« October 2008 | Main | December 2008 »

34 posts from November 2008

November 29, 2008

Courtside blog: UM 79, Stetson 65 (F)

BANKUNITED CENTER -- Want to get rid of your football blues? Hang out with me as the 22nd-ranked Canes host Stetson today and look to improve to 4-1 on the season. I'll be here to provide you with the highlights. Frank Haith's team is the best that UM now has. Might as well jump on the bandwagon.

Stetsonhatters> Lance Hurdle has officially replaced Eddie Rios in the starting lineups. Today he gets his first start of the season. Rios started the first four games.
> When Miami comes back out of the timeout, Haith will switch five starters for five reserves. It's not because he's upset with their play. It's the depth of his team. Dwayne Collins has four early points to lead the Canes, who got a three-pointer from James Dews to take an 11-8 lead with 15:53 left in the half.
> The Canes hit a hold patch, going without a basketball for about four minutes. But Cyrus McGowan went on a personal 6-0 run to get the offense going, showing his range with a three-pointer and his strength with a dunk in the post. James Dews capped the 9-0 Canes run with a three-pointer with 11:17 left.
> Stetson trimmed UM's lead to 20-16 with a pair of Garfield Blair free throws. But Miami has responded with a 10-0 run behind two Eddie Rios three-pointers and a beautiful Rios to Collins assist for reverse slam dunk.
> HALFTIME NUMBERS -- UM is outrebounding the Hatters 19-14. Garfield Blair leads all scorers with 15 points. Cyrus McGowan has 9 points and James Dews had 8 for Miami, which led by as many 16 with 4:52 left in the half.

> The Canes just haven't been able to really pull away from the Hatters this time around. Last year, Miami beat Stetson 89-53. Frank Haith talked about how this Stetson team was much improved and older and more experienced and you can see it. Senior Garfield Blair has 19 points to lead Stetson. Cyrus McGowan has 14 points to lead the Canes.
> Jack McCinton by the way was held scoreless in the first half. He took just two shots. He finally scored on a three-pointer with 17:35 left in the second half.

Gameday blog: N.C. State 38, UM 28 (F)

MIAMI -- The Canes are in Raleigh today to face the red-hot Wolfpack and are minus leading receiver Aldarius Johnson, who was suspended for violating a team rule and did not make the trip. The Canes are obviously playing for a better bowl game today. But it's N.C. State who has a lot more to play for -- they need a win to look up a bowl trip.

Nc_stateI'm here at home preparing to go watch Frank Haith's team take on Stetson at 3:30 p.m. at the BankUnited Center. But I'll be along for the ride in Raleigh, providing my thoughts on the game as it progresses. Our Susan Miller Degnan is up there checking in with me and says the skies are dark and the stadium lights are on at Carter-Finley Stadium. Let's hope that doesn't set the tone for Randy Shannon's team, which obviously doesn't want to end what has been a good season with back-to-back losses before bowl season.

The key to the game today is simple...
> Stop Russell Wilson. Bobby Bowden called him the mother of all running backs. Miami has to redeem itself after its debacle in Atlanta last week.
> Remember, DeMarcus Van Dyke will get his first start today opposite freshman Brandon Harris, getting his first start in over a month, at cornerback.

> Derron Thomas starts the game in the backfield -- call it a senior deal. Miami's offense fizzles and goes three-and-out on its first drive. Should we be surprised? The good news: Matt Bosher gets off a 61-yard punt to pin N.C. State deep in its own territory.
> Russell Wilson has turned out to be everything we've heard he was. He absolutely shredded UM on the Wolfpack's opening drive and then tossed a touchdown pass to Andre Brown with 7:42 left. It capped a 96-yard scoring drive. I smell a lot of trouble for UM today. This could get real ugly. N.C. State 7, UM 0.
> Patrick Nix isn't helping his cause. Another 3-and-out for the Canes on their second possession. Robert Marve tried to go deep to Sam Shields and he couldn't come down with the catch. The ball actually was thrown well. Shields has to snatch that ball out of the air.
> The Canes finally get off the field on third down after DeMarcus Van Dyke bats a pass away on N.C. State's second series. You got to give UM's secondary a little credit. They are getting very little support from the pass rush. It's tough to cover guys for 10 seconds.
> Someone blew some major coverage for N.C. State and the Canes are happy to take advantage. Dedrick Epps finds himself wide open and makes a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch for a 69-yard catch-and-run from Robert Marve. And just like that, the game is tied with 3:50 left in the first quarter. UM 7, N.C. State 7.
> Brandon Harris has finally made his first real big play as a Cane. N.C. State tries to run a trick play having Andre Brown throw the football and Harris steps in front of a Wolfpack receiver and returns it 24 yards to the N.C. State 45. Big play for Brandon.
> Javarris James makes his first appearance of the game on 4th down and 1 and picks up the first down. Maybe someone finally heard your complaints! Until then, we'd been seeing Graig Cooper on short running situations. Here's the best stat Baby J has -- only one carry for negative yardage this season.
> Baby J takes three consecutive carries and his last -- a dive into the end zone -- puts UM up with 13:09 left. Javarris has 4 carries for 42 yards. UM 14, N.C. State 7.
> Shades of Donovan McNabb, Russell Wilson just ran circles quite literally around Miami's defense, scoring on a 29-yard touchdown run with 10:44 left. He looked like Michael Vick in John Madden football 2003. Amazing. Miami's defensive line missed at least four opportunities to get to him. UM 14, N.C. State 14.
> Jacory Harris comes in on the fourth series (as usual) and moves UM downfield. But then, he makes a bad decision, trying to force the ball into triple coverage to Richard Gordon and DeAndre Morgan caught the tipped pass in the end zone for an interception.
> Miami's defense finally makes a play when Marcus Forston sacks Wilson on third down and five. And then, Sam Shields -- who had been playing great -- crashes into N.C. State's punter, giving N.C. State a first down. Tough play. Shields was trying to make a play and instead of getting flagged for running into the kicker, he gets roughing.
> Another great play by Marcus Forston keeps N.C. State out of the end zone. Forston just gets enough of Wilson on third down to sack him and forces the Wolfpack to settle for a field goal with 1:47 left. N.C. State 17, UM 14.
> By the way, it looks like defensive end Marcus Robinson suffered a groin strain on the previous series.

