It's never too early to look at what's to come. Over the next few weeks, we will give you a peek at what is ahead for teams in the Power 5 conferences and some other teams expected to be players on the national scene. Next up: Miami.
When Jim Larranaga left George Mason for Miami in 2011, his new hub featured one of the most appealing backdrops for any young man, athlete or not, in America: South Beach.
The sun sells, man. And if Larranaga could use it to fire up a program that reached the NCAA tournament just six times prior to his arrival, perhaps he could build something. That was the idea. And after last season's Sweet 16 run -- the second of his tenure -- it seemed more tangible.
But the test comes in 2016-17. Is Miami just another squad riding the ACC's wave or a team that's positioned to do more than make a Sweet 16 run every three years? The latter seems feasible based on the top-15 recruiting class that will reduce the deficit created by the departure of Larranaga's most important contributors and leaders.
The great Miami rapper and philosopher Pitbull once said, however, "Don't stop the party." And the party won't stop in Miami in 2016-17, although the Hurricanes will reassemble their roster in bullish times for the ACC. Duke should enter the preseason as the No. 1 team in every reputable poll now that Grayson Allen will return to join Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum, the top two recruits in the 2016 class per RecruitingNation. North Carolina, Louisville and Virginia could all compete for the national title, too.
Miami shouldn't end -- or enter -- the year as an afterthought, though.
Incoming shooting guard Bruce Brown, ranked 31st in the 2016 class by RecruitingNation, and power forward Dewan Huell, ranked 23rd nationally, should crack the starting rotation for a Miami team that might compete for a spot in the ACC's top tier. Rodney Miller, a 6-11 center who played at Oak Hill Academy, could develop into a reliable reserve during his first season, too.
Larranaga had recruited two ESPN 100 recruits prior to this year's class, which features two. Brown and Huell will launch their collegiate careers with the buffer of a strong returning group.
Davon Reed (11.1 PPG), the top returning scorer from last season, will snatch a greater share of the team's shots in 2016-17. The 6-6 wing who made 40 percent of his 3-pointers last season could blossom next season. Kamari Murphy steps into the starting center role vacated by Jekiri after averaging 5.6 PPG and 6.0 RPG last season. Plus, Rashad Muhammad, the brother of NBA wing Shabazz Muhammad, will regain his eligibility after sitting out last season following his transfer from San Jose State. He averaged 13.9 PPG in 2014-15.
Yet, the final returnee demands both praise and scrutiny. This is Ja'Quan Newton's squad now. The guard averaged 10.5 PPG and 2.5 APG last season. With Rodriguez gone, he'll probably play point guard for a team that lost one of the nation's best.
That's the major concern with this Miami team.
"He can score and he can pass, but his assist-to-turnover ratio is 1-to-1," Larranaga told the Miami Herald last week. "If he's really going to be the kind of point guard that can lead our team, he needs to improve to 2-to-1 or 3-to-1."
In 2015-16, both Newton (20.6) and Rodriguez (20.5) ended the year with equally subpar turnover rates. But Rodriguez was the only player on the roster with a top-100 assist rate.
So Larranaga is right. Newton (2.5 APG, 2.1 TPG) finished the NCAA tournament with five assists and seven turnovers. If he assumes primary ballhandling duties for Miami next season, limiting turnovers will be pivotal. Still, Rodriguez committed turnovers on nearly one-fifth of his possessions, too, and Miami still reached the Sweet 16. That's likely the high mark for next year's team.
The young talent and returning players comprise a solid crew with the potential to get back to the NCAA tournament and build for the future. Larranaga gained enough to thrive in 2016-17.
Most teams would tumble in the standings after the losses of Rodriguez and McClellan. Miami could slip, too.
But the crew that's coming to Coral Gables and the talent coming back probably won't let that happen.