Less than a week ago, the University of Miami’s season came to a halt in a crushing 20-point, first-round loss to the Michigan State Spartans that eliminated the Hurricanes from the NCAA Tournament.
It was a heartbreaking defeat for the Canes, reflected in their faces when the final buzzer sounded. The Spartans dominated in almost every facet of the game.
Many analysts expected this to happen, given Michigan State’s superior level of experience in March Madness. Others felt, that despite being inexperienced, Miami had the young talent to overcome inconsistencies exhibited early in the 2016-2017 campaign.
Now that it’s all over, students have had time to reflect and come to their own conclusions on how they feel UM performed as a whole this season.
The reactions varied.
Sophomore Brian Mulligan felt the year was a success, considering the fact that the team had just nine scholarship athletes eligible to play, two seniors and no true point-guard.
“I think it was a good season because we lost so many players and veteran leadership,” Mulligan said. “I didn’t expect the team to do this well, I thought we would be closer to .500.”
He wasn’t the only one. Miami lost four seniors from the previous season – its two leading scorers in Sheldon McClellan and Ángel Rodríguez, its best defender and rebounder in Tonye Jekiri and one of its top shooters in Iván Cruz Uceda. The departures left college basketball analysts across the country wondering how the Canes would fare.
Junior Jolie Starr, however, believes Coach Jim Larrañaga and his team met expectations.
“This season was a lot like ones in the past to be honest,” Starr said. “They beat good teams and then lost to teams they were supposed to beat. It is a trend.”
UM was able to defeat ACC powerhouses North Carolina, Virginia and Duke during the regular season to finish with an overall record of 20-10 and 10-8 in the conference. The ranked wins elevated the Hurricanes to an eight seed for the Big Dance. However, Miami struggled heavily against teams in the conference that failed to even make the tournament, including Syracuse and Wake Forest.
“Going forward, the real issue is staying consistent and not giving up those easy games,” Starr said. “Seeing that the team was replacing guys who could create their own shot, some of the players underachieved this season.”
A consensus opinion amongst most Miami students, however, was that the Canes found a gem in freshman Bruce Brown.
“Bruce Brown exploded in a few games – one of the most impactful players,” sophomore Parth Desai said. “He emerged as a leader and somebody that shows potential to be that centerpiece player for next season.”
The combo guard displayed he could do a little bit of everything, averaging nearly 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and more than one steal per game. With maturity beyond his years, Brown played best in the biggest games, scoring a career-high 30 against UNC and 25 against Duke.
“Watching the development of Bruce Brown was exciting,” Mulligan said. “To get a top-30 recruit for Miami, which is a school that normally runs off transfers, it’s great for what the future will be. It will make other players want to come here.”
UM’s 2017 recruiting class, which features five-star guard Lonnie Walker and four-star players Chris Lykes and Deng Gak, is currently ranked in the top 10 by both ESPN and 247Sports.
Student opinions on the future are mixed once again, between looking forward to a promising future and worrying that Miami is still missing something.
“It feels empowering – the way I view Miami’s program is up and coming,” Desai said. “We are trying to gain respect in the ACC. As a fan base, we have to make sure we have the expectations that we can beat these teams. I’m excited for the future.”
“I am going to keep my expectations low for Miami basketball until it proves something otherwise,” Starr said. “We need to change our mindset to compete with those teams. Until you find that consistent team chemistry to rely on each other, we wont get to the next level. That’s what we need.”