It's been nine years since anyone other than Duke or North Carolina has won the regular season title outright, and if that trend is going to change, it will happen this season. It's a combination of Duke losing two starters and North Carolina losing four of their own and North Carolina State bring back all five starters and then a top recruiting class. But the team no one is talking about right now is Jim Larranaga's Miami Hurricanes. Injuries, suspensions and a pay-for-play scheme overshadowed their 20-win season and this year should be even better.
The dominating force on the low blocks, 6'10", 285-pound center, Reggie Johnson returns after an injury-riddled junior year; he nearly averaged a double-double as sophomore behind his massive size, strength and surprisingly soft touch and figures to be back to full health in 2012-13. At the power forward position, Kenny Kadji, a former Florida Gator, put up 20 double-digit scoring games last season, including 14 in a row at one point. His ability to score in the paint, as well as step outside and knock down 3-point shots will create a formidable tandem in the frontcourt.
In the backcourt, the team's leading-scorer and best defensive player, the versatile Durand Scott, will be a senior and is poised to breakout on the national scene this year. He is an aggressive, fill-the-stat-sheet-type of wing with first-team All-ACC talent. Last season's rookie performer, Shane Larkin, will step into the starting role and replace the now-graduated Malcolm Grant; this will help the flow of the overall offense as Grant was notorious for his shoot-first mentality, but was a well-below average shooter at that. Larkin was second on the team in assists per game last season. And rising-junior Rion Brown will be the key to the team. He packed in a major scoring punch down the stretch, hitting double-figures in scoring in the last four games and was the Hurricanes' leading-scorer in the NIT. Miami will depend on his ability to knock down the 3-point ball to space the floor so Johnson and Kadji can operate inside.