Miami, FL -- The University of Miami opens up its season on Friday, November 13 in an unusual 11 a.m. matchup against Horizon League power Wright State.
Power conference schools like Miami usually schedule weaker opponents for their season openers, but this isn't the case with Wright State, a team that was an overtime period away from qualifying for the NCAA Tournament last season. The Raiders are a potent team, headlined by redshirt senior Kim Demmings, who suffered a season-ending injury in last season's opener.
"They're good," Hurricanes coach Katie Meier said. "They're much changed, but the secret weapon that they have is Kim Demmings. She can score like you have not seen; she can really score the basketball."
The senior averaged 22.4 points per game during her Horizon League Player of the Year campaign two seasons ago, so Miami understands this is no pushover team, and they are embracing the challenge as something that will prepare this team down the road.
"This is not a soft opening game by any stretch of the imagination. This is a 20-win team, a postseason team, and we're going to need all of our attention to compete and beat them," Meier said. "We don't want easy runs early on. We really want to fine-tune our team, and so much of it is going to be decisions that I have to make.
"I'm putting a lot of pressure on myself this year on which lineups play well together, did I make the right call, there's a lot going on in my head."
Miami is fresh off an 83-53 exhibition win over Nova Southeastern University 83-53 on November 4. The Hurricanes controlled the tempo of the game and enjoyed all five starters scoring in double digits.
"We're really good, that's the biggest thing," said guard Jessica Thomas, who scored 11 points in the win. "We have some things we need to work on defensively. We have so much offensive talent around us, but defense is the big thing. We learned that we need to focus a little more on defense, we need more of an edge on defense, more pride on defense."
Can Hurricanes storm into the postseason again?
Playing into the postseason has become somewhat of a norm in Coral Gables, as the Hurricanes have earned either a WNIT or NCAA Tournament berth in six consecutive seasons.
With the return of last season's top-three leading scorers in Adrienne Motley (16.9 ppg), Thomas (9.3 ppg) and Michelle Woods (8.5 ppg), Miami is in great position to make a run for the ACC Championship and return to the NCAA Tournament.
Establishing their dominance in what will likely be an ultra-competitive ACC is already an early goal for the Hurricanes.
"I want to win the ACC Championship," Thomas said. "My main focus isn't about points or about the stat line; it's about making sure that we win at the end of the day."
Miami has a helter-skelter schedule to start the season -- playing six games in a span of 16 days before November ends -- which can either prepare them for the long, dragging days of conference play or in a slump to start the year. Meier believes the former is true.
"There's no time for anyone to get in their own heads or get their feelings hurt," Meier said. "Our starting lineups for the season will depend on the matchup, period. We have a good seven to eight players that are absolute ACC starters, which is a great problem to have."