> Miami's defense just can't get a handle on Russell Wilson. Now, all of his first half running has opened up the passing lanes. The Canes were lucky Marcus Forston and company were able to hold the Wolfpack to a field goal on their opening possession. N.C. State 20, UM 14.
> Javarris James scored his second touchdown of the game giving Miami its second lead of the game. The Hurricanes ran the ball six times on the seven-play scoring drive, sprinkling a little Baby J with a little Super Coop. UM 21, N.C. State 20.
> So much for that lead. N.C. State takes less than a minute to answer Miami's scoring drive as Wilson carves Brandon Harris and the secondary. N.C. State 28, UM 21.
> We keep forgetting how valuable Travis Benjamin is to the return game. Graig Cooper, Brandon Harris and company have done a good job filling in. But Benjamin is the game-breaker who can make the difference in a game like this.
> With 8:57 left to play N.C. State might have sealed this one up with a 42-yard field goal. Miami's last two possessions have gone nowhere and if the Canes don't score on this next possession, we're probably going to be headed to San Francisco next month for the Emerald Bowl.
> No Canes comeback today. Jacory Harris gets picked for the second time with 5:23 left and it basically seals the deal for N.C. State, which basically has to run out the clock to hold on for the victory.

November 26, 2008

What's so bad about 7-5?

It's pretty amazing how quickly the mood of an entire fan's nation can change in a matter of one week. Last week at this time, U were probably thinking...

> The Canes are going to win the ACC title and we're going to be in the Orange Bowl. Sweet!
> Randy Shannon probably deserves some Coach of the Year consideration.
> Bill Young has done a great job straightening out that defense. That FSU game was just a bad game.
> This whole Robert Marve-Jacory Harris quarterback sharing thing -- I can live with it this year as long as we keep winning.
> This team has really impressed me. They're doing great much better than I thought they would.

Not so much anymore. In a few hours, it's going to be a week since the Georgia Tech debacle, since all of those good feelings and positive opinions on this Canes season vanished with three hours of misery in Atlanta. But as you sit down to your turkey dinner tonight ask yourself this -- should U really be that disappointed? What were your realistic expectations for this team before Jacory Harris made you feel giddy with that comeback at Duke and Virginia and the defense and Marcus Robinson thrilled you against Virginia Tech? How happy would U have been if someone told you this team would likely finish 7-5 after starting 2-3?

Here's the reality: U probably aren't happy anymore with 7-4. And, things are probably going to get even uglier if that record slips to 7-5 with a loss at N.C. State on Saturday. But should U really be that upset? I think U should be thankful for this... this football team is better than it was last season; it's only going to get better with time; and Notre Dame is worse.

> Unfortunately, due to my flight delay in St. Thomas, I never got in on time to catch the end of practice Tuesday. But I did make it out on Wednesday to shoot a new video with Mollie Rose and gather some post-practice talk about the Wolfpack, who obviously have momentum (a three-game winning streak) and a bowl-berth to play for. So, what was the mood of the team? "We just want to get a win," linebacker Glenn Cook said. "This win will help us get into a better bowl. We don't get into redemption. We didn't do what we had to do to put us in a good position. So, this is what we've got to play for now."

Honestly, I'd say Cook and his teammates sounded a lot more disappointed they no longer have the ACC title to play for than thrilled about playing the Wolfpack. Not a good sign heading into Saturday.

> Randy Shannon has decided to make a few changes to the starting lineup on defense, benching veterans Bruce Johnson and Chavez Grant at cornerback for sophomore DeMarcus Van Dyke and freshman Brandon Harris. While I understand Johnson and Grant haven't done anything to warrant staying in the starting rotation, I'm taking it as a sign Shannon has decided with two games left to move forward at least at cornerback, throwing two guys into the fire even if they get burned.

Demarcus_van_dykeVan Dyke, who started eight games last season, said Wednesday he'd only been playing about 10 snaps a game in certain situations. Harris, who has struggled this season, hasn't started since the Duke game. Harris said he believes coaches made the change because "I think its just giving us a feel to see how we can do starting off. They really want us to see us make some plays on the ball and tackle guys and get them on the ground. I think we play faster when you know what an offense is doing before you lineup. I think early in the season we were just trying to play off athletic ability."

Both Harris and Van Dyke said they've spent a lot of time in the film room, learning how to play in Young's zone-based coverage defense. Van Dyke said adjusting from man to zone is what caused him to struggle this season. "I think this right here is my stepping stone for next year," Van Dyke said. "I really want to get back to doing what I was supposed to do."

> Shannon said linebacker Romeo Davis has been replaced by junior Daryl Sharpton at the starting strongside linebacker spot.

> There are a few reports out two seniors could be seeking another year of eligibility after this season -- safeties Randy Phillips and Anthony Reddick. I'm of the opinion at least it's time to go in the direction of youth. Show me some Vaughn Telemaque.

November 24, 2008

Courtside blog: UM 80, San Diego 45 (F)

ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands -- It's the final night of the Paradise Jam (and my little vacation). Frank Haith's Canes, who dropped to No. 22 in the AP poll after their Sunday night loss to No. 2 UConn, are trying to close out the tournament with a 3-1 overall record.

So far, I've been impressed the most early in the season by Dwayne Collins, who really has come into his own as the legit No. 2 scoring option on this team. Sunday, he couldn't control Hasheem Thabeet (who really can, much Dwayne_collins2less when you are giving up 7 inches and 20 pounds). But Collins impressed me yet again with his development in the post. He wasn't scared. He wanted the ball and called for it several times before muscling his way inside for dunks, short hooks and more. He also did a real nice job drawing a few charges in the lane -- even though a few weren't called. At the least in the early going, you can say Collins looks like the player Frank Haith has longed to see. And he's not just doing once every few games. Jim Calhoun said last night Collins was a guy he feared coming in and said Miami has "a gem" in Collins.

Now, Miami needs to see who option No. 3 develops to be. Even if its a different guy on each night, somebody -- either James Dews, Cyrus McGowan, Lance Hurdle, DeQuan Jones or Brian Asbury -- has to step up and be that guy. Miami lost last night against a very, very good team because it didn't have that third option. You need one to win games against the UConns, Dukes, North Carolinas and the rest of the elite in college basketball. But it's good to feel like at least, Miami doesn't just have that one guy wearing No. 33 anymore to rely on by himself.

> Almost on cue, Dwayne Collins gets rolling to start the game. First, he converted a three-point play (with a basket and a foul) to put UM up 5-0. The next time down the floor, he put a nice post move on Gyno Pomare to give UM a 7-2 lead. On the opposite end, he then deflected a ball which led to a Rios steal and layup. Now, he'll be at the free throw line with UM leading 11-8 with 14:30 left. I forgot to mention, Collins leads the ACC in rebounds after two weeks with 13 a game.

> This is what UM can play like when the opposing team doesn't have a 7-foot, 3-inch center. The Canes are owning the post right now against San Diego, who stacks up pretty evenly size-wise with Miami. Jimmy Graham, Julian Gamble and Collins are patrolling the middle and forcing the Toreros to score everything from the perimeter. Miami has gone on a 7-0 run since the last time out. Graham started with a rebound on a missed free throw and stick back. Lance Hurdle then drilled a three before Brian Asbury scored on an easy layup on a beautiful pass from Gamble.

