Five things to look forward to this season

Durand Scott defends the basketball. File Photo

Men’s Basketball

Coach L. bringing more W’s

You already know what he was able to do at George Mason. He put them on the map. He’s the reason why men’s basketball comes to mind before the Virginia delegate at the Constitutional Convention when someone says “George Mason.” Who could forget the way he stole the hearts of the whole nation with his miraculous 2006 run to the Final Four as an 11-seed? In 14 seasons with the Patriots, Jim Larranaga earned the most wins both in school history and Colonial Athletic Association history. It’s going to be something special to see what he can do with this talented Hurricanes team.

No more blown leads

When Miami collapsed and blew a 19-point lead to get eliminated by North Carolina in the ACC Tournament, it was an all-too-familiar feeling for Cane fans. Those 10 minutes, and the final buzzer-beating layup by Tyler Zeller, were a microcosm of the entire season synonymous with the struggles that plagued the Canes all year. They were unable to finish games and failed in pressure situations. Hopefully with a new coaching staff the team will become mentally tougher in the clutch, give up fewer three-pointers playing that horrid 2-3 zone that let teams back into games, and minimize wasted possessions where the ball is passed around the perimeter leading to an ill-advised jumper with the shot clock expiring.

An exciting schedule

Playing basketball in the ACC always comes with the thrill of seeing your team play the Dukes and the North Carolinas of the world. This year is no different. But Cane fans will also get to enjoy a very strong out-of-conference schedule, including road games against West Virginia, Purdue and Ole Miss.  In addition, Memphis and Rutgers will be swinging by the BankUnited Center. The atmosphere for these games early in the season is sure to get fans hyped for the later slate of ACC games.

A strong backcourt

With Malcolm Grant, now a senior, and junior Durand Scott, the Miami backcourt has the leadership it needs from its two most prolific perimeter players. Scott is lethal driving to the basket with a quick first step and the ability to stop on a dime and change direction. He gets to the basket  at will and knows how to finish. Grant is just as quick and is also a threat from beyond the arc. Another player to look out for is sophomore Rion Brown. Though he got limited playing time as a freshman last year, the talented youngster will see a lot more of the court this season. He had his coming out party last year against Virginia. Expect to see more moments like that.

A speedy recovery for Reggie

Big Reggie Johnson is working on getting back to action after tearing the meniscus in his right knee. He’s expected to come back around January, just in time for ACC play, but he’ll miss all the big non-conference games the Canes have in store for them. The team’s frontcourt was dealt another blow later in the offseason when Julian Gamble tore his ACL; he’s likely to miss the entire season. Florida transfer Kenny Kadji will be the team’s go-to guy in the middle, and Raphael Akpejiori will see more of the court as well because of the two injuries.