Monday, December 30, 2013

season preview: Miami

Media prediction: 12th of 15

Last season:

Record: 29-7 (15-3); ACC 1 seed and tourney champion
Postseason: NCAA 2 seed; lost in Sweet 16
KenPom: 14th of 347

Returning scoring: 13.4%
Returning rebounding: 15.5%
Returning assists: 9.8%

2012-2013 all-ACC:

1st team: G Shane Larkin
2nd team: C Kenny Kadji
3rd team: none
HM: G Durand Scott
Defensive: G Shane Larkin, G Durand Scott
Rookie: none

(Italics indicate departed player.)

Starting lineup:

PG: Davon Reed (Fr.)
SG: Rion Brown (Sr.)
SG: Garrius Adams (5Sr.)
PF: James Kelly (Jr.)
PF: Donnavan Kirk (5Sr.)


G Manu Lecomte (Fr.)
C Tonye Jekiri (So.)
F Erik Swoope (Sr.)

Coach: Jim Larranaga (3rd season)

ACC schedule:

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

Talk about rebuilding.  Everyone knew Miami's window of opportunity was last year, and they made it count with an ACC title and a Sweet 16 appearance.  In all the time I've been doing basketball previews, though, I've calculated the returning points and stats and stuff the same way and never seen numbers that low.  I'm sure it would be a record if I bothered to look.  Probably for the last decade or two; having such turnover among your key players is rare, and absolutely bound to result in a major drop-off.

Jim Larranaga's been around the block a few times, though, and picked up a couple transfers to supplement the freshmen and few returning players.  Some of them won't be available til next year, but forward Donnavan Kirk is an interesting case.  Rare indeed is the player who transfers back to the school he originally left, but Kirk spent a couple years at DePaul and then came back to Miami to finish his eligibility as a grad student.  Kirk is only an average scorer at best, but an excellent rebounder - particularly on the offensive end - and a big-time shot-blocker as well.

The rest of the thin frontcourt is comprised of forward James Kelly and center Tonye Jekiri, also better rebounders and defenders than scorers.  Miami occasionally moves a few other people into the game, but these three take up most of their frontcourt minutes; suffice to say there's not much offensive punch back there.

Miami is also looking for answers at point guard, where they've asked 6'6" freshman Davon Reed to handle some of the duties, as well as fellow freshman Manu Lecomte.  Reed has a decent shot but a tough time getting to the rim, and isn't a good free-throw shooter.  Lecomte is tiny at 5'9".  The offense really runs more through senior shooting guard Rion Brown, one of the few veteran holdovers from last season.  Brown is the guy being asked to take charge of the team and be the lead dog in the scoring department.  He's got help from fellow senior Garrius Adams.  Both can score, although much less consistently from three.  Adams is a better defender as well.

Overall, though, this team is precisely what you'd expect after losing so much talent: a little on the thin side, freshmen in key places, star players who are capable but not really stars.  It's not that Brown and Adams aren't ACC-level players, but the Canes don't have enough proven talent like that, and guys like those two are best in complementary roles.  The Canes play solid defense - not surprising under a veteran coach like Larranaga - but don't shoot well, don't get to the line much, and struggle to score even in their wins.

They started the season with a loss to St. Francis (NY) and it's been a struggle since.  An upset win over Arizona State will likely prove to be the highlight of the season, but, sitting at 7-5 already, Miami looks as though they'll finish the season with a losing record.  They've already lost to predicted last-seed Virginia Tech.  In 18 ACC games, it would surprise if Miami were to win more than four or five, and their season will come to an end in the ACC tourney.

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