The men’s basketball team kicks off its regular season against University of Texas Rio Grande Valley at 7 p.m. this Friday in the BankUnited Center. Although the Hurricanes are returning many players, including team leaders and redshirt seniors Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez, there are adjustments that need to be made in order to be included into the field of 68 come tournament time. The Canes spent much of their offseason effort on improving on the defensive side of the court, but the tweaks made on the offensive end will lead to a more efficient and aggressive scoring style this season.
The NCAA implemented a new rule this season that shortens the shot clock from 35 seconds down to 30. In order to account for this, the Canes put an emphasis on getting down the court and into their offensive sets quicker during offseason practices. Rodriguez thinks the rule change shouldn’t have a negative impact on the team since they already play with pace. “I truly don’t think it will affect us that much. We like to play fast anyway, so it shouldn’t affect us,” Rodriguez said.
Head Coach Jim Larrañaga still wants the team to play a much more up-tempo style offense this year. Even though most of his emphasis for this year is on becoming a more defensive-minded team, Larrañaga believes that improvements on defense will translate to a more efficient offense. “We’d like to get out and run a little bit more and we’d like for our defense to create more opportunities for our offense,” Larrañaga said.
Creating turnovers and playing with increased energy on defense will lead to high-percentage shots in transition as well as many more points off of turnovers than last season.
“I like the expression ‘our defense is our best offense,’” Larrañaga said.
Rodriguez also said that the team would be concentrating on getting the ball inside the paint more often this season. “Compared to last year, the team, including myself, is doing a much better job of getting the ball in the paint. And from there, it’s easy to kick it out for open shots,” he said.
The Canes relied heavily on perimeter players for offensive production last year, but senior center Tonye Jekiri and other post players have improved their offensive skill sets throughout the offseason. A greater emphasis on getting the ball inside will increase offensive efficiency through higher percentage shots near the rim and more open shots from behind the three-point line.
Overall, the offense will look similar to last year with some minor adjustments. While the team will still be centered on guard play, expect to see many more shots taken from inside the paint this year. Jekiri will look to become a bigger scoring threat to balance out the offense through more post-up plays. Also expect more fast break dunks as the Canes up the tempo after takeaways.
Although offense may not be the team’s main focus this season, it will still be a huge strength that puts the Canes in position to compete for an ACC Championship.