> Miami had built its biggest lead of the game at 32-22 on a Cyrus McGowan three-pointer with 4:57 left in the half, but the Toreros have answered with back-to-back three-pointers by Brandon Johnson and Chris Lewis to pull within 32-28 with 3:20 left. McGowan has done a nice job on the offensive end. But there are times when he gets lost on screens and its allowed the Torerors to capitalize.

> Brian Asbury has scored six straight points -- four from the free throw line -- to give Miami its 10-point lead back with 1:12 left in the first half.

> FYI, look for Sunday's home game against Stetson -- schedule for 1 p.m. -- to be switched to a later start time with the football Canes scheduled to take on N.C. State at Noon.

> The Toreros came out of the break on a quick 5-1 run, but Miami has responded with a pair of Jimmy Graham layups to make it 44-35 with 15:32 left. Julian Gamble came in after Dwayne Collins picked up his third foul with 17:22 left and made a nice play to jump in front of a pass and setup a fastbreak which led to a foul. Gamble, who was redshirted last year, has made two nice plays since he's been in the game (albeit briefly). He had that nice assist to Brian Asbury earlier.

> Maybe this stat will show you just how much better I think this UM team is. With 13:21 left, Jack McClinton has yet to hit a field goal (0-for-4) and has four points (all from the line) and the Canes lead 47-35. Last year, Miami would be down 12 if that was the case. This San Diego team by the way is the same team that knocked off UConn in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament last year. Their losses have to come to UNLV and No. 25 Wisconsin.

> It's now been a 14-0 UM run since Gyno Pomare scored San Diego's last basket with 17:53 left.

November 23, 2008

Courtside blog: UConn 76, UM 63 (F)

ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands -- Just got to the University of the Virgin Islands Arena and I'm watching the Canes warm-up for their showdown with No. 2 Connecticut in less than an hour. The game will be carried on Fox College Sports back home. Not sure how many of U have it. But if you do, you'll get to watch this one. If not, tune into 880 AM (WQAM has Dolphins programming) for the radio broadcast. Joe Zagacki and Josh Darrow will have the call as usual.

Paradise_jamOn the ride in, I sat next to Jack McClinton Sr., who said he thinks his son is in for a big game tonight. Apple Jacks hasn't been been playing like the Jack we saw in the final eight games of last season, when opponents were getting lit up like a Christmas tree. Jack Sr. told me he thinks is son is pressing a little bit, especially since he knows so many NBA Scouts are now keeping a close eye on him.

There's talk from within Jack could be a late first round pick with a solid senior season -- especially after the way he lit up guys over the summer at several camps hosted by guys like Steve Nash and Lebron James. Jack_mcclintonJack Sr. said Haith has been trying to get Jack to tone down his game a little since then because he's still playing like he's facing guys in those camps, trying to throw in extra moves to create separation when he already has it. Jack Sr. said his son is really trying to hone his mid-range game and his ability to draw even more fouls by getting eager defenders up in the air. Nevertheless, Mr. McClinton thinks his son and the team are going to deliver tonight.

So, too, do a few of the Huskies beat writers, who say Miami has impressed them with their depth and focus. While Miami was in its hotel room most of the day yesterday -- I'm on the same hotel floor with the team, UConn was enjoying the beach yesterday on its day off. Not, that there is anything with enjoying the beach on your day off (especially with a Pina Colada like I did). But it just shows you how intense Miami is taking this game. "I think they can win by eight," one UConn beat writer told me moments ago. "They look like a very good basketball team. Collins is terrific. McClinton is a great player. They are just flat out deeper than UConn. If Hasheem [Thabeet] plays like he did against LaSalle, Miami can win by 15."

> By the way, those Jai Lucas to UM rumors are way unfounded. Lucas is likely headed to the Big 12. Miami has its heart set on having Malcolm Grant run this team in the future. The only way he doesn't is if John Wall ends up here.

> UConn has come out with some serious intensity early. Looks like they are taking this game seriously, too. Hasheem Thabeet came out and scored right away on a jump hook and then got a put back down low. Cyrus McGowan hit a three-pointer to trim UConn's lead to 8-7 with 18:06 left, but the Huskies have been on a 6-0 run since. Miami is 3-of-9 from the field and UConn is 7-of-10. They are scoring a ton of points in the paint, driving past Miami defenders for close-range shots.

> It's 80-plus degrees outside. But the Miami Hurricanes are ice cold right now. It's been nearly seven minutes since Cyrus McGowan scored UM's last points. The Canes have gone 0-for-5 from three-point range since McGowan's miss. Jack McClinton still hasn't scored. Miami is 3-for-19 and UConn is 9-for-13 from the field and on a 12-0 run.

> I feel like I'm watching a replay of Thursday night's football game. It's now 24-7 UConn with 10:24 left.

> The first highlight of DeQuan Jones college career appears to have finally jump started Miami's offense. Jones got a screen from Dwayne Collins, drove baseline and made a beautiful up and under reverse layup Hasheem Thabeet had no chance of swatting. The Canes followed it up with a wide open Jack McClinton three-pointer to trim the Huskies lead to 24-13 before AJ Price with a three-pointer with 8:03 left in the first half.

> The Canes are clawing and scratching their way back into this one. UConn stretched its lead to 33-14 on an AJ Price three-pointer, its third consecutive trey. McClinton has since gone on a 6-0 run over a 2-plus minute stretch to keep it reasonable.

> This one is officially far from over. Jack McClinton is hot and firing on all cylinders now. His three-pointer with 1:18 left has capped a 17-2 Miami run which has trimmed UConn's lead to 35-31.

> UConn has come out with some fire on defense here early in the second half and its help them extend their lead back out to double digits with 15:07 left to play.

> The game is now in control of the Huskies at 58-45 with 11:53 left. Miami is going to need someone other than McClinton to get hot here if it wants to have a chance at coming back.

> The stage is pretty much set here with 5:31 left for another one of those memorable Jack McClinton moments. He just hit a three with 5:31 left to trim UConn's lead to 69-59. Is this the start of something special?

Where will The U go Bowling? Plus, Mr. Scott

ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands -- The dreams of reaching the ACC title game officially ended for Randy Shannon's Hurricanes Saturday. North Carolina lost and Virginia Tech won like it had to. But Virginia couldn't beat Clemson, ultimately ending Miami's hopes of winning a three-team tiebreaker (UM can't win a two-team tiebreaker with Georgia Tech or a three-team tiebreaker with GT and VT) and reaching the Dec. 6 title game.

Now, it's time to explore the possibilities of where Miami could be headed this bowl season. Should the Canes win at N.C. State (that doesn't look so easy anymore) they are pretty much guaranteed of going to one of the other top four ACC bowl tie-in games not named the Orange Bowl (which takes the ACC champion and the Big East champ) or Chick-Fil-A Bowl (which takes the ACC's No. 2 team and the SEC's 5th best team). At this point, UM can finish no worse than at least tied for 7th in the bowl pecking order should it lose to N.C. State (which means no trip to the blue turf in Boise). So, here is a look at the possible destinations and opponents. Let me know what you think and where you'd like to see the Canes play when you finish...

