CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Get ready for a faster, more intense Miami basketball team.
The Hurricanes have plenty of veteran players back and are healthy, something that wasn’t the case last season. Match that with a coach who has put together some impressive pressing teams in his career, and Canes fans have something to look forward to this winter.
But there’s a method behind the madness, and it’s not just for defensive purposes.
“We’re going to start out with the idea of extending our defense and pressuring it as much as we can to teach the concept of playing hard,” second-year Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga said Wednesday at the Ritz-Carlton. “We’re not going to give up the first 47 feet of the court so easily this year.”
Miami, which went 20-13 overall and 9-7 in the ACC last season, went from zone to man-to-man, now the natural next step is pressing more, Larranaga said. Some of Larranaga’s George Mason teams had tremendous success pressing full court, though his 2006 Final Four team didn’t pressure the ball much at all.
Larranaga eventually sees his team employing the approach about 20 percent of the time. But he believes it’s enough to throw off opponents and get his team some easy baskets.
“We have worked on it a lot in practice and it is designed to stop teams from scoring but to also get strips and get easy, unmatched baskets.
“We’re already working on it and we love it,” said senior guard Durand Scott. “I like getting easy baskets, yeah, and we can get some through the press.”
UNC Still The Marked Team
North Carolina was picked to finish third Wednesday at ACC media day, behind rivals N.C. State and Duke. UNC didn’t even get a first-place vote for the first time in eons. But if you ask around, the Tar Heels still wear the largest bull’s eye in the conference.
“North Carolina,” Miami senior Reggie Johnson said when asked who the Canes need to knock off in order to scale the ACC wall. “They have been the best team for a while, more talented, higher ranked, just better… It still goes through them no matter what the media says today.”
Florida State, which defeated the Tar Heels in the ACC Tournament last March, received six first-place votes to Carolina’s zilch. Senior Michael Snaer, who was voted Wednesday onto the preseason all-conference squad, said it’s about the Tar Heels, who finished 14-2 in the ACC and 32-6 overall last season.
“We won the tournament, but they’ve won the league for a while,” he said, “so it has to go through them.”
UNC sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo isn’t surprised.
“I feel like we still have a bull’s eye on our back,” he said.
UVA’s Harris Wants To Attack
With senior point guard Jontel Evans out for another month or more with an injury, Virginia coach Tony Bennett may call on junior jack-of-all-trades Joe Harris to bring the ball up the court some. Maybe even a lot.
Harris, who averaged 13.2 points per game a season ago, is a sound player who played through a broken non-shooting hand that rendered him mostly ineffective over the final five weeks of the season. In looking for a way to circumvent Evans’ absence in the early stages of this season, fourth-year UVa coach Tony Bennett has had the 6-6 Harris handle the point some.
He’s usually a wing forward with a nice 3-point shooting touch and a solid ability to grab rebounds. But Harris is also an adept passer, and given his experience and hoops IQ, is ready to embrace the role, even if it’s just temporary.
“I have a good enough handle with the ball that I can bring the basketball up the court,” Harris said, before adding another layer of responsibility.
“I have to step up and bring leadership to this team,” Harris said. “With having so many younger guys it’s key for us, Jontel and I need to lead and teach them.”