Sims: Miami MBB is running out of time

'Canes basketball head coach Jim Larranaga solemnly walks off the court after Miami's 75-84 loss against FSU at the Watsco Center on Jan. 17, 2024. Photo credit: Alexandra Fisher

38 points.

The Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball team just recorded its lowest point total in a collegiate basketball game since men’s basketball was reinstated at the school in 1985 with 38 points against Virginia last Monday night.

The game in Charlottesville encompassed everything that has gone wrong for the Hurricanes this season. From start to finish, it was a disaster for Miami. Freshman sensation Kyshawn George was injured right away, continuing the streak of injured UM starters.

The ‘Canes got off to a hot start, leading 7-2, but failed to convert almost anything after that.

“The game. They just outplayed us in every aspect of the game,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga told reporters after being asked what happened after a solid opening to the game. “We didn’t play well. They played really well. Thank you for your attention.”

Larrañaga proceeded to walk out of the press conference, disgusted at the product his team displayed on the floor that night.

This is not the first time that Miami has been outplayed or put forth a poor effort. The ‘Canes have developed some detrimental habits this season that were not seen in last season’s phenomenal Final Four run.

These indiscretions were overlooked at the start of the year, as Miami started 11-2 with impressive wins over Kansas State and then 16th-ranked Clemson. Since that point, Miami is 4-6 without a signature win in that span.

Some of the issues that have plagued Miami are due to injuries. All but one of Miami’s starters have spent time on the sidelines with injuries this season. Juniors Wooga Poplar, Norchad Omier and Matthew Cleveland have all missed time this season, in addition to the new injury to George. The ‘Canes have not been able to be consistently healthy in ACC play. Just when they get back to full strength, the injury bug strikes again.

“For me, it’s very frustrating,” Larrañaga said. “Practice does not look like it should. We miss our starting unit no matter who is out.”

The ‘Canes rely heavily on their starters. With the emergence of Kyshawn George, Miami can have a six-man rotation. Either way, the bench for UM is very thin. Omier leads Miami in points and rebounds per game with 17.6 and 9.8, respectively. The Nicaraguan native also leads the ACC in double-doubles with 12. Cleveland, Pack and Poplar all average at least 13.9 points and are keys to making Miami one of the better offensive teams in the country.

While Miami can score, it has had issues with turnovers. The ‘Canes are third in the ACC with 12.5 turnovers per game. These wasted possessions have led to massive scoring droughts that can put the ‘Canes out of games.

When Miami’s offense is on, it’s really good. But when the Hurricanes offense is off, it’s really off. There have been multiple stretches over the past few games where Miami has gone upwards of eight minutes without a made field goal. For a team that has hopes of making it back to the dance, that cannot continue to happen.

Currently, Miami is tied for seventh in the ACC with Pittsburgh and Syracuse. The ‘Canes are 15-8 overall and 6-6 in the ACC. The Hurricanes have eight games remaining on their schedule before the ACC tournament. All of those games are against ACC teams, including two games against Boston College, a home game versus Duke, and two matchups against the North Carolina Tar Heels. The first of those games happens this Saturday when the third-ranked Tar Heels come to Coral Gables.

It’s tough to find Miami in any projected NCAA tournament bracket right now. A majority of media outlets have four teams representing the ACC in March. The ‘Canes may very well have to rely on a run in the ACC tournament to convince the selection committee that they are worthy of an invitation to the dance.

Still, all of the wins that the ‘Canes can get improve their chances. And that starts this Saturday when the third-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels march into the Watsco Center to take on the Hurricanes.

UM has had some time to rest after the embarrassing display on Monday. Returning home, the task does not get any easier.

North Carolina is a powerhouse team, and while they just faltered against Clemson, teams this good don’t lose two games in a row very often. The top team in the ACC this season is led by RJ Davis and his 21.3 points per game. The Heels have four scorers in double figures that aid in their ACC-best 82.8 points per game.

The big-man matchup will be another spectacle. Omier and Tar Heel big man Armando Bacot know each other well after ACC battles over the past two seasons. Both are double-double machines and are leaders down low for their squads.

Miami has their work cut out for them, but with the brief hiatus and a chance to get healthy, this could be an opportunity to collect a marquee win.

It’s a sold-out crowd for this much-anticipated matchup in South Florida. Tip-off for this game is set for 4:00 p.m. and will be aired on ESPN.