December 2, 2020

Independent analysis and commentary on UVA athletics

ACC Offseason Refresh – #5 Miami

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Sharps have pinned Miami as a team with a great shot to crash the top of the ACC this year. It hasn’t been that long since Larranaga’s ‘Canes were competing for ACC titles and making solid runs into the NCAA Tournament. The last couple seasons, though, have seen lethargy take hold in Coral Gables. With four seniors on this year’s roster, does Miami get back to winning?

Coach: Jim Larranaga; 660-447 in 34 Seasons Overall; 190-113 (87-75) in 9 seasons at Miami

2019-20 Record: 15-16 (7-13); T-10th in ACC

2019-20 KenPom Efficiency:

National: AdjO: 107.7 (79th of 353)
AdjD: 101.3 (149th of 353)
ACC: AdjO: 97.3 (10th of 15)
AdjD: 105.5 (12th of 15)

 

Roster Roundup

Departures:

SG Dejan Vasiljevic (Graduated)
31 G, 33.8 mpg, 13.2 ppg, 1 apg, 34% 3P%
F/C Keith Stone (Graduated)
18 G, 23.3 mpg, 4.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 35% FG%
F/C Sam Waardenburg (Medical)
30 G, 28.1 mpg, 5.9 ppg, 6 rpg, 41% FG%

Returners:

PG Chris Lykes (SR)
26 G, 30.1 mpg, 15.4 ppg, 2.4 apg, 38% 3P%
G Isaiah Wong (SO)
31 G, 21.2 mpg, 7.7 ppg, 1 apg, 37% 3P%
SG Harlond Beverly (SO)
31 G, 19.9 mpg, 7.2 ppg, 2.3 apg, 22% 3P%
G/F Kameron McGusty (RS SR)
28 G, 29.5 mpg, 12.5 ppg, 4 rpg, 33% 3P%
PF Anthony Walker (SO)
25 G, 12.3 mpg, 3.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 41% FG%
F/C Deng Gak (RS SO)
7 G, 12 mpg, 1.7 ppg, 2 rpg, 63% FG%
C Rodney Miller (RS SR)
30 G, 24.1 mpg, 7.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 58% FG%

Additions:

SF Earl Timberlake (4-star FR)
F Matt Cross (4-star FR) 
C Nysier Brooks (RS SR Transfer, Cincinatti)
35 G, 22.9 mpg, 8.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 54% FG%

*Projected starters in bold

Outlook

The Canes are entering “no excuses” time for Larranaga this season. Their only losses right now are shooting guard Dejan Vasiljevic and barely-used grad transfer Keith Stone to graduation as well as the disappointing season-ending injury to stretch-big Waardenburg. They’ll have four senior / RS Seniors to lean on in PG Lykes, wing Kam McGusty, and big men Rodney Miller and Nysier Brooks (last played at Cinci in 2018-19). The big man pairing is solid if unspectacular, especially if they can finally get some supporting production from the oft-injured but promising young Deng Gak.

But this team is make-or-break on the perimeter. Established veterans Lykes and McGusty will be supported by a quartet of 4-star youngsters: sophomores Isaiah Wong and Harlond Beverly (7.7 and 7.2 ppg respectively last year) and rookies Earl Timberlake and Matt Cross. It’s a lot of backcourt talent, and hopes will be high, but here’s the deal. The problem with Miami in recent years hasn’t been scoring, it’s been defense. They don’t have a defensive identity and in recent years have only buckled down in spurts. They don’t have any athletic rangy rim protectors, no one fits that swiss-army-knife combo forward role other than low-usage sophomore Anthony Walker. Beverly, Wong, Timberlake, and Cross will play a ton of minutes but they’re young. Expect a lot of zone, it’s the best way to hide Miller and Brook’s lack of mobility defensively, but non-Syracuse zone’s can get picked apart by good offenses, and they’re not going to magically become a good rebounding team overnight (they were near bottom of the ACC both offensively and defensively).

Even with the relative roster stability and fresh influx of talent, the ‘Canes will need some things to come together to be better than a .500 in the ACC team for the first time since the 2017-18 season. Maybe they’re an NIT team, maybe they get to a lower seed in the NCAAT (probably 6-seed ceiling). It’ll be an improvement over recent years, but as a program they’re just not consistent anymore, and that means that while they’ll win some games, maybe more than usual, they’ll probably still lose a few disappointing ones too.