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Canes ranked! Sort of

I just flew back into town from San Juan a few hours ago with a very happy University of Miami men's basketball team, who brought home a rather petite championship trophy from the inaugural O'Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-Off this weekend.

The trophy may not be big, but for this program the tournament title meant a lot -- especially the players who had to endure last year's 12-20 injury-riddled season. After spending five days with them (in the same hotel and the same flight home) I can tell you it meant a lot. In the two years I've been covering this program, I've never seen players happier or more confident. The Canes are 4-0 for the first time since they started the 2001-02 season on fire and finished with a 24-8 record and NCAA tournament berth.

The start made somewhat of an impression on the pollsters. One writer from Arkansas, who votes in the Associated Press poll and was at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, told me he was going to rank Miami fifth nationally. Not sure if he was being legit or not. But the Canes did appear in the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll under the also receiving votes category.

So, Canes fans, stick out your chest and scream it with me: "We're No. 35!" The AP poll gave UM 27 votes, good for 35th if you count all the teams in front of it. Unbeaten and two-time defending national champion Florida (4-0) took the No. 25 spot (The hated Gators strike again!) UM also got 7 votes in the coach's poll, good for 43rd along with Boston College.

Miami's next game is against Morgan State (2-1) on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the BUC. Morgan State's not a bad team. They nearly upset UConn, falling 69-65 in the season opener. For those of you hardcore hoop fans, they are coached by former California coach Todd Bozeman, who was basically banned by the NCAA for nearly a decade for recruiting violations at Cal. He's been coaching Morgan State, based out of Baltimore, since last season. The program won four games in the three seasons before he got there. They went 13-18 last year. He's added more talent this year. MSU can shoot the three and has two good wing players and a 6-9 center who led the MEAC in rebounding last season. It will not be an easy game for UM.

Speaking of the Canes, I sat next to Dwayne Collins, James Dews and Julian Gamble on the flight home and got to talk to them plenty. Among the interesting topics -- Guillermo Diaz, who left school after his junior season to enter the NBA Draft. Dews asked me if I thought Diaz made the right decision. I told him I thought Diaz should have left a year earlier, before he was injured and when his draft stock was higher. Dews and Collins agreed. Then they added, "he should have come back if he was hurt." I found it interesting not because of the talk about Diaz (who was cut by the Clippers toward the end of the NBA preseason and was told is working on a comeback) but because it shows you that there are bigger aspirations on the minds of the players on this team. At 6-3, Dews could sprout into NBA player, especially if he keeps playing defense the way he has and hitting big three-point shots, ala a Ben Gordon. At 6-9, 245-pounds, Collins to me has the most raw skill and ability on this team and is likely the best future NBA prospect.

I know some of you have raised the question if I think center Anthony King is a potential draft pick. AnthonykingAccording to NBA Draft Press, King was rated the 31st best power forward prospect in the country last year at 6-9, 230 pounds. This year, he's proven to be a much better offensive player since his return. He's making free throws at an extremely high percentage (81%), he's hitting the mid-to-long range jumper and rebounding on both sides of the court (9.5 avg). He's still playing incredible defense too (14 blocks in 4 games). It's going to be hard for him to earn All-ACC First Teams honors with Tyler Hansborough and several other high profile big men in the conference, but that doesn't mean King might not finish this season as the best big man in the league. And if he is, there is no reason he should get drafted.

As for the team, the draft is the last thing they are thinking about. As I walked off the plane with guard Jack McClinton, we talked about the All-Tournament selection trophy he was carrying and how Anthoiny King got stiffed in the MVP voting. McClinton told me: "I could care less about this. We're winning. That's all that matters." I spoke with McClinton for more than 15 minutes in Puerto Rico about a ton of things. I posted it in the UM audio section. You should check it out -- along with my talk with freshman point guard Eddie Rios.

The Canes by the way were not recognized by many folks at Miami International Airport. They didn't even draw cheers. One security guy at the airport asked me, "Who is that?" I told him, "the UM basketball team, they just won in Puerto Rico." He told me, "I didn't even know they had a basketball team. I thought all they had was football." Made me chuckle. It still shows you how badly this program needs to win more games like it did Sunday night to garner the attention of folks in this town. I told the players as we were walking toward the luggage, "You realize nobody is cheering for you?" McClinton told me, "Hopefully we can change that. We just got to keep winning."

This team will win a lot more this year. Hopefully, it will be enough to get people to notice and help them convince recruits like Kenny Boynton to stay home instead of leaving for Duke. 

Comments

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1st?

Indeed you are PB.

Bravo to the other Canes. At least we have some victories somewhere.

Manny, what's your latest feel on the recruits?? Anything new??

Now I know that I've wasted a lot of hours this year watching the football team lose, but I can't help it...I'll be tuned in this Sat. at noon. I'd love to go to the b-ball game, but who was the Rhodes Scholar who scheduled the b-ball game at the same time the football team is playing?

