Picked to finish fifth in the ACC preseason poll, head coach Jim Larrañaga’s Miami Hurricanes were considered by some to be a sleeper in the conference title race. After the Hurricanes’ showing Friday night against No. 16 Utah, it may be time to give them even more credit than that.
Sheldon McClellan scored 27 points and fellow senior Tonye Jekiri was a star in the post, accounting for a career-high 20 points to go along with 12 rebounds, as Miami blew out the Runnin’ Utes by the final score of 90-66. While Utah’s first half foul trouble didn’t help matters, Miami took over from the start and didn’t look back. The Hurricanes were efficient offensively, shooting 53.4 percent from the field, 9-for-17 from three and committing just seven turnovers.
By comparison Utah committed 16 turnovers and Miami made them pay for many of those mistakes, racking up 22 points off of turnovers. Larry Krystkowiak’s team shot the ball well, making half of their shots from the field. But when you lose the turnover battle as decisively as they did, field goal percentage doesn’t matter much at all.
Angel Rodriguez was solid at the point against a team still looking to account for what was lost at the position with Delon Wright’s graduation, scoring 11 points and dishing out four assists with just one turnover. Miami isn’t a team that will post a high assist rate due to their use of the dribble to get things going offensively, and Friday night just 13 of their 31 field goals were assisted.
But when they’re clicking things open up by way of the ball screen, either for the ball-handler, screener or wings, or breaking down their man off the dribble. Utah looked to a zone defense at times to slow down the Hurricanes but they couldn’t find the right answer for either McClellan or Jekiri, with Miami’s two leading scorers combining to shoot 18-for-22 from the field.
Next up for Miami is No. 22 in the title game of the Puerto Rico Tipoff Sunday night, giving them one more chance to make a national statement before returning stateside. Given the expectations surrounding North Carolina, Duke and Virginia, it would be unfair to paint Miami’s placement in the preseason ACC poll as some kind of “disrespect.” If anything, when combined with the Hurricanes’ play in San Juan it simply shows just how deep the conference will be this season.
#POSTERIZED: Sheldon McClellan throws down massive alley-oop (VIDEO)
On Monday, Miami guard Sheldon McClellan was named ACC Player of the Week after averaging 24.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists per game in two wins for the Hurricanes.
The back court received more good news besides McClellan’s accolades, as sophomore guard Davon Reed is on track to rejoin the No. 15 team in the country sooner than expected, according to Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the Sun-Sentinel.
In early September, Reed was ruled out 4-6 months following surgery on his left knee. The team was intending on having Reed back in the line up until at least January. However, the Sun-Sentinel is reporting that Reed took part in warmups on Friday night against South Alabama.
“How quickly we can actually put him in a game. … I talked to him yesterday and said ‘You let me know when you’re ready. I’m ready to put you in tomorrow,'” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga told Cabrera Chirinos. “He’s not ready for that yet. He’s only had maybe an hour and a half of practice, but what Davon provides this team differently is some experience at defending and rebounding the way I want our players to do it.”
Larrañaga is hoping to get Reed back on the floor at some point this month. From the looks of it, the recovery looks to be going well:
Reed, who averaged 6.6 points per game last season, will join a deep perimeter for the Hurricanes with McClellan, Angel Rodriguez, Manu Lecomte (all averaging double figures), Deandre Burnett, James Palmer and freshman Ja’Quan Newton all logging more than 14 minutes per game.
Miami will take on its second ranked opponent this season on Tuesday night, hosting No. 24 Illinois, part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
With nine players entering their first season playing for Jim Larrañaga, there weren’t high expectations for the Miami Hurricanes prior to the start of the 2014-15 campaign. Miami was picked to finish tenth in the ACC’s preseason media poll, which is exactly where they wound up last season. However after what the Hurricanes have managed to accomplish in the last seven days, there may be a need to reevaluate Larrañaga’s Hurricanes.
Sunday evening Miami capped a 4-0 week with a 77-58 win over Charlotte in the title game of the Gildan Charleston Classic, going on a 22-6 second half run that removed all doubt. Texas transfer Sheldon McClellan led five Hurricanes in double figures with 19 points to go along with eight rebounds, and as a team Miami shot 50 percent from the field. The difference offensively was what Miami was able to do inside of the arc, as they shot 6-for-22 from three.