Gator_bowl> The Gator Bowl in Jacksonville on Jan. 1 versus a Big East team (maybe West Virginia who would likely be the runner-up; Notre Dame is playing its way out of it) or a Big 12 team (there are rumors Nebraska could go there). It's going to be hard for Miami to climb up to Gator Bowl status considering Georgia Tech beat them soundly and would get the edge should Virginia Tech win the Coastal Division and head to the ACC title game versus Florida State, Boston College or Maryland. It would have definitely been nice to see a UM-Notre Dame game. UM-Nebraska wouldn't be bad because it has history and the teams are schedule to meet in five years. But like I said, UM would have to beat N.C. State and probably have Virginia Tech and FSU lose next week to even be considered in the running for this game as the third or fourth best team in the conference.

Champs_sports_bowl> The Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando on Dec. 27 versus the Big Ten's No. 4/5 team (it's going to be either Northwestern or Iowa). This is probably where UM ends up if it wins at N.C. State -- especially when you consider Boston College (who could finish second or third in the Atlantic Division) played there last year. Orlando would love to have UM, which is only a three-hour drive away. The problem is a Miami-Northwestern or Miami-Iowa matchup isn't exactly sexy. But it looks like a game UM could win at least.

Meineke_car_care_bowl> The Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte on Dec. 27 versus the Big East's No. 3/4 team (Rutgers, Pittsburgh or Connecticut). If the Champs Sports Bowl passes on an 8-4 UM team, look for the Meineke Car Care Bowl to scoop the Canes up because of their old Big East connections. A Miami-Pittsburgh or a Miami-Rutgers matchup would be sexy because you get Randy Shannon versus Greg Schiano or Randy Shannon versus Dave Wannstedt. If it's UM-UConn (which never really were Big East football rivals), look for the Canes to get passed up.

Music_city_bowl> The Music City Bowl in Memphis on Dec. 31 versus the SEC's 6th or 7th best team (Vanderbilt, Kentucky, South Carolina or Auburn). How about a game with the old ball coach Steve Spurrier on a cold night in Memphis? Not a bad draw for Miami. But UM-Vanderbilt or UM-Kentucky would bore me to tears. This is likely the game Miami heads to if it loses to N.C. State. Vanderbilt or Kentucky would definitely have home field advantage in SEC country.

Emerald_bowl> Finally, the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco on Dec. 27 versus the Pac 10's fifth best team or another substitute (possibly Fresno State). This is the place Miami is headed if everything goes against them if they lose to N.C. State and everybody passes them up in the pecking order. California or Arizona could be possible opponents in this game. But right now, the Pac 10 is so bad, people wouldn't be surprised if a WAC team got in instead.

> Now, to basketball. I actually did this interview on Wednesday shortly after Durand Scott announced his decision to skip out on UConn and Pittsburgh to head to UM. But considering the football Canes were about to take on Georgia Tech, I figured it was best to save it for a couple days.

Q: What made you decide on UM? You could have stayed closer to home?
Durand_scott3A: The first time I went down to Miami on an unofficial trip it was OK. But I wasn't feeling it. When I made my official visit with my mom, it hit me that I had to decide where I really wanted to spend the next four years of your life. It came down to whose hands are you willing to leave your life in -- and I felt comfortable with UM. Plus, Pitt and UConn are two schools who have already been there, done that. At Miami, I wanted to be part of the start of something and put them on the map.

Q: Was Frank Haith a big part of why you chose Miami? I heard assistant Jorge Fernandez played a part, too.
A: They both really made me feel comfortable. They were like friends for me, not just someone who talked to me about basketball. It was about life too. Coach Haith is a great coach. He's been through a lot. He knows what's best for a kid.

Q: When did UM actually get into the recruiting picture for you?
A: Probably around the end of my sophomore year in the summer. The first school that actually offered me was Arizona. And the first school that looked at me was Duke. Miami is just a team on the rise, a family unit. I like what it's all about.

Q: Miami has four seniors on this team including Jack McClinton who will be gone after this season. Was playing time a factor at all?
A: When they leave I know there's more opportunity for me to play. But it wasn't he biggest factor. I'm just a hard worker in general. If I just go there and work hard, I have confidence I'll be able to play and help the team. The opportunity is there for me to play. But it wasn't the top reason.

Q: What were the guys like when you made your visit? Did you feel at home with your future teammates?
A: When I first stepped on campus, I just loved the feel of being around everybody. When I first started looking for a school, the first thing I thought about was being comfortable around my teammates. We had to have the same mentality, the same goals, to win. I love people who work hard and want it more than anybody else. Once you have that me and you are going to click. Really, all I care about is winning. I'll do whatever it takes to win.

Q: The top player for UM its 2008 class was DeQuan Jones. Did you ever play against him on the AAU circuit? And what do you think of being his future teammate?
A: I never got to play against DeQuan. But he's a very explosive player. I'd love to play with him. He's so athletic, so fast, so good. I saw his dunk on YouTube. Watching him do something spectacular can lift you off your feet. He's the type of player I'd love to have on my team.

Q: What are you doing when you aren't playing hoops?
A: I'm by my books. If I'm not about the books, I'm not a going out guy. This year I've been kind of lonely up at school. I lost three of my best friends to college. So, I'm getting used to playing with some new teammates.

Q: I heard you got hurt? What happened and how bad is it?
A: I pulled a ligament in my ankle. I went to the doctor and I'll be out three weeks. But I'll be in the lineup soon. I'm dying to get back out there. We lost in the state championship last year. I want to win this year.

Q: How do you know Malcolm Grant? I heard he played a role in getting you to UM, too.
A: He's from New York like me. I played against him when I was a freshman and he was a senior. We kept in contact even after he got into Villanova. The first time I saw him, I said this kid is going to be good. Some times things don't go as you wanted. I think its kind of a blessing for him and for me that we'll get to play together. I thank god for it. He's a special point guard.

November 22, 2008

Haith, Graham talk No. 2 UConn

ST. THOMAS, V.I. -- While I imagine most of you are spending your Saturday afternoon watching to see if the Canes football team will get some help in its quest to still make it to Tampa for the ACC title game, Frank Haith's basketball team is preparing to face No. 2 Connecticut Sunday night. Tipoff will be at 6 p.m. and the game will be available to watch online at www.watchbtihoops.com.

This morning, I got a chance to talk about the Huskies with Coach Haith and Jimmy Graham, who will likely draw the task of defending 7-foot, 3-inch NBA-bound center Hasheem Thabeet most of the night. Here's what they had to say. We'll start with Jimmy.

