There have to be some bold predictions in my rankings or else I'd be boring. One of those is that the Miami Hurricanes will have a firm grip on being the fourth-best team in the ACC since six of their top seven scorers are back from last season.
In his second year as head coach, Jim Larranaga returns some more than capable scorers on the wing led by Durand Scott. The 6-5 combo guard didn't make the leap many expected him to as a junior, but should certainly be motivated to make the most of his senior campaign. There is terrific depth on the wing with Trey McKinney-Jones, Rion Brown, and Garrius Adams, who were all valuable contributors a year ago.
With Malcolm Grant graduating, Shane Larkin takes over as the full-time point guard. After choosing to stay in his home state, rather than attending DePaul where he originally committed, the son of former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin was named to the All-ACC Freshman Team. Combo guard Bishop Daniels, who redshirted last season due to a foot injury, could see some time at the point, and Scott is capable of running the show as well.
The Hurricanes also have quality depth and balance inside, led by the physical Reggie Johnson. He missed the first nine games of last season due to a knee injury and proved to be a force in the paint when healthy. Florida transfer Kenny Kadji made the most of his first season at Miami, bringing more size inside but also having the ability to stretch defenses with his outside shooting. At 6-10 and 6-11 respectively, Johnson and Kadji are tough match ups for any opposing frontcourt.
Miami will also get a boost off its bench with the return of 6-10 Julian Gamble, who started thirteen games as a junior but sat out all of last year due to a torn ACL. Juniors Erik Swoope and Raphael Akpejiori provide more depth at the forward, while seven-foot freshman Tonye Jekiri doesn't figure to make an immediate impact, though with his size and upside, has the potential to be the center of the future for the Hurricanes.
There are no real question marks for Miami this season. The team has a solid, experienced starting five with quality depth all across the roster. Now the pressure is on for Larranaga and company to pull it all together and make the most of their talented collection of players.
Player to Watch: Durand Scott, G
Since Hurricanes have solid balance across their roster, they doesn't need Scott to have a monster senior year. The one positive about him is that he can still impact the game without needing to shoot the rock. With that being said, showing more of a killer instinct will only increase the chances of Miami being able to compete with the likes of N.C. State, Duke, and North Carolina in the ACC.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/24 vs. Detroit
11/28 vs. Michigan State (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)
12/1 at UMass
12/14 vs. Charlotte
12/18 at UCF
12/22 vs. Hawaii (Diamond Head Classic)
12/23 vs. Arizona/East Tennessee State (Diamond Head Classic)
12/25 vs. San Diego State/San Francisco/Ole Miss/Indiana State (Diamond Head Classic)