Thanks to a mixture of good ball movement and spacing, Miami shot 63.2% from two and scored 44 of their 77 points in the paint. Add in the fact that the Hurricanes were able to convert 19 Charlotte turnovers into 27 points, and it isn’t all that difficult to see why Miami moved to 5-0 for the first time since the 2009-10 season. Coincidentally, Miami won the Charleston Classic that season as well.
While the two transfer guards, McClellan and point guard Angel Rodriguez, have received a significant amount of attention during Miami’s run of success this is a balanced team. Junior center Tonye Jekiri added 11 points, seven rebounds and two blocks against Charlotte, and guards Manu Lecomte (15 points) and James Palmer (12) also finished the game in double figures. Balance is going to be the key for Miami as they look to improve on last season’s results, despite what Rodriguez’s heroics in Gainesville may have led some to believe.
Miami shot 50 percent or better in two of their three games in Charleston, and just as importantly held their opponents below 40 percent in two games as well (Drexel and Akron). Charlotte, which lost Braxton Ogbueze in the first half to a knee injury, struggled to achieve the balance they enjoyed in their two tournament wins, which was a product of both Obgueze’s absence and Miami’s work on the defensive end.
Four wins in seven days is quite the accomplishment for a team with so many new pieces, and to be fair the Hurricanes won’t be “whole” for quite some time. Ivan Cruz Uceda won’t be eligible to play until January 13, and he’ll give Miami a big man who’s more than capable of holding his own on the boards. And the Hurricanes have also been without guard Davon Reed, who suffered an injury in early September and at the time was expected to miss anywhere from four to six months.
Miami’s had to make do with the pieces they currently have, and thus far the Hurricanes have looked good doing so.
The wing position in college basketball this season will be fun to keep track of. It can be argued that from a depth standpoint this is the strongest position for incoming freshmen, with two players expected to be NBA Draft lottery selections in the near future and others expected to have a significant impact on their team’s fortunes. But there are also skilled veterans among the ranks, including one who reached the Final Four last season and another whose team fell one win short of that goal. What’s the common bond amongst many of these players? Versatility, which allows them to impact games in multiple facets.
Below are some of the best wings in college basketball this season, beginning with a gifted freshman from the Pac-12.
1. Stanley Johnson, Arizona: Johnson has the build of a pro and the skill set to match, as he’s capable of scoring at all three levels with great consistency. He’s no slouch on the defensive end either, which is key when fitting into what was one of the nation’s best defensive teams a season ago. In a season without a clear-cut choice for national Player of the Year, Arizona’s freshman wing could be right in the mix come March.
2. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin: Dekker went from reserve to starter in 2013-14 and his productivity was one reason for the Badgers’ trek to the Final Four. Dekker averaged 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, shooting nearly 47 percent from the field. If he can raise his three-point shooting back to freshman year levels (39.1%), and he looked better shooting the ball at the LeBron James Skills Academy in July, Dekker becomes an even tougher assignment for opposing teams.
3. Delon Wright, Utah: The late Bum Phillips’ words regarding Earl Campbell may apply to Wright when it comes to discussing the most versatile players in college basketball: “he may not be in a class by himself, but it don’t take long to call roll.” Wright (15.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 5.3 apg) was a pivotal figure for the Utes in 2013-14, leading the team in scoring and assists. It could be argued that Wright should be on the lead guards list given how often he’s allowed to initiate the offense for Larry Krystkowiak’s team, but he fits in at any of the three perimeter positions.
4. Kelly Oubre, Kansas: One of three freshmen to make the top ten in our list, Oubre has the skill set needed to be one of the most gifted scorers in the country immediately. The 6-foot-8 lefty has a slight build, but he can finish through contact and is a good perimeter shooter as well. Oubre also uses ball screens well, an attribute that was on display at the adidas Nations camp in August. Given the production Kansas lost on the wing in the form of Andrew Wiggins, Oubre will have plenty of chances to put points on the board.
5. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona: Hollis-Jefferson is one of the best on-ball defenders in the country, and he was very good around the basket as a freshman. The question for Hollis-Jefferson (9.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg in 2013-14) is a simple one: how much has he improved his perimeter shooting over the summer? Hollis-Jefferson showed progress in July at the Lebron camp, and a consistent perimeter shot would make him an even tougher player for opponents to defend.