UconnQ: How is the mood of the team knowing you guys can obviously grab even more attention with a win over the second-ranked team in the country?
A: The mood of the team is real good. It is a big game because it is the No. 2 ranked team in the nation. They are pretty big. I was reading a magazine about [Hasheem] Thabeet about two weeks ago. It's good to face a player like that.

Q: You guys have had some pretty special moments the last couple years, beating No. 5 Duke and the trip to the tournament, but what would beating the No. 2-ranked team in the country do for you?
A: I think this is a big game for us. I think every game for us is a huge game because we want to beat everyone. They are a very good team. But I think playing them early on is going to be very good for us. It's going to test us and show us the kind of team we are.

Q: Who is the biggest guy you've had to defend?
A: I don't know. There was this kid last year, 7-1. But the toughest was Jarvis Barnardo from Misssippi State. He was super long, really tall, another shot blocker just like Thabeet. The biggest thing is you just can't avoid him. You just can't be shy with him. You have to take it to him. He is pretty big. And Jeff Adrien, that kid is a beast. He had 22 and 11 last night. I watched most of the game last night and I'm really going to have to bring a lot of energy and try to lock those two down. I heard they were the best frontcourt in the nation. Now, we get to see how we stack up against it.

Q: Are you guys having fun out here? I heard about the Sky ride and how a few guys were scared?
A: The guy sky ride was scary. That thing was a little wobbly. We've had a little fun. But this trip is kind of like last year. We've really focused on this on being a business trip. Nobody has been out to the beach. Nobody has been out shopping. Everybody has been in bed 10, 11 at night. And we've just been focused on winning and what this tournament and this opportunity is for us. This is a big year for us. And each game is equally as important for us down here.

Q: Things are different than last year. You guys made it the tournament, proved yourselves. Is there not a moment where you sit back and exhale?
A: Never. Now, I'm a senior. We have a bunch of seniors on this team and we don't have a moment to exhale until that final game, hopefully in the NCAA tournament. For me everyday is just focus. Everyday is a workday. I think the whole team has that mentality, still playing with that chip and still trying to prove ourselves. I don't think we've proven anything. Yes, now we have a number. But it's not as high as I want to be. I think each game we're going to come out proving something.

Frank_haithQ: Everyone back home is going to be excited about this game because both of you are ranked, the old Big East rivalry. Can you talk about why this is exciting for you guys?
A: Just the opportunity to play against a top five ranked team in the country. Any time you have a chance to do that, that's a plus. It helps the RPI. It helps everything you're trying to accomplish in terms of the big picture. UConn is a great team, great coach, great players. If you compete in this game, you want to play against the best. And that's what we enjoy in terms of playing in the ACC and this is another opportunity to play against the best one of the best teams in the country.

Q: How about in terms of preparation for the NCAA tournament? Does this game serve as a nice warmup or measuring stick -- even though its more than five months away?
A: I think we face it every night in our league. I think no league is undefeated up until this point. Virginia Tech lost last night on a last second buzzer. It's the first loss in our league and people don't talk about that. But I guarantee you the Pac 10 has lost games, the Big 12 has lost games, Big East lost games. Everybody has lost games. But we've only got one loss in our league and that's on a hail mary shot by Xavier. We face it every night in our conference. I think that's what the great misunderstanding of our league is all about.

Q: You guys have won some big games before obviously, but if you guys win tomorrow night some folks are going to say maybe beating No. 2 UConn is your biggest win. What do you say?
A: I think we've won some really big games since I've been here. I think in terms of a number, I don't know if we've beaten a No. 2 team in the country. Duke was maybe five I think. But there have been some great wins since I've been here. Winning at Florida was a huge win. Winning at Carolina -- I mean Clemson and some other teams have been in the league 50 years and haven't won there. I mean, there's been some big wins in our time. The NCAA Tournament win over Saint Mary's, winning at Creighton (I don't think they've lost one other non-conference loss in that building since then). I think this would be one of our biggest wins. This would be a good win, a great win if we're able to do it. But it's going to be a tall task. We know what we're up against us. Jeff Adrien, Hasheem Thabeet, I mean Kemba Walker is unbelievable as a freshman. [Jerome] Dyson, all those guys are good players and all players I think can play at the next level and that's a great opportunity for our guys to compete against.

Hasheem_thabeetQ: Have you guys ever faced a 7-foot, 3-inch center?
A: I don't think so because he's probably the only one in the country. I don't think there's one everynight. I know Hasheem very well, I recruited him. Classy kid. I'm happy for him. He's done well. We were very hot in the recruiting trails for him and I got to know him well and you can just see he's become a more efficient player. His timing is much better than it was. He's shooting the ball much better. He's going to have a bright future at the next level.

Q: It's has to be a huge advantage for UConn when they've got a guy like Thabeet and you've got 6-8 Dwayne Collins and 6-8 Jimmy Graham in the post?
A: It's a huge advantage for them against everybody. I think with a player like that the one mistake you can make is to avoid him because he's going to get you. You got to go right at him and attack him and hopefully our guys can do that. Now, with that said, he's probably going to block some shots. He's averaging four blocks a game. He's going to get some shot blocks and we can't let that deter us.

Q: Their team is loaded with experience. You guys have a ton of experience too. This might be one of the best matchups in the country in terms of guys having played together is it not?
A: No question. They're very seasonal. They've been through it. I watched them last night. They have a sense of confidence about them and a lot of it has to do with personnel, Jeff Adrien, AJ Thomas, Dyson and those guys have been around a long time and Hasheem coming back for another year. They've been around for a lot of games and they know how to win. There's no substitute for that.

Q: Normally, you don't get these type of matchups three games into the season. Is there a benefit to playing them this early in the season?
A: Play 'em early, play 'em late, you just want the opportunity. You can look out in Maui or in the Coaches versus Cancer tournament, everyone was hoping for a Duke-UCLA final. But it didn't work out that way. It's great to have an opportunity to play a team ranked as high is good anytime. The fact we play them early? I don't know. I think they're playing very good basketball. They may not -- according to coach Calhoun -- not hit their peak yet. But I don't know if we've hit our peak yet. It's early in the year. It's on the schedule and when we're supposed to play.

Q: Can you talk about signing Durand Scott and what it means? I guess from the outside, people see it as a huge victory not just because he's a great player, but because you beat UConn and Pittsburgh, two very good teams, in their own backyard. Is that how you see it?
Durand_scottA: Durand is a very good player. We've been recruiting him a very long time. He fits a huge need for us because we're going to be losing a lot of perimeter players. I'd even go to Garrius Adams -- State and Wake wanted him. Donnovan Kirk, Michigan State wanted to recruit him. I think we've done well. Our staff has done a good job creating a buzz about our program and we've worked hard at it. All three of those kids are going to have a great effect on our program.

