Season Preview: Miami
Last Season: 21-12, NCAA 2nd Round
Key Losses: Davon Reed, Kamari Murphy
Key Additions: Lonnie Walker, Chris Lykes
Despite losing Manu Lecomte and Angel Rodriguez in the past two years, Miami is becoming a constant in the NCAA Tournament. Last season, the Hurricanes were just a pedestrian 10-8 in the ACC and 21-12 overall, but that was good enough to earn them an 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Despite falling to Michigan State in the first round, the general consensus around Coral Gables in 2016-17 was that Miami exceeded expectations.
One year later that will be difficult to do as the pressure is on for Coach Jim Larrañaga. Led by Ja’Quan Newton and Bruce Brown, this year’s Miami team will not struggle to score the ball. Both averaged over 10 ppg last season, and Brown, now a sophomore, should take another leap in his scoring totals this season after showing it in just spurts last year. Brown scored a career high 30 points in a home win over UNC and 25 points in a home win against Duke, so not only can he score, but he can score against elite opposition.
Newton has been an outstanding scorer since he stepped foot on the Miami campus, and add in highly-touted freshman Lonnie Walker, and this year’s Miami team has an extremely talented backcourt, especially on the offensive end. The weakness on this Hurricanes team is on the inside. Kamari Murphy is a big loss as he was a reliable big man for Miami last season and the vocal leader of that group. That spot appears to be filled by either Ebuka Izundu or Dewan Huell. Both came off the bench last season for the Canes, but expect one to earn the starting role and the bulk of the minutes at that center position.
A year ago, the main concern of the Miami team was their lack of a true point guard, and with Newton running the point again this year, that may still be an issue. However, Newton along with Brown and potentially even Walker can all get their own shots and score off the dribble. So, that shouldn’t be too big of a problem this season, and the bigger worry should be the production Miami gets down low. In 2017-18, the Hurricanes should have a successful regular season and even break into the Top 25, but another deep postseason run for Coach Larranaga looks unlikely. Unlike in the regular season, postseason success usually depends on point guard play and leadership. Both of those hinge on Ja’Quan Newton, and while his scoring ability is unquestioned, his leadership and ability to create for others are in doubt. That could ultimately mean another early exit for the Canes in the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Ja’Quan Newton
SG: Lonnie Walker
SF: Bruce Brown
PF: Anthony Lawrence
C: Ebuka Izundu