6. Treveon Graham, VCU: The 6-foot-6 senior has been a consistently productive player for Shaka Smart throughout his career, averaging 15.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game last season. Graham can certainly shoot the ball from the perimeter, but he’s good in the mid-range game and can put the ball on the deck as well. He’ll be one of the leaders for a team expected by many to win the Atlantic 10.
7. Justin Jackson, North Carolina: The third freshman in the top ten, the 6-foot-8 Jackson can score both inside and out for the Tar Heels in 2014-15. As a high school senior Jackson averaged 31.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game, and his length makes him a nuisance on the defensive end of the floor.
8. Aaron White, Iowa: With Roy Devyn Marble having moved on, the 6-foot-8 White will be an even more important player for the Hawkeyes in 2014-15. As a junior White averaged 12.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, shooting 58.6% from the field. The loss of Marble should open up more opportunities for White, especially when it comes to the mid-range game where he was so successful a season ago.
9. Branden Dawson, Michigan State: Dawson’s had to navigate injuries for most of his career in East Lansing, but there should be little doubt regarding his skill level. Last season Dawson averaged 11.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per contest, and given the amount of production the Spartans lost (Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Adreian Payne) the senior will need to be even more influential on the offensive end.
10. Wesley Saunders, Harvard: Saunders is one of the leaders for the Crimson, having averaged 14.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game as a junior. Saunders’ versatility is one of his greatest attributes, and he’s also done a good job of getting to the foul line in each of the last two seasons.
THE NEXT TEN
11. Anthony Brown, Stanford
12. Justise Winslow, Duke
13. Winston Shepard III, San Diego State
14. Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina
15. Bryce Dejean-Jones, Iowa State
16. Sam Thompson, Ohio State
17. Dustin Hogue, Iowa State
18. Theo Pinson, North Carolina
19. Kyle Collinsworth, BYU
20. Anthony Drmic, Boise State
ALSO CONSIDERED: Justin Anderson (Virginia), Patricio Garino (George Washington), Vince Hunter (UTEP), Nick King (Memphis), Justin Martin (SMU), Sheldon McClellan (Miami), Larry Nance Jr. (Wyoming), Le’Bryan Nash (Oklahoma State), Marcus Thornton (Georgia), Tyrone Wallace (California), Byron Wesley (Gonzaga).
1. Kyle Wiltjer (via Kentucky) and Byron Wesley (via USC), Gonzaga: Mark Few’s team still has questions to answer, mainly on the defensive end, but there’s no doubting that he’s added several transfers that make the Zags a top-10 caliber team. Wiltjer, the 2013 SEC Sixth Man of the Year, has had over a year to reshape his body. By the looks of last week’s viral video, his 3-point shot is still intact. Wesley, a graduate transfer who averaged 17.8 points, 6.4 rebounds per game in 2013-2014, gives the Bulldogs another weapon on the perimeter.
2. Bryce Dejean-Jones, Iowa State (via UNLV): The Mayor’s success with transfers in Ames is well-documented. Next in line could be fifth-year senior Bryce Dejean-Jones. Iowa State graduated a lot of its scoring pop, and Dejean-Jones can help in that department, although he doesn’t need to be the top scorer like he was last season at UNLV. Hoiberg will look for the 6-foot-6 newcomer to be a wing who creates his shot, not one who will force it, as Dejean-Jones shot selection has been a problem in the past.
3. Rodney Purvis, UConn (via N.C. State): The reigning national champions add a former McDonald’s All-American to its back court alongside Ryan Boatright. At 6-foot-4, Purvis will give the Huskies size on the perimeter; someone who is not only capable of getting to the rim, but also a reliable 3-point shooting, knocking down 38.5 percent of his threes at N.C. State.
4. Anthony Lee, Ohio State (via Temple): The graduate transfer was highly-sought after, but picked the Buckeyes, adding size, scoring and rebounding to their frontline. At Temple, he recorded 11 double-doubles en route to 13.6 points and and American Athletic Conference leading 8.6 boards per game.
5. Kedren Johnson, Memphis (via Vanderbilt): Memphis went from a back court of four seniors in 2013-2014 to a set of guards with zero Division I experience. That was until Johnson, the Vandy transfer, got a waiver to play immediately. In 2012-2013, the 6-foot-4 Johnson averaged 13.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. His experience on-the-ball should help the younger guards get adjust to the level of play.
