Can Miami be a sleeper in the ACC this season?
Andy Glockner of SI.com put together a solid list of teams that dealt with their fair share of bad luck last season.
As Glockner writes, don’t be surprised to see USC, Memphis, Utah State, Denver and St. Joseph’s put together some impressive improvement this season. USC and St. Joe’s, in particular. The Trojans are coming off of a season where they were absolutely devastated by injuries. But with Jio Fontan and Dewayne Dedmon healthy, and an impressive crop of transfers joining the rotation, don’t be surprised when Kevin O’Neill’s notoriously staunch defensive teams start scoring.
Over on Hawk Hill, St. Joe’s will finally be reaching the peak of their return to prominence. This is a very talented group that played last season with a rotation that consisted of a junior, a freshman and five sophomores. I see them being a top 25 team and a challenger for the A-10 crown.
Well, I’ve got another one for you, even if it may have fallen out of the range for the column: the Miami Hurricanes.
Last season was supposed to be the year that the ‘Canes broke through and made a run to the NCAA tournament, but seemingly every break they got was bad. It started last July, when Reggie Johnson injured his knee and was forced to undergo surgery. It continued a month later, when Yahoo’s explosive piece on the scandal involving a Miami booster hit the interwebs and implicated Frank Haith and the basketball team. That led to players like DeQuan Jones, Durand Scott and Johnson getting suspended, a concern that undoubtedly hung over the head of the entire team throughout the year.
And through it all, if Scott hadn’t been suspended for Miami’s 82-71 loss to Florida State in the ACC tournament and the ‘Canes had
one won that game, they might have been an NCAA tournament team.
More importantly, however, Miami returns a roster that has quite a bit of promise. It starts in the back court, where Scott, Shane Larkin and Trey McKinney-Jones headline a deep and talented group. Up front, the Hurricanes will have one of the better starting front lines in the country in Johnson and Kenny Ladji. Johnson was expected to have a big season as a junior before he got hurt; he averaged a double-double as a sophomore. Kadji had a two-month stretch during January and February were he was arguably the best stretch-four in the country. He’s 6-foot-11, athletic, and a 41.8% three-point shooter, also known as the perfect compliment to the burly Johnson.
The ACC is going to be wide-open next season.
Don’t be surprised if the Canes make a run.