neJust got back from UM's season-opening 73-50 win over FIU and have to say like Tuesday's exhibition victory, I came away impressed again.
UM's outside shooting came back to reality, dropping from 60 percent to 49. But we all kind of expected that. Anyone could shoot 60 percent against Northwood. What I didn't expect was for UM to play so well in the frontcourt. Anthony King, Jimmy Graham and Dwayne Collins blocked shots, redirected others, rebounded and scored on put backs, dunks, fade aways, jump hooks and jumpers. King scored a career-high 19 points and shot 9 of 12 from the field. He finally looked like he had the confidence to not only take shots, but make them. Something UM fans have longed for from the 6-9 North Carolina product.
OK, so this was FIU, an 8-20 team from a year ago that started a 6-7, 222-pound guy in the post and four guards. But considering how UM hasn't really had a dominant frontcourt force since the days Mario Bland was in the middle, this had to impress Canes basketball fans everywhere. It wasn't just the fact UM looked more athletic, bigger, stronger and longer. It's the fact UM appears to have not one, not two, but three viable options in the post. That's unheard of depth at UM.
Collins had 10 points, 12 rebounds, a block and still looked mediocre at best on the offensive end. Coach Frank Haith said he knew the frontcourt was going to be the focus this season. But I'm not sure he honestly thought Collins would look this ready to contribute this quickly. Mind you, the Hurricanes dominated FIU the way they did without Ray Hicks, who appears like he's going to be out more than another game or two for his team violation.
I don't want to get too out of control here or make you think UM is going to beat North Carolina or Duke this season. That's still a longshot. But through the early going, UM looks better than most people expected them to be without Guillermo Diaz and Rob Hite. Even FIU coach Sergio Rouco admitted new shooting guard Jack McClinton, who scored 14 points and sat out nearly 10 minutes of the first half, looks like he was going to help UM forget about what it lost with Hite and Diaz.
I'd say the only positions and players that looked a little shaky Saturday night were Anthony Harris at the point and Brian Asbury at the three. With Harris, it could have been fatigue. With backup Denis Clemente out and McClinton in foul trouble, Harris played without too many breathers and looked a little too sloppy at times. Asbury, who finished with 7 points, shot only 2-of-8 from the free throw line and missed a handful of layups. Asbury took some contact on them. But if he's going to be a scorer, he needs to make a few.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. UM's next game is Tuesday night at home against Alcorn State, the team Steve McNair once quarterbacked. Alcorn State lost to Texas by 60 points in its opener and is 0-2. Not exactly a great test for UM. But it's another opportunity for the young guys to grow.
If you've got a thought on the Canes basketball team, fire away. And be sure to listen to postgame interviews after all home games. I post them along with my stories.