Key storylines for MBB and WBB this season

Sophomore guard Wooga Poplar drives to the basket during Miami's exhibition game against IUP on Sunday, Oct. 30 at the Watsco Center. Photo credit: Alexandra Carnochan

The Miami Hurricanes men’s and women’s basketball teams are just days away from the start of their seasons on Nov. 7.

Both programs made history last year, with the men making their first Elite Eight appearance in team history while the women advanced to the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game for the first time ever.

However, thanks to an abundance of transfers, Miami basketball looks much different in 2022. Can the men and women continue last year’s success? Here are key storylines to watch this season.

Key transfers will make or break men’s basketball

Kameron McGusty, Sam Waardenburg and Charlie Moore led the team in points, rebounds, and assists last season, respectively, but none of them will return this year.

To replace these players, the Hurricanes looked to the transfer portal.

From Kansas State, guard Nijel Pack joins the ACC after making First Team All-Big 12. He averaged 17.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting 43.6% from three in 2021-22.

“How fast [the Hurricanes] played, how free they played. I feel like every guy out there was really, really happy on that team,” Pack said about Miami after watching it last season. “This is something I really want to be a part of.”

The ‘Canes also acquired former Arkansas State starting forward Norchad Omier, the Sun Belt Player of the Year and the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year in 2021-22.

The 6-foot-7 sophomore from Nicaragua averaged a double-double with 17.9 points and 12.2 rebounds per game last season. He also recorded 56 blocks and 46 steals.

Collectively, Pack and Omier were dominant at their former schools last season and will need to return that production to the court this year for Miami to continue to grow.

“Coming from a mid-major to a high major, [there is] just a lot of talent on the team. You got to bring your best every day, you got to show up, show the coaches everything every day,” Omier said.

Isaiah Wong should emerge as the leader of men’s basketball

New Jersey native Isaiah Wong was a big factor in Miami’s run to the Elite Eight last season.

The guard was a Third Team All-ACC member who averaged 15.7 points per game and Miami’s leading scorer in its first two games in the 2022 NCAA Tournament.

“Every year there is always something to improve on. I’m always in the gym working out, trying to be more consistent as a player,” Wong said at the ACC tipoff in Charlotte.

Wong has received no shortage of praise from colleagues.

“I’m on the road all summer for the first time recruiting for the University of Miami, and all coaches are talking about is Isaiah Wong and how hard he is to guard and how hard he is to prepare for,” new assistant coach Kotie Kimble said.

If the preseason First Team All-ACC honoree lives up to expectations, the Hurricanes will be a force in college basketball this season.

Cavinder twins will be crucial on the court for women’s basketball

Anybody could assume that Miami likes the attention Hanna and Haley Cavinder, whose joint Tiktok account has over four million followers, bring to Coral Gables this season after transferring from Fresno State.

All might be well on the social end, but followers won’t translate to winning and the Cavinder twins will be asked to do a lot this season.

“I have not seen them frustrated,” head coach Katie Meier said. “They have elevated this team with their determination.”

Fortunately, the twins have plenty of talent. Haley was an All-Mountain West Team member with Fresno State last season while setting an NCAA record in free throw percentage at 97.3%. She averaged 19.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.

Her sister Hanna started in 29 games and finished 10th in the conference in scoring with 14.6 points per game and sixth in the conference with 1.8 steals per game.

“We know we needed shot makers and we got them and we’re happy to have them,” Meier said.

The Cavinders will need to carry over their success to Miami if the ‘Canes want to make a run in the NCAA tournament.

Elite offense could bring women’s basketball to the next level

Miami was a very solid defensive team last season. Finishing fourth in the ACC, the Hurricanes only allowed teams to score 58.4 points per game.

It wasn’t the same story on offense, however. Miami finished second to last in scoring in the ACC, averaging 60.9 points per game.

The Cavinder twins should help, but Miami could also use a big offensive year from Destiny Harden and Ja’Leah Williams. Harden, a graduate student, was effective as she averaged 7.7 points after returning from injury.

Williams averaged 7.3 points last year and is only a sophomore. If she can improve on a good freshman campaign, it could go a long way for the ‘Canes.

“If we don’t have energy, Ja’Leah brings it. If we need a big-time defensive play, Ja’Leah brings it,” Meier said. “The team’s identity has a lot to do with Ja’Leah.”

Since most of the scoring will likely come from the perimeter players, seniors Moulayna Johnson Sidi Baba and Lola Pendande could be due for a big year down low as opportunities open up.

Coming off historic years, men’s and women’s basketball are poised for continued success. Fans will get to see both teams in action on Nov. 7, when the women open their season against Maryland Eastern Shore at the Watsco Center before the men take on Lafayette later that night.