Monday’s game was a win for the Hurricanes, but not by much. Distraction takes a look at what to expect from this season based on Friday’s 2013 home opener:
With seven seconds remaining in overtime, Davon Reed rose up to shoot a corner three that would have given the Miami Hurricanes their first lead of overtime and almost certainly would have won them the game.
The ball rimmed out and ensured that the Canes would leave the court with their heads and spirits down. They had just lost their 2013 home opener to the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers – a team that went 12-18 last year and plays in a conference whose signature member school is Robert Morris.
More astoundingly, however, is the fact that Reed is a freshman. An 18-year-old, who is playing in his first college basketball regular season game ever, taking the most important shot of the game.
In many ways it seemed prophetic, a sign of things to come, a microcosm of how this upcoming season could turn out.
After the game a visibly disappointed Larranaga contributed much of the loss to the fact his team was young, inexperienced and nervous.
“I think anxiety plays a big part with young players,” Larranaga said. “They’re not as confident.”
Much of this lack of confidence stems from the fact that the Canes just went through a major talent hemorrhage only a couple months ago. Zero returning starters. Nine newcomers. Only six players from last year back (four on scholarship). Miami has bleeded dry.
In terms of tangibles this means that Miami is returning only 13.3 percent of points scored (9.3 ppg), 14.2 percent of rebounds (5.1 rpg) and 1.0 percent of assists (1.1 per game) – no other Atlantic Coast Conference team has lower numbers in those categories. The fact that freshman guard Deandre Burnett, who scored the third-most points in the nation as a senior with 37 ppg, is out for the season with a left wrist injury obviously doesn’t help the Canes’s cause either.
“We have fewer weapons than we’ve ever had,” said Larranaga at the post-game press conference. “Last year six guys could score in double figures on a given night. Now we don’t have anybody who averaged over six points a game in their college career. So we’re going to have a hard time manufacturing points.”
The Hurricanes’s scoring woes became glaringly obvious on Friday when Miami went 0 for 15 from behind the arc, something that hasn’t happened since Dec. 25, 2012. Unfortunately, Miami wasn’t any better from inside the half circle, shooting a lowly 31 percent from the field. The Canes’s lackluster offensive performance triggered a domino effect.
“I think our offense really hurt our defense,” Larranaga said. “When guys are not making shots, they’re just not really as sharp defensively.”
Meanwhile, as Miami was struggling to put up points against a team that last year gave up an average of 71.4 points per game, other ACC foes were cruising.
Duke scored a whopping 111 points to crush Davidson. The North Carolina defeated Oakland by 23 points. Virginia held James Madison to 41 points in its victory. Syracuse put up 82 points in a win against Cornell. Not surprisingly, there were five ACC teams ranked in the AP Top 25 preseason poll.
With the additions of Syracuse and Notre Dame (and soon Louisville) a conference that already was the premier basketball conference in the country has gotten even stronger. The ACC is now the unequivocal best in the nation in terms of basketball.
Last year, the Hurricanes were able to take advantage of the perfect storm: a stacked, talented roster and a down year for the ACC (by its standards anyway). This season will be quite different. It’ll be a rebuilding year for a team that now needs perennial role players and freshmen to step up and take charge.
Miami’s leading scorer and rebounder on Friday was Donnavan Kirk. Coincidentally, he is also one of the older players on the team at 22 years of age.
“I think this game was a feeling out process right here,” said Kirk after the game on Friday. “I think there is so much to learn from this as far as learning from each other and me learning about my teammates and coaches learning about us and being able to figure out how to do it.”
There will be a lot of that this year: feeling out, learning from each other, figuring out how to do it.
It’ll be a season for freshmen to grow, former role players to assert themselves in the starting lineup, and diamonds in the rough to show their sparkle here and there. It’ll be the very definition of a rebuilding year.
And who knows, maybe five months from now Davon Reed makes that shot. Only time will tell.
words_patrick riley. photo_zach beeker.