Miami Hurricanes Basketball: Can the Hurricanes Sustain Their Success?

Mike LeeContributor IIIFebruary 19, 2013

The Hurricanes moved to 21-3 after their most recent win over Clemson.
The Hurricanes moved to 21-3 after their most recent win over Clemson.Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes mens' basketball team, currently second in the most recent AP Top 25, has climbed to their highest ranking in program history. After starting the season unranked and projected to finish fourth in the ACC preseason rankings, the Miami Hurricanes have a 21-3 overall record and are undefeated in the ACC. Their 12-0 ACC record is the best start for an ACC team since Duke won the conference title in 1998-99 with a 16-0 record.

The Hurricanes’ success this season has been based on having a senior-laden team in an era known for the “one-and-done” college basketball player. Miami has six seniors on this year’s roster, five of which are significant players in the team’s rotation. Those five seniors account for 67 percent of the team’s point production thus far this season.

With the emergence of the Hurricanes’ basketball program, questions will arise concerning whether the team can maintain their success in the coming years. Much of the Hurricanes’ future success will depend largely on current sophomore point guard Shane Larkin and his decision concerning the upcoming NBA Draft. With his play thus far, Larkin has developed into one of the best point guards in the country this season.

Larkin, who has averaged 13.2 points, 4.3 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game, is quickly becoming an elite college basketball point guard. However, at this point, Larkin has been left off of many 2013 NBA mock drafts. DraftExpress has Larkin ranked as the 44th-best sophomore prospect in the country but he was not included in the 2013 or 2014 mock drafts provided by the site.

Should Larkin decide to stay in school, the Hurricanes will have a good chance to remain near the top of the ACC standings next year. However, if Larkin continues to improve throughout the season and leads the Hurricanes deep into the NCAA Tournament, his draft stock could rise tremendously. His loss would constitute a great loss for the Hurricane basketball program.

In addition to Larkin, 6’6” guard Rion Brown would be the other key contributor from this year’s team who would likely return next year. Brown is currently averaging 6.5 points in a reserve role this year and he would likely move into a starter role next year. His development into a productive and consistent scorer will be vital as the Hurricanes look forward to next season.

The remaining players on the Hurricane roster would consist of players who have seen very little playing time thus far in the season. The five players who would likely return next season, have combined to play 352 total minutes in the team’s 24 games this season. By comparison, center Reggie Johnson who has missed a number of games this season due to injury, has played 368 minutes in the 15 games that he has participated in. Therefore, the core of the Hurricanes’ roster would be very inexperienced as the team moves forward into the coming season.

The Hurricanes will also welcome a solid 2013 recruiting class to further build on for next year. Davon Reed, a 6’6” small forward and the 100th-ranked prospect on the Rivals-150 ranking, has committed to Miami. Deandre Burnett, a 6’2” combo guard and former Parade All-American, will also join the Hurricanes next year after a year of prep school at Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia. Burnett averaged 36.2 points per game and was the fourth leading scorer in the country during his senior year at Miami Carol City High. Demetrius Henry, the 113th-ranked prospect and Junior Etu, the 142nd-ranked prospect (both according to the Rivals-150 ranking) are also among the handful of recruits that are considering signing with the University of Miami.

In either case, next year the University of Miami mens' basketball team will look vastly different than this current team. Next year, the Hurricanes will be young and inexperienced and, regardless of this year’s outcome, will have fairly low expectations. However, head coach Jim Larranaga has proven throughout his coaching career that he has the ability to get the most from his players. From his unlikely run to the Final Four with George Mason during the 2005-06 season to the Hurricanes’ second place ranking in the current Top 25 polls, Larranaga has proven his abilities as a coach. He will have to continue his recipe for success if the Hurricanes hope to maintain the success of their basketball program for years to come.