Poor Jim Larranaga. He left a stable George Mason (no, not the former director of CTU) program to walk into a potential mess with the Miami Hurricanes. Meanwhile, Frank Haith bolted Miami at the perfect time, right before the storm hit and scandal rocked the University's athletic department. Add in serious injuries to a pair of big men and Larranaga will have his hands full this season with the Hurricanes.
After testing the NBA Draft waters this summer, starting center Reggie Johnson suffered a torn meniscus in late June. He is expected to be out five-six months after surgery, meaning he likely will not be back on the court until ACC play at earliest. (If there is one positive from Johnson's injury, it is that he has slimmed down during rehab.) Add in a torn ACL that will sideline key reserve Julian Gamble for the season, and the Hurricanes have questions on the interior with only three healthy post players to start the year.
Florida transfer Kenny Kadji will be one of the players trying to fill the void left behind by Johnson and Gamble. He has the size to be a factor on the glass and as a shot blocker. Erik Swoope and Raphael Akpejiori both played sparingly last year as freshmen but will see expanded roles until Johnson returns.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Larranaga utilize a small starting five with DeQuan Jones at the four. The 6-7 wing has suffered through an extremely disappointing collegiate career, considering he was a five-star recruit coming out of high school. His length and athleticism offer the Hurricanes some versatility, but he has shown zero resemblance of a consistent jump shot since arriving on campus.
With uncertainty in the frontcourt, Miami will rely on their experienced backcourt to carry the load. The duo of Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott provides the Hurricanes with guard play capable of scoring but also handling the rock. Garrius Adams showed improvement during his sophomore season and will start on the wing alongside Grant and Scott.
The addition of UMKC transfer Trey McKinney-Jones will give the Hurricanes a boost off the bench. It will be interesting to see how his transition goes playing against high-level competition on a night-in, night-out basis, something he did not do in the Summit League. Rion Brown is coming off a solid freshman campaign and is another quality option on the wing. Freshman Bishop Daniels is an athletic combo guard who will try to work his way into a crowded backcourt.
There are several ACC teams experiencing a transition year including Miami. If the Hurricanes can stay afloat until Johnson returns and the team allows Larranaga to coach them up, they have the talent to finish in the upper half of the conference and possibly make the NCAA Tournament.
Player to Watch: Durand Scott, G
Scott has always had the reputation of being dangerous off the bounce, but he also improved his three-point shooting as a sophomore, connecting on 39.1% of his triple tries. He is a well-rounded player, and if he can take his game to the next level, Scott could be entering his final year at Miami before heading to the NBA.