They’re ranked No. 6 in the nation, the highest December ranking in school history. They’re undefeated at 9-0, one of just four unbeaten teams left, and spending the next few days in Hawaii. So far, it’s been a great season for the University of Miami men’s basketball team.
But Coach Jim Larrañaga says it is far too early to know how good the Hurricanes really are. He will have a much better idea in a few weeks, after the new year, depending on how the Canes get through a six-game consecutive road swing that began last week at George Washington and continues with this weekend’s Diamondhead Classic in Honolulu.
After the tournament opener against host University of Hawaii (1 a.m. Saturday), the Canes play Davidson or New Mexico State on Saturday, and another game Sunday, potentially against USC. Then, it’s off to Pittsburgh to open the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule on Dec. 30, followed by a Jan. 3 game at Georgia Tech.
Miami’s next home game is Jan. 7 against Florida State.
“We don’t come back to the Watsco Center until like January 7, that’s a month away from home,” Larrañaga said, asked if this is the most talented team he’s had at Miami. “You find out a lot more about yourself on the road, not just for one game like we played in Minnesota, but we’ve got ... Hawaii on their home court, then two neutral-site games. Then [we are] at Pittsburgh, at Georgia Tech. That’s a lot of games in a short period of time all away from home.
“We’re going to know a lot more about ourselves around the middle of January. … I think we play Clemson on [Jan.] 13 and Duke on the 15. If that’s the case, ask me this question on January 16.”
One thing that is certain is the Hurricanes have balanced scoring — five players in double figures —– and are playing tenacious defense. They rank No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense (56.3 points allowed per game) and field goal percentage defense (34.7 percent). Going into the Hawaii game, their average margin of victory was 20.7 points this season.
“I love the numbers, but I always study video. And if you do something correctly seven times and you do it poorly three times, you’re not so much focused on the seven times you did it correctly, you’re focused on the three things and asking yourself why didn’t we do it correctly every time,” Larrañaga said.
Sophomore Dewan Huell, having a breakout season, leads UM with 13.3 points per game and is averaging 6.3 rebounds. DJ Vasiljevic, the Australian sophomore sharpshooter, averages 11.8 points, and sophomore Bruce Brown is adding 10.6 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds per game. Freshmen Lonnie Walker IV and Chris Lykes have made a big impact already, and will be counted on big-time once the ACC season gets started.
No. 6 UM vs. Hawaii
▪ What: Diamondhead Classic
▪ Where: Stan Sheriff Center, Honolulu, Hawaii
▪ When: 1 a.m. Saturday
▪ Records: UM (9-0), Hawaii (7-2)
▪ Other teams in touranament: Akron, Davidson, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico St., Princeton, USC
▪ TV/Radio: ESPNU/WQAM-560 AM