Well done UM, i hope we can win a couple more games and get a tourney birth.

Great way to start the season. Go Canes!

mandingo,
nobody cheered for them at the airport because all fans in Miami are fairweather. if you haven't won anything worth a damn in over a season, they could care less about you. and if you haven't won anything worth a damn ever, they have no idea who you are or what sport you play. Especially those idiots at the airport, who don't know their face from their ass.

Great post, Manny. If we continue to win the hype will slowly start to build for the program and you will see a sold out BUC come ACC time. Btw, do you know if Dequan Jones and Reggie Johnson signed yet?

Manny,

This is a BIG year for Canes hoops!!

With our team down 30 some points, during the last game at the OB, I asked myself, why the h3ll am I still sitting hear. Yes it was partially because it was the last time at the old girl, but even more so was my desire for just one goddamn positive thing to happen so I could cheer my a$$ off for the U. I think a lot of the Canes fans that are still around feel the same and have come to the realization that we're not going to get any gratification out of this years version of our football team. Many posters on this blogs and others have scratched off the BC game and consider the next major event in Canes football to be Natl signing day. Obviously this leaves to door wide open for the bball team to get the attention of our fan base. Miami has already proven that it can be a basketball city if properly motivated, therefor if this team is still making waves by the time they get into ACC play, that arena down in Miami is going to slowly fill with orange and green t-shirts.

Could you imagine the noise that the west endzone fans could make, crammed into a 15k seat bball arena??? Scary!

actually the BUC only seats 7k right now (partly due to the City of Coral Gables being gay and not letting it sit 9k), but the arena is built in a way to become very loud

Yeah 15k was a guess, but you get the point...It could easily turn into one of the most intimidating places to play in college bball

Manny,

Thanks for giving us some fantastic inside hoops info. I look forward to more as the season progresses -- especially when the Canes start playing conference games.

One more thing, Manny:

This paragraph from your last blog was probably the most salient thing I've seen written about the football team so far:

"I think the bigger issues are whether or not this team was let down by its coaching this season. Did Tim Walton do enough with this defense to give it a chance to be successful? Was Patrick Nix the right choice as offensive coordinator? Or were they both victims of the lack of talent on this team? Could they have done more? Was Randy Shannon's approach of having players fight for the job every week too much for some of these players to handle? What has Randy learned about his approach? Those are the questions I'd like to try and answer when I get back to Miami next week, even if I'm not sure I'll find an answer. These too... who will be gone, player and coach wise?"

Thank you for maintaining perspective and objectivity (despite the fact that you may catch sh!t from the coaching staff for it).

They don't know much about UM, but ask him anything about Fidel. He will KNOW!!

Could you imagine the noise that the west endzone fans could make, crammed into a 15k seat bball arena??? Scary!

Posted by: Big Moo | November 19, 2007 at 10:02 PM

There is no reason whatsoever that that stadium should not be filled almost everyday. The student body at Miami is pathetic. Also, I'm sure very few people here go to the games. Season tickets are $100.

BBALL doesn't sond half bad. I can get into this. Now I have to do some reading to sound half knowledgeable when I make comments.

love your coverage of the team.its the only way i get info being stuck up here in tampa with the tribune.rapped a fish in it last week and he complained.

Manny, you are the eternal optimist (don't worry, I am too when it comes to the Football team...), but I am not so eager to jump on the Canes BB Bandwagon. The ACC looks as tough as ever, so after about 4 or 5 ACC Games, then we will know if this team is real. I am glad to see they are off to a good start, but I hope Haith will schedule a little stronger out of conference schedule and get some former Big East foes or Big Ten teams down to the Arena in CG.

jerey cane, check the schedule they play st johns december 2nd at home. i assume you'll be there. schedule better non conference? what duke, north carolina, maryland and fsu aren't good enough to go and see?last year they played northwestern out of the big 10 and the year before they played michigan twice.. get your facts right.

I will go watch the BBALL team this year because they play hard. win or lose that's all i would be happy with at this point.0 with your football team calling it a season. Maybe shannon should make the football team go down and watch these boys hustle and fight for 40 mins. DaUbBall

I really like the talet the basketball team has assembled. I beleive talent wise we are a top 25 team. This years team is going to come down to coaching. Haith has not proved anytning to me besides being a good recruiter. It may be his lack of experience or it might be more. To see them get called for four 5 second violations and two at the end of the VCU game just can not happen. That is coaching. Kids need to know to call timeout and we need some kind of plays to get the ball inbounded to the right guy when a team is fooling us at the end of a game. Ray Hicks, although he has a high percentage in free throws should not be the guy handling the ball in crunch time. he is a forward for god sake. Inbound the ball to a guard who can hit the big free throws. All in all I still think our offense is lost at times and we relay too much on the 3 pointers, but I am extremely proud of the guys for winning the tourney in PR and look forward to a sucessful season. Next year we might have a legit shot at the NCAA championship! Go Canes!

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