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Pacers take shot at Heat; Morris: UM drop-off "not acceptable"; Brandon Marshall speaks

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The Indiana Pacers hope the Heat flops figurately and expects them to flop literally in their playoff series that starts Sunday. Pacers coach Frank Vogel told his team and Indianapolis reporters late Thursday afternoon that the Heat is the NBA's most egregious offender in flopping shenanigans. He hopes NBA referees hear those comments.

"They are the biggest flopping team in the NBA," Vogel said. "Every drive to the basket, they have guys not making a play on the ball, but sliding in front of drivers. Often times, they're falling down even before contact is even being made. It will be very interesting to see how the refs officiate the series and how much flopping they allow."

Vogel said, "We feel like we're one of the best teams in the league. We are not viewing this in any way, shape or form like a David versus Golaith type of meeting. We are not the underdog here. This is two heavyweights going toe to toe. That's how we view this series." (Nobody believes him about the underdog comment.)

Vogel said he might play some zone defense against the Heat and might inject Dahntay Jones into his rotation to guard Dwyane Wade or LeBron James.

### More Pacers chatter from Thursday (the Heat was off, so you won't be hearing from them again until Friday): George Hill: "I don't feel like it's an upset if we win."... Danny Granger: "We actually have a better record than Miami does after the All-Star break (21-7 to 19-13). We've won seven straight road games closing out the year. I don't think we're underdogs by any means. Miami has more recognition with their Big Three guys, but I think we're a good team as well."...

Paul George:  "It's a closer matchup than what people think. I guess we have to continue to prove ourselves. Everybody in this organization believes we can pull this series out, but everybody else doesn't expect that." (Except Charles Barkley, and only if the series goes six)... Darren Collison: "Whenever you're playing the Heat, it's just that motivation that you want to beat them. They have such good players on their team."... With the Bulls being eliminated, the Heat would have homecourt advantage against every remaining playoff team except the Spurs and Thunder.

MORRIS UNHAPPY

A candid Jim Morris addressed the state of his UM baseball program Thursday, amid this backdrop: Miami has one College World Series appearance in the past five years (in 2008), after making it in 10 of Morris’ first 13 seasons here, with national titles in 1999 and 2001. The program still wins -- Morris has made the NCAA Tournament every year -- but not quite at the level of his first 15 years.

“It’s not acceptable for me, my standards. I feel worse than anybody,” said Morris, whose team enters this weekend’s series against Wake Forest at 30-17 but just 12-12 in the ACC. “Everybody else in the country thinks we’re great, being ranked 21. Down here, we’re all spoiled, including me.

“It’s very frustrating being 21 and not going to the World Series in three years [after going 11] of my first 15. It was like automatic. We made hotel reservations for Omaha before the season started. We’re working as hard as we’ve ever worked as a coaching staff. Our players are working equally as hard. We’re trying to get better players, better everything. We have such high expectations in baseball and football that if you’re not mentioned in the national championship picture, something’s wrong.”

Four reasons for the program’s slight falloff:

### “We’ve been killed by the draft the last two years.” UM lost five  first-rounders (including the Marlins’ Christian Yelich) and one second-rounder in the past two drafts. “Last year, our recruiting class was ranked No. 1 in the country before the draft. When all your juniors sign and you don’t get a break in the draft, it makes it pretty tough."

Morris said “we’ve got a great recruiting class signed” heading into the draft June 4-6. He said he still “wants to sign the best players” and won’t pursue lesser prospects because he doesn’t want to miss out on top players who don’t turn pro.

Alex Fernandez, Charles Johnson, Kenny Henderson went to school as  first-rounders. The highest pick I’ve ever had go to school was an eight-rounder, Jemile Weeks. I’ve never had the luxury of a first-rounder. I’d like to experience that one time before I die… I’ve heard scouts say, ‘Who does Miami have signed?’ Because they know we have the best players.”

### Moving to the ACC. He said it’s tougher to win now than as an independent in baseball because “you have to travel more, and it means in a regional or super-regional, normally we’re going to play an SEC team, and that’s tough.”

### More parity in the sport. “There are a lot more teams that are good. It’s gotten tougher and tougher to go to the World Series.”

### High tuition at UM, which makes it difficult to compete with less expensive schools (such as UF and FSU) for some players.

UM undergraduate tuition is $39,654 annually and will increase to $41,220 this fall. Students must pay another $16,132 annually in housing, food and meals. UM must split 11.7 scholarships among 33 players, so it’s essentially like a salary cap.

Southern California and Stanford – who also have storied baseball programs at expensive private schools – have made one CWS in the past 10 and eight years, respectively. “If Major League Baseball stepped in and we had 25 scholarships, we would absolutely kick butt,” Morris said. “I’d be the happiest guy in America. Florida is $15,000 and [has] grants.”

(FYI: President Donna Shalala is raising a ton of money for an endowment fund, and Morris is hopeful baseball players will get some of that. “That grant money doesn’t count as scholarships,” he said.)

There has been some grumbling among some Board of Trustees members wondering why baseball isn’t as dominant the past few years. But a prominent trustee said, “We’re good with Jim. Every program has ups and downs.”

Athletic director Shawn Eichorst, who doesn’t like to speak on-the-record much, declined to discuss his level of commitment to Morris, who has several years left on his contract. Morris, 62, wants to coach for for a lot more years; “I enjoy it. This is all I’ve done.” He said he feels he has support from Eichorst.

“I don’t need anybody to put any pressure on me,” Morris said. “I put enough pressure on myself.”

### Morris said UM needs to win four of its last six and two ACC Tournament games to host a regional. “We’re out of the possibility of hosting a Super regional.” After hosting Wake, UM closes the regular season next week at Georgia Tech…. Morris is confident that top Westminster Christian prospect David Thompson will eschew turning pro and will enroll at UM to play football (quarterback) and baseball (first base, third base or left field). Thompson’s father, Ed, said Thursday, “I can’t tell you 100 percent, but he’s planning to go to UM.”

NFL ITEMS

Bears receiver Brandon Marshall told an Orlando radio station Thursday that it’s good Miami traded him because “it doesn’t make any sense to pay a guy [$9.3 million this season] and only expect him to have 60 or 65 or 70 receptions. Also, if you don’t have a quarterback, it doesn’t matter who you have out there. You can bring Jerry Rice back in his prime, and he's not going to be effective.  The fit, philosophy-wise, just wasn’t there.”

A Dolphins official told us Marshall was traded because this staff believed he would be potentially disruptive by demanding more touches than he would have gotten in this offense. Including a draft day trade-down, Miami ended up getting Michael Egnew, B.J. Cunningham and a 2013 third-rounder for him.

### The Patriots signed undrafted UM defensive tackle Marcus Forston.

### Quick broadcast note: CBS hired NFL Network’s Jason LaCanfora on Thursday to replace Charley Casserly as its NFL’s insider. 

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