A six-pack of notes on a Wednesday night:
### No coach butters up an opponent like the Patriots’ Bill Belichick. But Belichick also goes into more detail on his upcoming opponent’s personnel than perhaps any coach in the league. Here’s some of what he said Wednesday about the Dolphins, a lengthy soliloquy without even being asked a question:
“The Dolphins are doing a lot of things well; they’re an impressive team. They’re really sound. I’ve been real impressed with the kicking game – [Marcus] Thigpen has done a good job for them returning. They have a lot of physical coverage guys [on special teams] like [Jason] Trusnik and [Olivier] Vernon, [Austin] Spitler, [Jimmy] Wilson, [Marlon] Moore, real good group there; a good group of specialists.
"Defensively I think they’re led by that front. Very explosive front with [Cameron] Wake and [Koa] Misi, Vernon outside and inside [Randy] Starks, [Paul] Soliai, [Jared] Odrick is playing well. I think a lot of those guys are having as good years as they’ve had. They put a lot of pressure on you with a lot of different blitz packages. [They] have a lot of good players up there – tough to run against, good on third down, good in the red area.
“Offensively,… a couple good running backs, a solid offensive line – [Jake] Long, [Mike] Pouncey, [Richie] Incognito – a real solid left side. Pouncey is one of the best centers in the league. [Anthony] Fasano has always done a good job for them. [Brian] Hartline is having a career year, a really explosive player. [Davone] Bess, we always know what kind of problem he’s been for us.”
### Here’s what Belichick said to say about Ryan Tannehill: “He’s done a good job, given them some spark. He’s really a smart guy. You can certainly see that by the way he runs the offensive team: their audibles, the way he controls the line of scrimmage, gets them in and out of plays based on different defensive looks, things like that. They give him a lot of responsibility there and I don’t think he has any problem handling it.”
### Don’t understate Shane Battier’s absence for at least the next couple of games. The Heat generally plays well with him on the floor – plus 63 this season in his 345 minutes. Oddly, Dwyane Wade is only a plus 24 in his 338 minutes. Among Heat players, Battier trails only Chris Bosh (plus 76) in plus/minus.
### UM’s 67-59 win against perennial power Michigan State on Wednesday is the type of victory that can push Miami over the top for an NCAA Tournament bid if the Canes finish 9-9 or 10-8 in the ACC, provided they plow through the rest of the non-conference schedule without many more bumps. They’re clearly a different team with Durand Scott, who was suspended when UM lost by 12 to Florida Gulf Coast.
Former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl and former Duke guard Jay Williams raised eyebrows in ESPN’s studio by ranking UM ahead of North Carolina. Pearl expects UM to finish ahead of UNC in the ACC. “Miami is for real,” he said. “This was a major statement game.”
UM got good work from all its perimeter players, including Scott, Shane Larkin and Trey McKinney Jones (18 points). Reggie Johnson (10 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks) was far more active after halftime.
### Stan Van Gundy, guest hosting on Wednesday with Dan Le Batard and Jon Weiner on 790 The Ticket, asked Al Golden how much the NCAA investigation has hurt UM in recruiting.
“It’s hurt us. In many respects, it’s more difficult than dealing with what is handed down,” Golden said. “The unknown is what allows people to say what they want to recruits. We are vulnerable. We have been a victim of negative recruiting. It makes me angry. It’s easy to go after a program when you’re going through what we’re going through. But it turns a lot of [kids] off, too. It’s like being on probation now. The cloud is akin to being on probation. We’ll overcome it.”
### Van Gundy also got Golden going on the lunacy of so many teams switching conferences. “Do you know what league you’re in and what other teams are in the league?” Van Gundy said, whimsically.
Said Golden: “If I had to name all the other conference schools, I don’t think I could. It looks like we’re going to super conferences. I don’t know if we’re going to end up with four or five. How are we going to pay for it all? How are these teams in the Big East going to pay to go to Boise? Not [only] football, but a basketball game on a Tuesday night?”