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ACC Basketball Preview #10 - Miami Hurricanes

A whole bunch of new guys (again), but some of them are really promising.

Last year was tough for Jim Larranaga and his Miami team, but this year the 'Canes should have more promise.
Last year was tough for Jim Larranaga and his Miami team, but this year the 'Canes should have more promise.
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

One of the real downsides of ACC expansion is that it's really hard to keep up with everyone. It's relatively easy with the Big Four, the Virginia schools, Clemson and Syracuse, and Louisville is lavishly covered and Notre Dame gets a fair amount of attention too, but when you get down to the Florida schools, BC and Pitt, it's not as easy.

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Take Miami.

You can start with Jim Larranaga. He adds instant credibility to his program.

The problem is that Miami has had radical turnover for two years in a row.

Miami has four freshmen (including one redshirt freshman) and several transfers.

Two of the transfers are particularly promising.

Angel Rodriguez left Miami for Kansas State where he had a solid two-year run at point guard. He averaged 11.4 ppg, 5 apg, 2.1 rpg and 1.5 steals. He was a well-regarded defender and played hard.

Joe Thomas is a grad transfer from Niagara, where he played for Danny Hurley. He was also a high school teammate of Rodriguez's at Krop High.

He's a big, strong player, weighing in at 245. You won't mistake him for Rodney Rogers, but he's built like that. He'll likely be a role player and a reserve, but with four years of experience he can help bring a young team along.

More likely to have an immediate impact: Texas transfer Sheldon McClellan. The 6-5 wing left Rick Barnes and Texas when the wheels seemed to be falling off. It's gotten better for the Longhorns, and McClellan has a chance to be a star player for Miami.

He averaged 13.5 ppg before leaving and was a Top 50 recruit.

He didn't shoot all that well - 38.2%  as a sophomore, about what Rodriguez shot at K-State actually - and that cost him minutes.  He did shoot 30% from three point range.

Still, the Big 12 import backcourt should be good. What about up front?

Ivan Cruz Uceda is a 6-10 guy from Madrid and was highly regarded while being recruited. He averaged 42.5% from three point range and 62.5% from the floor overall.

He comes to Miami from Harcum Junior College.

Unfortunately, he's not eligible until the second semester.

Tony Jekiri is the only returning big man and while he is big, he didn't have a huge impact last year. He averaged about 21 and half minutes a game, scoring 4.2 ppg and grabbing 5.5 rpg. However, at 7-0, and playing close to the basket, he shot just 45.6%.

Kamari Murphy (6-8/215) comes to Miami from Oklahoma State, where he developed into a solid rebounder. But he's a native New Yorker.

Omar Sherman is a 6-8, 260 lb. guy from Duncanville Texas. He averaged 17.1 ppg and 8.4 rpg. There's no telling yet how he'll do in the ACC, but like Thomas, he's at least a big body.

Miami also returns 5-11 Belgian import Manu Lecomte. He was at least adequate as a freshman, despite having limited players to pass to. He should compete for minutes.

Sophs Davon Reed (6-6) and Mike Fernandez (6-1) also return.

Reed got some serious minutes (20.7) and averaged 6.6 ppg.

Fernandez really didn't play much at all and will be pushed further back by the improved guard play.

Deandre Burnett sat out last year with a wrist problem but averaged 37 ppg in high school. You can do that a lot of ways - you can be a great shooter, you can be a hard worker inside or you can just be a gunner - but 37 points a game is pretty damn good. He's 6-2, which means he'll probably back up McClellan.

Miami's other three freshmen are Ja'Quan Newton, James Palmer and Chris Stowell.

Newton is out of Philly and a well-regarded point, so that gives Miami three pretty fair candidates. He averaged 21 ppg as a senior.

James Palmer was rated the #1 player in the DC region by ESPN. That means more in some years than others but it's still significant. He averaged 12 ppg, 5 boards and two assists as a junior; as a senior, he put up 15.7 ppg. Wake and Maryland were both interested.

Chris Stowell is listed on the roster, but we're not sure if he's a scholarship player or not.

Miami will no doubt be a lot happier when Uceda is eligible; until then, this is going to be one small team.

But whatever you think, remember this: Larranaga is a master coach. He's not really good; he's a master.

If you remember last season, Miami really struggled early. Miami lost to St. Francis and beat Georgia Southern, both in overtime. UCF, GW and Nebraska all tagged the 'Canes.

When ACC play started, Miami's scoring went down quickly, largely by design, as Larranaga realized his team couldn't win unless it kept the score down. There just wasn't enough firepower.

Despite everything, the Hurricanes ended up with a winning record, which seemed unlikely at the beginning of the season.

Which kind of underscores the value of Larranaga. He competes in the gym and he has a knack for finding unappreciated players. He finds ways to make things work.

Don't bet against him. Miami could use a bit more in the frontcourt, but this team should be able to score and defend against most guys, although big post players could cause problems.

Don't be surprised if Miami plays in the post-season. It will probably be the NIT, but given Larranaga's talent, Miami may well exceed expectations.