The parallels between Miami’s 11-year coach Jim Larranaga and Clemson’s 12th-year coach Brad Brownell are inescapable.
For one, they have remarkably similar records at their current stops. While Larranaga has gone 205-133 with the Hurricanes, Brownell has a 206-153 mark with the Tigers.
Additionally, their rivalry extends to the Colonial Association, where Larranaga coached at George Mason and Brownell guided UNC Wilmington.
Saturday, when their teams meet at Miami in both sides’ ACC opener, they enter on equal footing. Both are 5-3 with questions about their ability to compete with the top teams of the highly competitive conference.
Clemson has dropped three of its last four, including a 74-64 loss Tuesday at Rutgers. The positive was the play of South Florida transfer David Collins, who had his best game with his new team, scoring 18 points while grabbing 10 rebounds.
At issue was the play of PJ Hall, Clemson’s top scorer at 13.4 points per game. Hall got into foul trouble, limiting his minutes to 20, his points to 10 and his rebounds to four.
“He’s played really well most of the year for us,” Brownell said. “We’re obviously a different team when he’s not out there. He’s the guy we need out there because of his size, because of what he brings to the table offensively and scoring around the basket.”
Hall will try to make amends at Miami, which has three starters who have been together at the school for the last six years. One of those is Kameron McGusty, who leads the Hurricanes in scoring (16.9) and rebounds (6.5).
The other program veterans are Charlie Moore (10.9 points) and Sam Waardenburg, who excelled in a 63-58 victory Wednesday at Penn State as he went 4 of 8 from 3-point range and scored a team-high 14 points.
Also in the lineup for Miami is last year’s top scorer, Isaiah Wong, who is averaging 15.1 points. He is two full points under his scoring average from last season.
As he tries to end his streak of three straight losing seasons, Larranaga has plenty of veteran firepower to throw at his longtime coaching foe, who never makes preparation easy.
“They really do a fantastic job of developing a game plan suited to their opponent,” Larranaga said of Brownell’s Tigers. “Sometimes they’re going to really pressure, sometimes they’ll go zone, sometimes they’ll do a lot of switching. They really base their strategy on a lot of different elements.”
–Field Level Media