Q: Two games in, anything you haven't seen yet that you wanted to see?
A: I think we're getting better each game. I thought obviously Lance Hurdle coming back yesterday was huge and you can see the difference he makes in the game. I felt the strides he made last season were going to be unbelievable. He plays 22 minutes and has 13 points, no turnovers and three assists. Just his poise, he makes a difference. Defensively, we've been sound. We got to continue to get our offense flowing better. I think Jack didn't have one of his games yesterday. I think he's pressing a little bit and we'll see a better Jack McClinton on Sunday.

November 21, 2008

Courtside blog: UM 70, So. Miss 60 (F)

ST. THOMAS, V.I. -- Just walked into the gym here at the University of the Virgin Islands where Frank Haith's 17th-ranked basketball team is set to take on Southern Miss in the first round of the Paradise Jam. Today's game will be broadcast back home on WQAM and the internet. It will also be available on internet TV for purchase at www.watchbtihoops.com.

Paradise_jam_2I was in Puerto Rico last year when Miami won the inaugual Tip-Off Classic. This field is definitely more loaded than that one. Southern Miss (2-0) was a pretty good team last year at 19-14 and has a really good two-guard in sophomore Jeremy Wise, who can light up from the outside just like Jack McClinton. The good news for UM is Lance Hurdle is likely going to return today. He was warming up with his teammates moments ago and should get some minutes at the point, which will give Eddie Rios a rest and allow McClinton to play off the ball. I'll be here to provide you updates and highlights as it rolls along. I know most of you could use a win considering what happened last night in Atlanta.

> Eddie Rios and Cyrus McGowan got the start, but got early hooks. With 16:49 left, Lance Hurdle and Jimmy Graham replaced them. Southern Miss has had some early success in the paint, getting free for short range jumpers. Jack McClinton is 1-of-2 from three point range early.
> Miami has a 13-9 lead with 11:26 to go in the first half. So far, the story has been Southern Misses ability to grab offensive boards and second chances. They've scored most of their points early on 2nd and 3rd chances. But Miami is playing some pretty good defense.
> Since Cory Smith's stickback with 10:50 left, UM has gone on a 7-0 run to take a 20-11 lead with 7:48 left in the half. Adrian Thomas capped the run with a long-distance three-pointer.
> UM got up 22-11 on a Jack McClinton jumper with 7:16 left, but the next four offensive possessions weren't pretty. McClinton went 0-for-3 and drew an offensive foul for an elbow. So. Miss, meanwhile, ran off eight straight points and hit back-to-back three-pointers to get right back into the game.
> UM is 2-of-10 from three-point range and is just making some bad decisions right now on shot selection. They are punching the ball inside against a team that doesn't have much size. Dwayne Collins layup with 3:49 to go put UM up 24-20 and was the first basket in the paint since Asbury's layup with 10:21 left.
> It was a sluggish at-best first half until UM closed out the final two minutes with a 10-run. Lance Hurdle got a nice bounce on the final shot of the half as time was expiring, sinking a three-pointer from about 26 feet out.

> Jeremy Wise had a tough first half, shooting 2 of 10 from the field, but he got Southern Miss going at the start of the first half as the Golden Eagles turned a 12-point deficit to six early with some hoops. Miami gave up 8 offensive boards in the first half and has to do a better job shutting down those second chances in the second half it wants to move on in this tournament.
> Canes are starting to put their stamp on this game with defense. Just about every point Southern Miss has gotten today has required second and third efforts.
> Dwayne Collins has continued to play well after his strong 18-point, 16-rebound opener. He's making plays on both ends of the floor. He's leading UM with 13 points and six boards today. That's encouraging considering the challenge he'll face Sunday if the Canes draw UConn.
> The Canes look they are pulling away in this one. Jimmy Graham's fast break dunk with 5:20 left made it 61-47. The big news: Jack McClinton's streak of 44 consecutive made free throws was snapped when he finally missed one with 5:35 left to play.

Georgia Tech loss a humbling experience

ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands -- University of Miami coach Randy Shannon said earlier this week it would likely take his defense about a quarter to get adjusted to the speed of Georgia Tech's Triple Option offense. He miscalculated. The Hurricanes never did.

And the result was one of the worst defensive nights in Canes' history. The Yellow Jackets ran through, around and past Miami Thursday night, shredding the Canes for 472 yards rushing in a 42-23 blowout victory that hurt badly. The most heartbreaking part for fans of the U is that the Canes had just returned to the national polls this week (for the first time since 2006) and were in position to punch their ticket to the ACC Title game. Now, the ranking is sure to be history and those hopes of reaching the conference title game will require a few lucky bounces to go UM's way.

While I'm interested in hearing what Shannon has to say tomorrow, I wanted to pass along my thoughts and observations and get your thoughts once U have been able to cool down.

> THE BIGGEST FAILURE: We all knew coming in Georgia Tech's triple option offense was not only one of the best in the country, but Anthony_reddickthat it was going to be a major challenge for the Hurricanes to stop. While the lead story is that the Yellow Jackets piled up the second-most yards allowed on the ground all-time by a UM team (Auburn had 536 rushing yards in 1944), they basically did it with a rag-tag group of guys. Quarterback Josh Nesbitt wasn't even close to 100 percent, yet still torched the Canes. Jonathan Dwyer, who didn't even play in the second half, had 128 yards on 10 carries. ESPN's announcers said before the game the Yellow Jackets were already thin along their line and in the second quarter put in a former running back who weighed all of 254 pounds.

Defensive line coach Clint Hurtt told me earlier this week Shannon first began throwing the triple option at the defense during Miami's bye-week two weeks ago. But it's obvious the Canes were completely fooled by it. Romeo Davis was completely out of position on the big runs up the middle. And Miami's cornerbacks never really got into help. What I'm trying to decide in my head is what this really says about UM's defense. Before the blowout loss Thursday, Miami had been doing a pretty good job stopping the run since they got lit up by Florida State. In three of their five wins, UM had held their opponents to 78 yards or less on the ground. I think what Thursday's loss showed us was just how much this team needs the right kind of matchup to win games on defense. When Miami faces option running quarterbacks, it struggles, especially sticking to assignments. Thursday was quite literally the worst kind of matchup for Miami because it had to guard against four guys running the football on each play. That's too much for an overachieving linebacking corps (who has one real star in Sean Spence) that sorely misses Colin McCarthy.

> THE BIGGEST CRITICISM: Offensive coordinator Patrick Nix has long been under the gun here for his playcalling -- much like any Patrick_nixoffesive coordinator in the country who isn't winning or scoring 50 points. I've been 50-50 on Nix during his time here because I thought he's done some really good things and some really bad things with this offense. But nothing has been worse in my eyes than a few decisions he made Thursday. There were at handful of plays when Miami had 3rd down and 2 yards or less. And each time, he lined up his quarterback in the shotgun. While I understand Georgia Tech's front four could be one of the best in the country and obviously did a great job shutting down Miami's running game Thursday, I find it disturbing Nix left all the pressure on his quarterbacks to make tough plays on those downs. He's preached -- along with Shannon -- that wouldn't be the case.

