A case can be made that the University of Miami enjoyed its third biggest week in its less-than-scintillating men’s basketball history last week.
It goes past the two double-digit wins the Hurricanes recorded in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to start the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament to advance to Sunday night’s championship game against Butler, though the 105-79 pasting of Mississippi State and 90-66 domination Utah were certainly impressive.
Mississippi State looks to be an also-ran in the Southeastern Conference, but Utah came to the island as the 16th-ranked team in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN college basketball polls. The Hurricanes led from the outset, mostly by double digits, as has become their custom through their first four games.
While that performance likely will earn them a spot in the Top 25 of the polls, depending on what happens against Butler (No. 22 AP, No. 21 USA Today/ESPN), that’s not what puts last week right behind the team’s two trips to the NCAA Tournament’s regional semifinals.
For that, you have to add in what happened earlier in the week off the court.
First, coach Jim Larranaga announced the signing of four-star recruit Rodney Miller, a 6-11 center currently playing at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. Scout.com ranks him the 90th best prospect overall and No. 17 center. ESPN puts him at the 15th-best center.
Then, shortly before tipoff of the game against Mississippi State, the Hurricanes announced they had added a pair of top 30 prospects to the roster for 2016-17 in 6-10 power forward Dewan Huell and 6-4 shooting guard Bruce Brown.
Huell is a five-star local product from Miami’s Norland High rated the nation’s No. 21 player by ESPN, No. 23 by Rivals.com, and No. 25 by Scout.com. Scout rates him the best player in Florida. ESPN and Rivals say he is No. 2.
Brown is rated a four-star player. Out of Wakefield, Massachusetts, he is considered the country’s No. 30 prospect by ESPN, No. 44 by Scout, and No 49 by Rivals.
Put the three all together and the trio is rated in the top 10 of all three scouting services with Scout tabbing it at No. 8, ESPN at No. 9, and Rivals at No. 10. A fourth service, 247Sports, rates the ninth-best in the country.
That puts Larranaga’s program in the mix with traditional basketball powers like Kentucky, Duke, Michigan State, UCLA, Connecticut, and North Carolina and far ahead of others like Kansas, Louisville, and Indiana.
It’s the highest ranking ever for the Miami program, which in 2005 had four four-star recruits (Jimmy Graham, Brian Asbury, Adrian Thomas, and Denis Clemente) to rank No. 12 as a class. In 2009 Miami had a class that included Durand Scott, Garrius Adams, and Donnovan Kirk that ranked in the top 20 by Scout and ESPN.
The trio of freshmen will join a roster that includes current players like Davon Reed, a junior in his third year as a starter; Ja’Quan Newton, who has scored in double figures in three of Miami’s first four games; James Palmer, who has been in double figures twice; Kamari Murphy, who was suspended the first three games and had two points and a rebound in 17 minutes against Utah in his debut; Anthony Lawrence Jr., who has scored in double figures twice as a freshman off the bench; and Ebuka Izundu, another freshman who has been in double figures once already.
Rashad Muhammad, a transfer who averaged 13.5 points a game in two seasons at San Jose State, also will be eligible next season after sitting out this season per NCAA transfer rules.