After the best season in Coral Gables in a long time, Jim Larrañaga will oversee a complete rebuild of Miami in 2013-2014. Losing the top six scorers from a conference champion will be tough, but Larrañaga is one of the few coaches that can handle such a task. Rion Brown is the only player who started a game last year (only six) and one of only two players who played in at least 34 games. An amalgam of transfers, recruits, and returnees will have to meld quickly to get the Canes back to the postseason.
The Hurricanes have numbers in the backcourt, but are proceeding without a set option at point guard. Originally, it looked as if Kansas State transfer Angel Rodriguez would be a perfect fit. However, they are not pursuing a waiver to clear him immediately due to a lingering injury. Now it appears that redshirt senior Garrius Adams and freshmen DeAndre Burnett, Manu Lecomte, and Cornelius Elder will attempt to run the team. Adams is more of swingman, but may see some time at the point to give the Canes a big lineup. He sat last season out. Burnett is a shooter and could provide a scoring threat at the point of attack. Elder is on a football scholarship, so it is unknown how ready he will be for minutes once the football season ends. Lecomte is a bit of an unknown coming from Belgium. If the committee approach can be reasonably effective, Larrañaga will be pleased.
The wing positions are more settled, with Brown all but having a starting spot locked up. Brown took advantage of not being the focus of defenses last year, but will need to improve his shooting as he will likely draw the opposition's best perimeter defender. The senior averaged 6.4 points in 22 mi Utes a season ago. Freshman Davon Reed will see time along with Adams at the 2 and 3 positions. Reed was well-regarded as a high school senior, but is not expected to be an immediate star.
This is the area that Miami will feel the attrition the most. The impact of the losses of Kenny Kadji, Julian Gamble, and Reggie Johnson can not be overstated. The only two returning players who saw action in more than half of the games for last season's Sweet 16 squad are sophomore center Tonye Jekiri and senior forward Erik Swoope. They combined for 3 points in 12.9 minutes per games. Jekiri in particular will need to make major strides offensively, but brings defensive and rebounding skills. If he can give the Canes 25 minutes or more as a scoring threat, they could surprise. Swoope is an undersized power forward who has a chance to shine in his final season in green and orange. Raphael Akpejiori is a senior who only saw 81 minutes last season. He will likely spell Jekiri and occasionally pair with him for a massive front line. DePaul transfer Donnavan Kirk will see time at power forward along with Swoope and junior college transfer James Kelly. Kirk was not a scorer during his time in Chicago, but will help provide depth and versatility in the post. Kelly may end up starting in an attempt to get some scoring from the big men.
For a rebuilding team, having a winnable non-conference schedule is key. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, that is in place this year. With the exception of the Wooden Legacy Tournament, the Canes could be favored in every game before conference play starts. Nebraska and Central Florida highlight those games, and a potential matchup against Marquette in the tournament will be their biggest test. In conference play, things will get a little tougher as Miami will see Florida State, NC State, Syracuse, and Virginia Tech twice.
While there is very little chance the Larrañaga's squad will repeat their championship performance of last season, there is hope for postseason play in 2014. Brown and Adams could be in line for breakout performances, but they will need help from the newcomers. While an NCAA tournament trip is asking too much, with a veteran coach and a successful system in place, I expect the Canes to grow throughout the season and perhaps end up in the NIT. A finish of anywhere from 8th to 12th in the ACC is likely.
There is no one on the roster with a proven history, but Rion Brown has to be the frontrunner for best fantasy player. He will likely provide double digit scoring due to his perimeter shooting ability. With good size for his position, he should improve his 2 rebounds per game from last season. Others that could be late round pick ups are Garrius Adams and DeAndre Burnett.