But ultimately, what bothers me most about what Nix has done this season is this: in 11 games he still hasn't been able to figure out what offense he wants UM to be. Each week, it's a different look. One week, its Marve and Harris running sprint option against Wake Forest. The next, it's five wide, spread it out against Virginia Tech. We were told at the start, this was going to be a team in which Javarris James and Graig Cooper were going to carry the load. We were told the strength of the team was the offensive line. What is Miami's offensive identity? Honestly, I couldn't tell you.

> THE HOT TOPIC - QUARTERBACKS: Speaking of the quarterbacks, the final stats will tell you Jacory Harris (13-18, 162, 2 TDs, 1 INT) had a better night than Robert Marve (10-20, 121 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT). And while it's a fact Harris picked up most of Robert_marvethose stats in garbage time when the game had already been decided, he once again looked like the more cool, calm passer in the pocket. While Marve made some amazing plays, avoiding sacks and then finding receivers downfield, it always seems to me when Marve is in the game Miami's offense as a whole feels flushed, frenetic and frustrated. Maybe it's just me, but everytime Harris is in there, he just looks a lot cooler, calmer and commanding than Marve. I highly doubt Shannon will go back on his word this coming week and start Harris in front of Marve in Miami's regular season final at N.C. State. But I've at least seen enough through 11 games to know who I like better as Miami's quarterback.

> THE Z-FACTOR -- MISSING BENJAMIN: Miami didn't lose Thursday because it lost Travis Benjamin (again) to an ankle injury (again) in the first quarter. But there's no doubt this team has missed Benjamin's presence on the field. Those long, uplifting, get the team excited returns Benjamin used to provide aren't happening anymore and the explosive receiver opponents were forced to cover because of his speed is also gone. That's hurting Miami much worse than U think. Benjamin is a special player. And when he's around, he makes his teammates better.

> THE BOTTOMLINE: The ultimate feeling I got when the 41-23 beatdown came to an end was this -- this UM football team is good, but not as good as that five-game winning streak and all that ACC title talk made us believe. Don't get me wrong, what Randy Shannon has accomplished this season with a group of young freshman and sophomores deserves credit. Most experts figured Miami would be 4-7 now and not 7-4. It's found some amazing leaders for the future, guys who can make this team very good in years to come. But this football team -- the one playing in 2008 -- has simply been a product of overachievement.

Matt_bosherHere's what UM's success this season has been built on: an amazing season out of Matt Bosher (UM doesn't beat Virginia Tech or Wake Forest without him); much faster returns from its receivers and quarterbacks than was expected (UM doesn't come back to beat Virginia and Duke without Jacory Harris, Aldarius Johnson and company); and a pretty good coaching job by defensive coordinator Bill Young (who worked wonders for five weeks turning what had been a bad defense into one that did enough to win some tough games against decent ACC competition).

But there are still some rather large holes on this team that have just been covered up by overachievement. Miami's offensive line sorely needs at least another two to three more Jason Foxes (they've been getting away with project guys like Chris Rutledge for too long). The secondary needs major work -- especially at corner and free safety (Bruce Johnson is a great guy, not a great corner). The defensive tackles -- the young guys who are good and not the older overachievers -- still need to grow up (Joe Joseph, Dwayne Hendricks are average at best). Ditto for the linebackers (the Arthur Browns, Ramon Buchanon and Jordan Futche's on this team). Thursday night was a tough, humbling experience for Miami's young football team. But really, it should have also been for U too.

November 20, 2008

Gameday blog: Ga. Tech 41, UM 23 (F)

ST. THOMAS -- Wish I could say I was in the freezing cold with the rest of the UM sports writers for tonight's game, but I've been sent to this terrible place called the U.S. Virgin Islands to cover Frank Haith's basketball team. It's horrible. My hotel, Marriott's Frenchman Reef & Morning Star, has a terrible view of the ocean. And these pina coladas aren't even close to being the best I've had in my life.

Georgia_techBut enough about my horrible assignment. I'll be watching tonight's game from my hotel room and sharing my thoughts as it rolls along. I don't know about you, but I'm excited about this game. It's been a while since Miami played a meaningful game like this -- if you don't count last week. But you know what I mean.

> Georgia Tech picks up right where it left it off and moves right down the field. Consider it a small victory Miami held the Yellow Jackets to a field goal. GT 27, UM 3.
> Talk about a strange drive. But at least UM is showing life. Dedrick Epps hauls an 18-yard touchdown pass from Robert Marve with 7:45 left to play in the third quarter to get into the end zone. Epps made a huge 30-yard catch on the drive. Thearon Collier caught a 21-yard pass on 4th and 13. But the play of the drive? Kayne Farquharson running onto the field on the touchdown pass when UM was short one player and delivers a key block to allow Marve to throw the TD. GT 27, UM 10.
> Safe to say this one is over now. Josh Nesbitt scores on a 1-yard plunge to make it 34-10 with 4:08 to play. Miami has given up 361 yards rushing to this triple option attack. GT 34, 10.
> I think the bigger thing to take from this game is that Miami certainly isn't the first team to struggle against this offense. Whatever UM did to prepare in practice this week, didn't get them ready. Sometimes, that happens.
> It's become flat-out embarrassing. Lucas Cox makes it 41-10 with a run right up the middle. Now, the question becomes does Georgia Tech set a record for rushing yards tonight? 395 yards rushing on Miami. I'm going to google this.
> At this point, I'm wondering why more backups aren't in the game. No need for starters to get hurt. Miami still has something to play for next week at N.C. State.
> Jacory Harris moves UM downfield and into the end zone with a touchdown pass to Leonard Hankerson with 10 minutes left in the game. Maybe something to build on a night when so much went wrong. GT 41, UM 16.

> So far, the story of the game has been Miami's inability to stop the triple option on the edges. While the defensive tackles did a good job plugging up the middle, Jonathan Dwyer and company were able to to run to the outside. Georgia Tech capped its first drive with a 31-yard field goal with 5:53 left. GT 3, UM 0.
> Couple nice early plays for the Canes young defensive players -- Sean Spence and Marcus Robinson each have a sack.
> Special teams was horrible in the first quarter. Travis Benjamin couldn't get past the 20 on the first kicks he handled. Matt Bosher nearly had a punt blocked and had another go 32 yards.
> As bad as the 1st quarter was for UM (GT outgained UM 145-45), the second quarter has gotten off to an even worse start. Michael Johnson's 26-yard interception return for a touchdown has put the Yellow Jackets up two scores with 13:28 left. UM showed a lot of heart in rallying to victory this season in tough places. They'll have to do it again tonight. Georgia Tech 10, UM 0.
> It wasn't a touchdown, but it was something. After getting picked on his first series inside the Georgia Tech 20, Jacory Harris leads UM on a scoring drive his next series. He made a couple nice throws, hooking up with Aldarius Johnson along the sideline and then Sam Shields, who made a nice move for a 23-yard gain. It ended with a 24-yard Matt Bosher field goal with 6:19 left in the half. GT 10, UM 3.
> And right when you think Miami has built a little momentum, the defense gets torched by the triple option. Jonathan Dwyer races right up the middle of the field for a 58-yard scoring run. Anthony Reddick and Romeo Davis over-pursued on the plays. This is where you miss a Colin McCarthy. GT 17, UM 3.

