On paper, the Canes look like they should be a good team.  They return a whole bunch of veterans - really, almost nobody left that could be called a key player.  Malcolm Grant and Reggie Johnson each earned some kind of all-ACC recognition last year; Johnson in particular is an absolute load who weighs in at 284 pounds, which means he's slimmed down and dropped 20 from last year.  This is what I wrote about Miami in last year's preview:

The Canes are one of the few teams in the conference blessed with the two things that every ACC coach would give their left nut for: a combo of excellent scoring guards and a big true center who scores and rebounds.

Well, they still have those guys, and they've added another dangerous player to the mix in Kenny Kadji, who is 6'11" and just dropped 30 points on UNC-Greensboro.  Kadji transferred in from Florida.  That gives them two front-liners over 6'10", a very difficult pair indeed to deal with.  So with all this, why has Miami likely played themselves out of a tourney berth?

Well, they're just now getting Johnson back from injury, for starters.  It's a little like Maryland in which we haven't really seen the team at full strength.  Johnson tore cartilage in his knee in the offseason - his nose-tackle-like weight no doubt having something to do with it - and is getting back into the lineup just recently.  The Canes are also just now getting back depth player DeQuan Jones, who was taking an NCAA-mandated timeout in the wake of Nevin Shapiro's Miami Vice scandal.

So with Johnson back, lining up next to Kadji (who has real potential to be a matchup nightmare in the mold of Duke's Ryan Kelly) and two dangerous scorers in Grant and Durand Scott (a very solid point guard who scores and takes care of the ball) Miami will be a tough out for ACC teams this year.  They're very well-rounded - as a matter of fact, every single one of their players currently has an above-average (that is, 100) KenPom offensive rating.  Overall this team has the profile of a high-performing, tournament-level ACC squad.  It's just - the results haven't quite shown up in the win-loss column, as Miami has no good wins, one bad loss (Ole Miss) and too many close calls.  I can only chalk this up to not having Johnson and having to learn a new system, and the fact that they play only average defense.  But frankly I'm glad we're seeing Miami early in the season because they could be scary when the light bulb comes on.  Because of their early-season missteps I don't see them making the tournament (unless the committee decides they've reformed their ways, which has been known to happen) but don't be surprised if they make life tough one night for a Duke or a UNC.  And even if they don't make the tournament they could hang a banner as NIT champs.


As for our own team, maybe you'd appreciate a thought or two as we close out the nonconference schedule.  A solid win over a solid opponent, to be sure, on Monday night.  Yes, I know - you were disappointed we missed out on Justin Hamilton and now you're really disappointed.  The way he played on Monday, he'd look pretty good in our colors alongside Mike Scott, wouldn't he?

UVA has now done enough, I think, to warrant tournament inclusion as long as we don't play like fools in the ACC.  And the rest of the ACC, for the most part, has fueled a lot of confidence in their beatability.  Oregon and LSU won't be in the tournament, most likely, but they're good enough that beating both of them at their own place is very committee-friendly. 

However, I have a hard time believing this is one of the top 25 teams in the country.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy being ranked.  It's almost meaningless in basketball, but not completely: it does mean that ESPN acts like you're important to the casual viewer.  I only mean that half-sarcastically - the exposure is good for the program.  The fact that Virginia is constantly on the score repeater and on the website headlines puts Virginia just a little bit closer to the forefront of people's minds, and that is a good thing if "people" includes recruits.  But I don't think we're quite ready for that prime-timery just yet.  The loss to TCU and too many close calls to lousy teams - this really isn't the profile of a top-25 machine.  At least, I don't get that impression.  Yet.  One of the top 68?  You bet.  Top 25?  Work to do.  Not complaining about the positive press, but I think there's more room to earn it at the moment.  The real grind starts on Saturday, and I'm looking forward to what happens on the other end, two months from now.


Anonymous said...

I think the lack of depth may be what eventually does this team in when they get to the tourny. I'm concerned with the heavy workload a lot of the key guys are getting, particularly Mike Scott. this can't exactly be blamed on the transfers completely either - Bennett just doesn't trust many guys, and while he may want to get Mitchell/Atkins in some, this team depends so heavily on the attention Mike Scott draws that it's somewhat hard to take him out long.

I think the biggest thing for the team will be if Malcolm Brogdon can develop as a go-to scorer. This may alleviate some of the pressure on running the offense through Scott, and may force teams to not cheat as much on him as well. Furthermore, if Brogdon can get to the basket a bit, that may allow a guy like Mitchell to hit that 15 footer.

Adam said...

I don't think the ranking is unjustified. The AP and coaches have a finite information to vote on. We're 13-1 right now. I agree that we have some flaws. Plus, if a team wins 13 of 14 games, they've taken a pretty healthy step forward. I agree with the importance of Brogdon's development. If he starts being a go-to guy, then that would make things a lot easier.

Anonymous said...

The ranking seems justified. We've had a few bad games, but so have most teams. Once you get beyond the top few teams, you won't find many "machines." Consider the RPI. We're 56th, but, just quickly running through the RPI, I count 36 teams ranked ahead of us who I think we'd beat:

Gonzaga, Murray State, Long Beach State, Alabama, Southern Miss, Creighton, Minnesota, Illinois, Marquette, St. Mary's, Temple, Davidson, Northwestern, N. Iowa, Wichita State, Iona, Memphis, Michigan, Dayton, Harvard, VTech, Vandy, Colorado State, St. Joe's, OU, Purdue, Cal, NCST, Lamar, Ole Miss, Wagner, Norfolk State, New Mexico, Zona, Xavier, and Miss State.

Obviously some judgment calls by me in putting that list together. And maybe there are some teams behind us in the RPI who should be favored against us (Wisconsin? Pitt? others?). But I have a hard time counting 25 teams that are clearly better than us.