6. Angel Rodriguez, Miami (via Kansas State): The Hurricanes new point guard took a year off to recover from a wrist injury and now is the key piece to a revamped perimeter for Miami, which includes fellow transfer Sheldon McClellan, four-star freshman JaQuan Newton and returners Deandre Burnett and Davon Reed. The former K-State floor general was second-team all-Big 12 in 2012-2013, averaging 11.4 points and 5.2 assists per game.
7. Trevor Lacey, N.C. State (via Alabama): T.J. Warren took his ACC Player of the Year honors and his 24.9 points per game to the NBA, leaving plenty of shots available for the the newcomer. The 6-foot-3 Lacey averaged 11.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game as a sophomore.
8. Katin Reinhardt, USC (via UNLV): After taking the second-most shots on UNLV as a freshman in 2012-2013, Reinhardt headed back to the state of California in hopes of being more than just a shooter. Despite his desires to have the ball in his hands, his biggest asset to Andy Enfield is his ability to hit from the outside. The Trojans were a Pac-12 worst 29 percent from beyond the arc last season.
9. Justin Martin, SMU (via Xavier): The 6-foot-6 wing is eligible immediately after graduating from Xavier. He posted 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, knocking down 50 3-pointers. He has also played in two NCAA tournaments, a place the Mustangs are looking to get back to for the first time since 1993.
10. Matt Carlino, Marquette (viaBYU): Steve Wojciechowski adds the former BYU guard to a back court that includes senior Derrick Wilson, potential breakout star Deonte Burton and redshirt freshman Duane Wilson. Carlino will see time on and off the ball, and will provide Marquette with a knockdown shooter.
13 MORE IMPACT TRANSFERS
Angelo Chol, San Diego State (via Arizona): Steve Fisher has had success with transfers in the past, and this season it could be Chol, the former Arizona Wildcat, who could never crack the loaded frontline.
*Cody Doolin, UNLV (via San Francisco): Dave Rice added a steady point guard (averaged 5.6 assists per game in 2012-2013) to a team that lost its starting five. Has been granted a fifth year of eligibility, but still waiting on a waiver to be allowed to play this season, although he is expected to receive it.
Justin Edwards, Kansas State (via Maine): Top scorer in the American East at 16.7 points per game in 2012-2013 could end up being a double-digit scorer for the Wildcats.
Byrn Forbes, Michigan State (via Cleveland State): Forbes will help combat the lose of Keith Appling and Gary Harris, averaging 15.6 points per game (42 percent from three) last season in the Horizon League.
Anthony Hickey, Oklahoma State (via LSU): Hickey hopes the change of scenery can help return to sophomore averages of 11.2 points, 3.4 assists and 2.9 steals per game.
Jabarie Hinds, UMass (via West Virginia): With Chaz Williams graduating, the West Virginia transfer will be inserted into a back court with returning starter Derrick Gordon and key reserve Trey Davis in what could end up being a three-guard set for the Minutemen.
Keith Hornsby, LSU (via UNC Asheville): Matched up with JuCo transfer Josh Gray in the back court, Hornsby gives the Tigers size at 6-foot-4 and a 3-point threat.
Stanton Kidd (via North Carolina Central) and Antawn Scott (via Grambling) Colorado State : Outside of San Diego State, the rest of the Mountain West is wide-open. The addition of Kidd and Scott can help the Rams separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
Jermaine Lawrence, Manhattan (via Cincinnati): The former five-star recruit is a big addition to a Manhattan team looking to return to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season.
Antoine Mason, Auburn (via Niagara): Only national player of the year Doug McDermott scored more points than Mason (25.6 ppg) last season, as the former Niagara standout joins fellow transfers K.C. Ross-Miller and Cinmeon Bowers this season for the Tigers.
Ahmad Starks, Illinois (via Oregon State): Senior guard Tracy Abrams tearing his ACL made the addition of Starks and Seton Hall shooter Aaron Cosby all the more important. Starks will be asked to run the offense this season in his first and only year with the Illini.
*TaShawn Thomas, Oklahoma (via Houston): The 6-foot-8 forward is still waiting on a waiver to play this season. Would make the Sooners a real threat in the Big 12.