Tuesday, June 29, 2010

ACC basketball preview: Miami


2009-10 record: 20-13 overall, 4-12 ACC (12th)

Postseason: None

Projected starting lineup: G Durand Scott, G Garrius Adams, F DeQuan Jones, F Julian Gamble, F Reggie Johnson


• Pieces that fit together

Durand Scott, as he showed by scoring 29 points against UNC and 21 against Duke in the final month, is going to be a star in this league. He's a big guard who can create his own shot and get to the foul line.

Miami coach Frank Haith ran a lot of high, ball screens for Scott at the ACC tournament and basically gave him the freedom to run a freelance offense.

The reason Miami was successful in the ACC tournament, though, beating Wake Forest and Virginia Tech before pushing Duke in a three-point loss in the semifinals, is because other players learned how to fill in the roles around Scott.

Reggie Johnson, at 6-10 and 295 pounds, was born to set screens and rebound. He did both with consistency, which was a revelation compared to the enigmatic Dwayne Collins, who is more talented but also prone to disappear.

In Johnson and Julian Gamble the Canes have a pair of "WYSIWYG" forwards to complement Scott.

Junior wing DeQuan Jones also had a coming-out party at the ACC tournament, with a pair of 14-point games and using his athleticism to get to the basket and score easy points in transition. His maturation will be the determining factor in how far this Miami team goes.

• Senior guard Adrian Thomas, who led the ACC in 3-point shooting percentage, got an extra season of eligibility from the NCAA. He did so because of injury issues, but when it comes to the NCAA's Forrest Gump-injury policies, it's a bonus that Thomas was given another season.


• ACC schedule

The Canes have four games against Duke and Florida State, which could be four losses, and another four with Clemson and Georgia Tech, which have a 2-2 split written all over them.

That doesn't leave much wiggle room, although, with the right wins, the Canes could pull a "Georgia Tech" (the opposite of a Virginia Tech) and parlay a 7-9 ACC record into an NCAA bid.

• Summer break

One of the big mistakes we (the media) make in preseason predictions, in any sport, is thinking that the way a team ends a season is how they'll begin the next season, like nothing happens in between.

Miami played well in the final two weeks, for the most part, because it had been humbled by such a bad ACC showing (4-12 and last place, as correctly predicted only here).

Truth is, especially in college, a lot changes happen in the offseason. Maybe Miami will miss James Dews and Dwayne Collins, I don't know, maybe they were a good influence in the locker room. Truth is, every season is different, even if most of the parts are the same.

Bottom line

Miami has talent, and more than just Scott, but the question is how focused and cohesive will this group be?

Scott will provide leadership, and will get a boost in the backcourt by freshman Rion Brown, but it's up to Jones, Thomas and Malcolm Grant to provide consistent support.

For a team that won four ACC games last year, a 7-9 season would be a good sign of progress and enough to keep Haith employed for another year.

Returning players
G Durand Scott Soph. 10.3 4.0 3.4
G Malcom Grant Jr. 9.6 1.9 3.5
F Adrian Thomas Sr. 7.3 2.7 1.4
F Reggie Johnson Soph. 6.4 4.6 0.4
F DeQuan Jones Jr. 5.7 2.1 0.5
G Garrius Adams Soph. 3.8 2.1 0.6
F Julian Gamble Jr. 3.5 2.9 0.7
F Donnavan Kirk R-Fr. 2.5 2.2 0.0
F Dwayne Collins 12.0 7.8 1.2
G James Dews 11.5 2.9 1.6
F Cyrus McGowan 3.2 2.6 0.4
G Antoine Allen (transfer) 2.9 0.8 0.7
G Rion Brown Fr. 6-5 190 63
F Raphael Akpejiori Fr. 6-9 230
G Erik Swoope Fr. 6-4 210

Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep, scout.com:

Brown: "Brown's the headliner who is fresh off a big season. He an athlete with a jumper and propensity to score. Sounds like a big-time Miami contributor to us."

Swoope: "Is this Frank Haith's second coming of P.J. Tucker or Adrian Thomas? Time will tell but he drew positive reviews for his toughness, especially in the lane."