The Miami Hurricanes Men’s Basketball team is in its 69th season of competition. Miami is coming off its 3rd straight NCAA Tournament appearance, which ties a school record. This record will hopefully be broken this year as the Hurricanes aim for their 4th straight. Unfortunately, it will not be an easy road. So without further delay, here is your 2018-2019 Miami Hurricanes Basketball preview:
The 2017-2018 Season
The Hurricanes’ last season did not end how fans would’ve like for it to. The Hurricanes finished a strong campaign going 22-10 including winning their final 4 games to finish 3rd in the ACC. However, this winning streak quickly ended as they were dismantled by North Carolina in the ACC Tournament, 82 – 65. Upon being bounced from the ACC Tournament, Miami landed in the NCAA Tournament as a 6 seed. Which isn’t too bad. Still, the Canes had their hearts broken by Sister Jean and the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers on a buzzer beater 64-62 in the first round.
The University of Miami opened last season ranked #13. They rose as high as #6 with 11 straight wins, before falling to New Mexico State in the Diamond Head Classics Semi-final. This would be their only non-conference loss. ACC play then got off to a rocky start as the Hurricanes dropped 3 of their first five ACC games (but they did beat Florida State so that’s nice). The Hurricanes ended up finishing their ACC schedule with 4 straight wins by 3 pts or less. This included ruining senior night for the #9 Tar Heels on a long-distance buzzer beater. A senior himself, Jaquan Newton, hit the shot ironically. In case anyone has forgotten, here’s the clip below in all its glory:
video courtesy of ACC Digital Network
The coaching staff is led by Jim Larranaga in his 8th Season with the Miami Hurricanes and his 35th season overall. Coach L has a career record of 631 – 413 (.604) in his career. He has a record of 161 – 79 (.671) in Miami with 20+ wins in 6 of the last 7 seasons. The only other ACC teams that can say that are Virginia, Duke, and UNC (pretty good company, if you ask me). The New York native has the second most wins at Miami of any coach. He is also number 11th all-time in wins among active head coaches.
The rest of the coaching staff are very experienced. Starting with Chris Caputo who has coached with Larranaga for 17 years. Caputo serves as the “offensive coordinator,” while Adam Fisher serves as the defensive coordinator. Alvin “Pooh” Williamson is a new addition to the staff. Pooh spent his last two seasons as an assistant coach for the Memphis Tigers. He handles the scouting of all of Miami’s opponents.
Key Roster Changes
The Miami Hurricanes were loaded with talent last year headlined by Lonnie Walker IV, Bruce Brown Jr., and Ja’Quan Newton and now must look to replace all three. Lonnie Walker IV and Bruce Brown Jr, both of which averaged better than 11.5 points per game last year, both declared for the draft. Walker was taken number 18 overall by the San Antonio Spurs while Brown Jr went to the Detroit Pistons in the second round. We wish those guys both the best of luck in the NBA!
Typically, in a section named “key roster changes” there would be a discussion of departures and the recruiting class coming in but, unfortunately, due to the FBI corruption investigation (WHICH WE WERE COMPLETELY RECUSED FROM) there is no 2018 Hurricanes recruiting class. I’m not salty at all, I promise. Despite the recruiting struggles, Miami did add three very talented transfer players in Zach Johnson (Florida Gulf Coast), Anthony Mack (Wyoming), and Kameron McGusty. McGusty, the talented 6’5” guard must sit out a year due to transfer rules, but Johnson and Mack are ready to contribute right away.
In the Hurricanes two games so far (wins vs. Barry U and Lehigh), it appears that Johnson will be the more impactful player as the season wears on. Last year at Florida Gulf Coast, Johnson was an All-ASUN selection while averaging 16ppg and will be expected to carry a lot of the ball-handling responsibilities when Chris Lykes is not on the floor. Anthony Mack was red-shirted last year at Wyoming and did not play.
While the Hurricanes did some key players after last season, the current team is very experienced. UM is returning 63% of its scoring, 65% of its rebounding, and 46% of its assists from last year’s team per the Hurricane Athletics department. The roster boats seven upperclassmen (3 seniors and 4 juniors) all of which have combined for 502 games and all of which have appeared in at least one NCAA Tournament. Here is a breakdown of the current roster along with their 2017-2018 stats:
Roster chart courtesy of the University of Miami Athletic Department.
|G||1||Dejan (DJ) Vasiljevic||Jr||6-3||184||9.0||2.4||0.4|
|G||3||Anthony Lawrence II||Sr||6-7||207||8.9||6.6||2.4|
DJ Vasiljevic led the ACC in 3-point FG percentage last year at 41.1% while Dewan Hernandez (formerly Huell) is the team’s top returning scorer and rebounder. SIDE NOTE: Hernandez is currently being withheld from competition as the NCAA and University review his eligibility. There is no clear timeline on the situation. Chris Lykes will be the primary ball handler and is the most exciting and electric player in college basketball (that is an objective fact, no bias at all) while Anthony Lawrence will be a stat sheet stuffer this season for the ‘Canes. Deng Gak will play his first season this year after red-shirting and sitting out last season. Him and Izundu will be key guys on both ends of the floor as their length makes them both great rebounders and shot blockers.
Miami has been projected to finish 10th in the ACC this season. If they want to exceed those expectations, they will have to navigate a very tough schedule. A schedule that includes 13 games against teams that played in the NCAA Tournament last year. Miami’s three games to open the season are against teams picked to win their respective conferences. Along with 10 opponents currently ranked in the top 10, with 6 being on the road. The three toughest games for Miami this season will be February 2nd at #4 Virginia, February 9th at #7 UNC, and finally they will have to travel to Cameron Indoor on March 2 to face the #1 team in the country, Duke.
The ACC is one of, if not, the toughest conference in the country featuring 7 top 25 teams. Three of those teams are in the top 10. The ACC also currently boasts 6 coaches in the top 25 in all time wins:
- 1 – Coach K – Duke – 1,028
- 4 – Roy Williams – UNC – 425
- 8 – Leonard Hamilton – FSU – 306
- 13 – Tony Bennet – Virginia – 220
- 21 – Jim Larranaga – Miami – 161
- 23 – Brad Brownell – Clemson – 150
Last year’s regular season and tournament champion, Virginia, is favored to repeat. Along with Duke and UNC being favored by some media outlets. Duke brought in one of the best recruiting classes ever! They landed 3 of the top 5 recruits in the country in RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Cam Reddish. Miami will also have to deal with Luke Maye at UNC. Maye averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds last year including two 30 pt 15 reb games. Another player to watch in the ACC is Tyus Battle at Syracuse. He leads all current ACC players in career points with 1,105.
The Miami Hurricanes are an experienced and talented group. They face an uphill battle this season if they hope to reach their 4th straight NCAA Tournament. The ACC is LOADED with coaching and talent. However, in the famous words of Ric Flair, “If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.”