Three years ago, coach Frank Haith brought in a transfer who had spent one season at Siena after being passed over by high-major programs coming out of high school. It has turned out to be the best move of Haith's four-year tenure. Senior Jack McClinton carried the Hurricanes to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001-02 last season and proved to be one of the nation's elite shooting guards.
Dwayne Collins had a career-high 26 points in a win over Duke last season.
A gifted shooter with good range, McClinton gave a young team a much-needed go-to scorer. He reached double figures in 15 of 16 ACC games and ranked fourth in the league in scoring at 17.7 points per game. McClinton shot a sizzling 42.7 percent (94 of 220) from 3-point range, which ranked second in the ACC. He also shot a league-high 91.9 percent (114 of 124) from the free-throw line, which tied for second in the nation.
McClinton probably would average closer to 20 points if he'd attack the basket and draw more fouls, which would take advantage of his near-automatic stroke from the line.
The coaching staff is looking to get production from the supporting cast to ease the burden on McClinton. Regardless, the Hurricanes need his steady offense to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
UM coaches are looking for significant improvement from two other guards: junior James Dews and senior Lance Hurdle. Dews has the potential to be a major scoring threat. Dews, a former four-star prospect, got off to a good start last season. He scored in double-figures in 12 of the first 16 games, but he wore down and was held to single digits in 12 of the next 18 games. Hurdle, a junior college transfer, is more of a glue guy but needs to knock down open shots when the opportunity arises. He shot just 32 percent (73 of 228) from the field.
Sophomore Eddie Rios, who averaged 14.1 minutes per game last season, adds depth. Rios has a penchant for putting up shots in a hurry. Villanova transfer Malcolm Grant, a point guard, won't be eligible to play until next season. However, the other players should benefit from his presence in practice.
Losing center Anthony King creates a big void in the paint. King, a 6-9, 250-pounder, averaged only seven points per game, but he was the Hurricanes' leading rebounder and shot-blocker.
Replacing that inside presence will fall on junior power forward Dwayne Collins and senior center Jimmy Graham. Collins, a good athlete who runs the floor well, put together some big games last season. Collins had a career-high 26-point performance in a win over Duke (which won him Rivals.com's Player of the Week honor). The Hurricanes don't need Collins to score that much, but he must be more consistent - especially on the glass.
At 6-8 and 255 pounds, Graham is a space-eater who doesn't drift far from the basket. He will be counted on for rebounding and post defense.
Senior forward Brian Asbury, who mostly operates on the perimeter, probably will be the sixth man. Coaches believe Asbury, who made some big strides in the offseason, is poised for a breakout year.
Highly touted freshman DeQuan Jones will be part of the rotation and could play heavy minutes. A five-star recruit, he has the size and explosiveness to be an inside-outside scoring threat. The faster he develops, the better the Hurricanes' offense will be.
Arkansas transfer Cyrus McGowan will see some playing time behind Collins and Graham. The 6-9 McGowan, who has 3-point range, saw limited playing time with the Hogs.
The Hurricanes run a motion offense with a heavy emphasis on ball screens. With a more experienced and deeper team than last season, they will try to run more and create more transition baskets.
Anything less than a second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament should be considered a disappointment for the Hurricanes as long as McClinton stays healthy. They return four starters, some key reserves and have added more depth. As long as the big men step up and do an adequate job rebounding, the 'Canes will finish in the top half of the ACC and lock up another at-large bid to the field of the 65. If McClinton's supporting cast improves, especially Dews and Hurdle, they could finish as high as third in the ACC and advance to the Sweet 16.
The Hurricanes prefer to play man-to-man but will employ a mixture of zones. Just about whatever they chose to use last season proved to be effective. Opponents averaged 67.9 points and shot 40.7 percent from the field. Both stats ranked second in the ACC.
SHOES TO FILL
King. Take this guy off last season's team and the Hurricanes would have been in the NIT. He averaged 7.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game and provided an anchor for a defense that ranked among the nation's best.
MUST STEP UP
Collins. This athletic big man has the potential to average a double-double, but he has disappeared in too many games in the past. Without King, the Hurricanes can't afford for that to happen this season.
Jones. Landing Jones, the No. 23 prospect in the 2008 class, was a great sign for Haith and Miami's future. Jones will give the team someone to build around when McClinton's eligibility runs out. For now, he'll be expected to contribute off the bench.
Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.