Nijel Pack, Miami Hurricanes, CBB Rank

The Miami Hurricanes look to follow up a Final Four appearance with another long run in March.

As is tradition, CBB Review is again ranking the top 100 teams heading into the new college basketball season. Each day, we will reveal the next team until we reach the team slotted at number one. Follow along with #CBBRank on all our social media channels.

Jim Larranaga is one of the oldest coaches remaining in college basketball but he continues to recruit some of the best talent to play at Miami. Last year, the talent clicked at the right time, as the Hurricanes made a Final Four run.

A few of last season’s top players are gone, but Nijel Pack and Norchad Omier return to give the Hurricanes one of the top duos in the ACC. Key rotation players Wooga Poplar and Bensley Joseph also stay to give the Canes some added depth.

The biggest addition for Miami is Florida State transfer Matthew Cleveland. A very athletic wing, Cleveland should help mend some of Miami’s losses, especially coming to Miami from a fellow ACC school.

The Hurricanes will need some inexperienced players to step up. After Joseph, the projected sixth man, it’s a bench made up of freshmen and Jakai Robinson, who hasn’t played much in his college career so far.

Given Larranaga’s track record, there is an expectation that players will be developed quickly. As long as Miami can find some success from its bench, the starting group can compete with just about every team in the country.

Click here to learn more about our preseason top 100 teams heading into the 2023-24 college basketball season.

Head coach: Jim Larranaga (38th season, 13th at Miami)

2022-23 record: 29-8 (15-5)

2023 postseason finish: Lost to UConn, 72-59, in Final Four of NCAA Tournament

Notable departures: Isaiah Wong (NBA), Jordan Miller (NBA), Harlond Beverly (Transferred to Wichita State), Anthony Walker (Transferred to Indiana)

Notable non-conference games: vs. UCF (Nov. 10), vs. Georgia (Nov. 17, in Bahamas), vs. Providence OR Kansas State (Nov. 19, in Bahamas), at Kentucky (Nov. 28), vs. Notre Dame (Dec. 2), vs. Colorado (Dec. 10)

Projected Rotation

PG: Nijel Pack (6-0, 185, Jr.)

2022-23 stats: 13.6 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 40.4 3P%

SG: Wooga Poplar (6-5, 197, Jr.)

2022-23 stats: 8.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.1 SPG, 37.5 3P%

SF: Matthew Cleveland (6-7, 208, Jr.)

2022-23 stats: 13.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.8 APG, 35.0 3P%

PF: AJ Casey (6-9, 221, So.)

2022-23 stats: 0.9 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0.2 APG, 6.4 MPG

C: Norchad Omier (6-7, 240, Jr.)

2022-23 stats: 13.1 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.1 BPG, 1.1 SPG, 57.4 FG%

6: Bensley Joseph (6-2, 196, So.)

2022-23 stats: 5.3 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.0 APG, 39.8 3P%

7: Michael Nwoko (6-10, 245, Fr.)

247Sports Composite No. 142 rated recruit

8: Jakai Robinson (6-5, 208, Rs.-So.)

2022-23 stats: 0.6 PPG, 0.3 RPG, 0.1 APG, 7 games played

9: Paul Djobet (6-7, 195, Fr.)

247Sports Composite No. 238 rated recruit

10: Kyshawn George (6-8, 205, Fr.)

247Sports Composite No. 259 rated recruit

Miami Hurricanes MVP: Nijel Pack

The top returning player for the Canes, Pack should replace Wong as the clear go-to player in the backcourt. There’s no reason Pack can’t be very successful in his biggest role yet, especially after how he played for the Miami Hurricanes last season.

In big games, Pack was at his best. He had 18 points on the road at Duke, 23 points in a win over North Carolina, and 26 in an NCAA Tournament win against Houston. Given the issues at depth, Pack could have a very high usage rate, especially as the point guard. Expect some mind-boggling stats in games where Pack has to take over.

Miami Hurricanes make-or-break player: AJ Casey

A rising sophomore, Casey will need to grow up quickly this year. Last season, Casey played in most of the games, but only averaged about six minutes per game. This year, he seems like the most likely option to start at power forward.

Such a big role change will come with growing pains, but Casey will need to limit them as much as possible. With Norchad Omier at center, it does give Casey some room to grow, but to start the season, he’s easily the least experienced starter and the biggest question mark among players who will have big roles.

There is a lineup that could see Casey coming off the bench, but it would require Poplar to play small forward and Cleveland to play power forward. Joseph would be the starting SG. However, that would make the Canes’ bench even thinner, with Casey as the sixth man. It seems like a better idea to bring Joseph off the bench, to help with depth.

Of course, it’ll be Larranaga’s decision in the end, and either way, Casey needs to be a pivotal part of this Miami frontcourt.

Key analytic: 3P%

Shooting the three-point ball well is so important in modern-day basketball and the Miami Hurricanes were one of the best in the business last year. As a team, the Canes made 36.8% of their deep shots, 44th in the nation.

There’s no reason they can’t top that mark this season. Pack made over 40% of his threes last year, and Cleveland, Joseph, and Poplar all made over 35% of their outside attempts. Having four reliable three-point shooters is a blessing, especially for a team that has so many question marks underneath.

Miami Hurricanes 2023-24 projections

Projected conference finish: 3rd in the ACC

Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Elite 8 Exit

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