Last season, Florida State became the first team not named Duke or North Carolina to win the ACC Tournament since 2004. Following Wednesday night’s 90-63 romp over top-ranked Duke, another Florida school is looking to have a similar type season. Only this one is a little further south.
Through five conference games, Miami is the lone unbeaten team in the ACC. With something to prove, Miami demolished Duke on Wednesday night after recording impressive wins over Maryland and at North Carolina earlier in the month. Much like FSU last season, Miami has experience, size, athleticism and depth.
Miami has six seniors, the same number that the Seminoles had last year on their way to an ACC title. While experience is important, the ‘Canes also have a plethora of size. At nearly 300 pounds, senior center Reggie Johnson is a load on the block and draws a number of double-teams. 6’11″ forward Kenny Kadji has the ability to play inside or out making him a match-up nightmare for ACC opponents. Julian Gamble also adds size and toughness at 6’10″ and 250 pounds.
Even the guards for Miami are big. Durand Scott and Trey McKinney Jones are each 6’5″ and extremely athletic. Reserve guard Rion Brown stands at 6’6″ and while point guard Shane Larkin is only 5’11″, he may be the fastest guard in the ACC. Size will be key for the Hurricanes in a conference that lost a lot of significant bigs from a year ago.
The most successful three ACC programs of the last several years, Duke, North Carolina and Florida State, all lost important big men from last season. Ryan Kelly has been injured for Duke while the number of Plumlees that play significant minutes has been cut in half from a year ago. There is no John Henson or Tyler Zeller at North Carolina and while Florida State still has size, little of the Seminoles’ size has any experience. All things considered, Miami may have the best frontcourt in the ACC.
While the Hurricanes may not be as deep as the Seminoles were last season, Miami had eight different players play 12 or more minutes in its win over Duke on Wednesday night. Like Florida State who fell to Harvard and Princeton last season, Miami did have its struggles in the non-conference. With the exception of an impressive win over Michigan State, the Hurricanes fell to the likes of Florida Gulf Coast and Indiana State.
But the win last season for the Seminoles that really started to turn heads was a blowout. Few thought much of Florida State before a 90-57 win over third-ranked North Carolina last season in early January. Miami had a similar win on Wednesday night with a 27-point thumping of the top-ranked team in America. Wednesday’s victory will go a long way toward proving that the Hurricanes are a real threat this season in the ACC and should build confidence for a senior-laden team that has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2008.
Miami is without a doubt a force to be reckoned with in the ACC and perhaps the nation. A trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years seems inevitable and Miami has the size and experience to do well once it gets there. While the ACC has been down a bit over the past several years, the conference does appear on the upswing and Miami is ascending with it. While most would still consider Duke or perhaps a resurgent N.C. State team the favorite to take the ACC, the Hurricanes won’t be discounted as they look to become the second Florida school in as many years to be called conference champs.
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