Shane Larkin

Can Miami really be the second best team in the ACC?

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We all know who the best team in the ACC is.

They just so happen to be the best team — well, at least the No. 1 team — in the country.

That’s Duke.

The title of the second best team in the ACC has been up for grabs, however.

Entering the season, the trendy pick to win the league was NC State, and based on the way that they’ve played of late, that’s still a possibility. Lorenzo Brown has played better of late, Scott Wood finally looked like a dangerous shooter against Stanford, TJ Warren has been a beast and Richard Howell is a double-double machine. But the bad news? Brown has been anything but consistent, CJ Leslie — the Wolfpack’s most talented player — has been their third best front court player, Tyler Lewis doesn’t appear ready to play at the ACC level and the team only goes seven deep.

North Carolina looks like they could end up being even more of a stretch. If the beatdown they took at the hands of Indiana wasn’t enough to convince, the fact that they’ve given up 55 points in a half to UAB and 61 points in a half to East Carolina should be a major cause for concern. (For comparison’s sake, UNC gave up a combined 116 points in those two halves while Georgetown gave up a total of 113 points in three straight wins over Tennessee, Texas and Towson.)

Florida State hasn’t been all that impressive. Maryland’s Alex Len has been sensational and Dez Wells has had a couple of really impressive performances, but until Maryland’s back court play gets more consistent, it will be tough to take the Terps seriously as much more than a tournament team.

That leaves us with Miami, who has won five straight games since they have gotten Durand Scott back into the lineup. Those five wins? At home against Detroit, at home against Michigan State, at UMass, at home against previously undefeated Charlotte (by 31) and, on Tuesday night, by 22 points at Conference USA contender UCF.

Could Miami be the second best team in the ACC?

Well, they have a front line big enough to compete with anyone in the league. Reggie Johnson is a double-double machine that happens to double as a rhino on the block with three-point range. Kenny Kadji is the perfect kind of stretch four that can provide some space for Johnson inside. Shane Larkin might be the most underrated point guard in the country, as he’s averaging 15.9 points, 3.9 assists and shooting 51.9% from three this season. Throw in Durand Scott (who is playing the best basketball of his career), Trey McKinney Jones, Rion Brown and Julian Gamble, and Miami has a balanced attack that features five players averaging double figures.

Miami picked the right season to peak. With the rest of the ACC down, Jim Laranaga has enough talent to make a push to be the second best team in the league.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Boise State loses guard Harwell to torn ACL

Leon Rice
Associated Press
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Expected to be one of the favorites in the Mountain West this season, Boise State’s perimeter ranks have shrunk by one player due to injury. Thursday it was reported by the Idaho Statesman that freshman guard Malek Harwell will redshirt after suffering a torn ACL in practice. Along with fellow freshman Paris Austin, Harwell is expected to be a key part of the Broncos’ future beyond the upcoming season.

Now, instead of competing with an experienced backcourt that includes four redshirt seniors, Harwell will work to get his knee back to full strength for the 2016-17 season.

Among the guards who will play significant minutes this season are Anthony Drmic, who took a medical redshirt last season, Montigo Alford, Mikey Thompson and grad transfer Lonnie Jackson (Boston College). Chandler Hutchison, who started in Boise State’s final 18 games of the 2014-15 season as a freshman, will also compete for playing time.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
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Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.