When the Canisius Golden Griffins and the Miami Hurricanes open their seasons on Tuesday, the game in Coral Gables, Fla., will represent a major opportunity for the visitors.
Canisius will be playing a Power 5 conference team for the first time in 23 months, when the Griffins lost to Pittsburgh, 87-79.
The Griffins trailed Pitt by just one point with less than three minutes remaining in that contest, and they figure to have a legitimate shot at an upset against Miami. The Griffins return four starters and three key reserves from last season, including the Metro Atlantic's Sixth Man of the Year, 6-foot-7 senior forward Malek Green.
Veteran Canisius coach Reggie Witherspoon is cautiously optimistic.
"There are things we need to work on," Witherspoon said after Canisius' 101-64 exhibition win over Division II Wheeling University on Oct. 24. "But I'm pleased with our effort."
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have fallen into a rut since making the NCAA Tournament in 2018. Miami has posted three straight losing seasons, going 39-51 overall in that span, including 16-41 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Miami was just 10-17 last season, including 3-1 against non-Power 5 teams. Florida Gulf Coast's 66-62 win over the Hurricanes last season should give Canisius hope.
The Hurricanes are led by 6-3 guard Isaiah Wong, who averaged 17.1 points last season while playing 35.5 minutes per game. He scored 30 against Louisville, 29 vs. Florida State and 28 at Clemson.
"Playing more minutes, it just got easier," said Wong, who made a huge leap from his freshman average of 7.7 points in 21 minutes per game.
Wong, who was named first-team All-ACC in the preseason, scored 40 points in Miami's 106-95 exhibition win over Division II power Nova Southeastern on Oct. 20.
Miami's loaded backcourt also includes 6-5 Kameron McGusty, who averaged 13.3 points last season; 6-5 Harlond Beverly, who averaged 6.7 points; 5-11 point guard Charlie Moore and 6-7 wing Jordan Miller.
Moore transferred from DePaul, where he averaged 14.4 points. Miller transferred from George Mason, where he averaged 15.8 points and was named to the All-Atlantic 10 team.
Up front, the Canes are nowhere near as deep. Anthony Walker, a 6-9 leaper who averaged 9.6 points, is their best athlete. Sam Waardenburg, a 6-10 shooter, is healthy again after missing last season due to a foot injury.
For Canisius, Green returns after leading the team in scoring (13.2 points per game) and rebounding (7.2 per game). The Griffins endured a tough 2020-21 season as they went 41 days between games (from Jan. 2 to Feb. 12) due to the pandemic.
They managed to go 7-6, and they return four starters: 6-1 guard Ahamadou Fofana, 6-4 guard Armon Harried, 6-5 guard Jordan Henderson and 6-10 forward Jacco Fritz.
Fofana runs the offense, and Henderson is the shooter to watch after leading the team with a 41.2 percent 3-point shooting rate last season.
--Field Level Media