> Slow down the triple option offense: Shannon talked this week about tackling high and causing turnovers. GT is next to last in the nation when it comes to turning the ball over via the fumble. Miami needs to make sure though it wraps up, especially the Yellow Jackets big man when he runs up the middle.
> Make sure your quarterbacks aren't forced to win today: Georgia Tech has a very good defense, but what is most special about the Yellow Jackets is their secondary. The last time UM played a secondary like this, UCF nearly pulled off the upset. Robert Marve and Jacory Harris need to be caretakers today.
> Continue to capitalize in the red zone: Miami has been the best team in the ACC when it comes to scoring in the red zone and that's a big reason why they are on this five game winning streak. Last week, UM couldn't punch the ball into the end zone against Virginia Tech, but still came away with points every time down. They need to do the same this week if it hopes to end the three game losing streak against Georgia Tech.
> It might be time for me to head back to the beach. Georgia Tech is running right through Miami's defense. 229 yards now. Jonathan Dwyer has 10 carries for 129 yards and two touchdowns. His last one might have put a nail in Miami's coffin with 1:59 left in the first half. GT 24, UM 3.

> I'm expecting hot games today from Glenn Cook, Marcus Forston and the middle of Miami's defense. As good as UM looked last week sacking Virginia Tech's quarterbacks, I think the Canes win tonight because Cook, Spence and those no-name defensive tackles (Joe Joseph, Dwayne Hendricks) represent.
> I'd stay cool on the tight ends. Last week, I expected Dedrick Epps, Chris Zellner and company to play well and they were shutout. I don't see them breaking out this game.

November 19, 2008

Recruiting analyst: 'Miami basketball is relevant'

When it comes to basketball recruiting, there isn't a guy more knowledgeable in the country than Scout.com's Dave Telep. He's been in the business more than a decade and is on the board that chooses McDonald's All-American's, the Naismith High School Award winner and the Gatorade Player of The Year. So, when I called him moments after Durand Scott picked Miami on Wednesday and he gushed about the job Frank Haith has done building Miami's basketball program I made sure to listen closely.

Here's what Telep, Scout.com's National Recruiting Director, had to say.

Q: What does landing Scott mean to Miami basketball?
Dave_telepA: "It's an enormous addition. It comes to this: they won a long recruiting battle with two of the best programs in the country. It's a big deal. They played their cards right. Miami doesn't have the tradition of being a traditional powerhouse program. They've got to scratch and claw for everything they get. But they're in a position now to sustain from success. Frank Haith will be the first person to tell you none of this comes easy. It's a constant grind when you are battling the line you are in the ACC and you are competing with Connectictut and Pittsburgh for a kid like Scott. That's a grind. I can't say enough what a victory this is for Frank Haith."

Q: Is this the big-name, landmark signee they were looking for to put them over the top, for this program to pound its chest and say we're getting the big-time guys now? Or, has that day already come and gone in your eyes?
A: "I think every year is just another chapter in the book. If you look at Miami's basketball program right now, you see a program on the rise that's not going to be a one-hit wonder. It's built for the long term. Bringing in Durand Scott, Garrius Adams, Donnovan Kirk and a Lisandro-Ruiz Moreno [who still has not signed], it's another foundation for another strong basketball team. Miami basketball is past those days of being on the outside looking in. Miami basketball is relevant now."

Q: What kind of player is Scott? What does he give Miami on the court?
A: "He's a very good defensive player. He has a lot of pride in playing defense and in high school that's a rare treat. He's a streaky shooter, so he's got to improve on that. But he can be a secondary ball-handler. He can shift in, rebound, pass, be a Jack of All Trades wing player. At the end of the day, though, what makes him special is he is wired to win. Winning matters to Durand Scott. Sometimes, you got to teach a guy to want to win. You don't have to with him. He wants to win in AAU season. Garius Adams is the same way. You can't put a price on what that means to your team. You already have a winning culture in Coral Gables and now you are bringing in guys who feed the monster. He should not be labeled as a savior, just another very good player."

Q: After this season, Miami is set to lose All-ACC guard Jack McClinton, Lance Hurdle, Jimmy Graham and Brian Asbury. How do you see this team next year with all the new additions with a guy like DeQuan Jones and a guy like Malcolm Grant in the mix?
A: "I envision a tempo and a pace that is basically an aggressive team that can guard you 94 feet, up and down the length of the floor and run, run, run on offense. They are going to be very athletic and very good."

Q: This class could still have one more huge chip added to the mix -- the No. 1 player in the country in North Carolina point guard John Wall. What do you think are the realistic hopes Miami fans should have in also getting Wall?
A: "Miami is in its infancy stages with John Wall right now. All you can do is sell your program and see what direction it goes in. John Wall is the equivalent of getting Manny Ramirez in free agency. You make your best pitch to him and hope he bites. That would be the highest profile recruit to ever commit to Miami. But we're a long way -- probably five months -- away from that one."

Durand Scott chooses Canes

The University of Miami men's basketball program reportedly landed one of the top players in the country moments ago when Durand Scott, a 6-4 shooting guard from Manhattan Rice, N.Y. announced on SNY.TV he was picking Miami over Connecticut and Pittsburgh.

Durand_scottIt's a huge get for the Hurricanes, who announced the signing of two other players at the start of the early signing period last week. Scott is rated the 43rd-best overall player in the country by ESPN.com and a four-star recruit by Rivals.com. Scott has a close friend at Miami in Villanova transfer Malcolm Grant, also from New York. He also reportedly built a strong relationship with UM assistant Jorge Fernandez.

"I made my decision because of comfortability, just the type of person I am and where I believe I best fit," Scott said SNY.TV "When I took my visit to Miami, I knew it was the place I wanted to be. But I didn't want to tell everybody. I wanted to weigh my options.

"Everything there is great, basketball wise and academic wise. I love them. They've sparked my interest. They also made me feel welcome. They have [Malcolm Grant] who is there also. It's not like I'm going to be meeting a bunch of people that I don't already know. I'm familiar with some people there."

November 18, 2008

Lance Hurdle could play in Paradise Jam

The University of Miami men's basketball team started the season Saturday without point guard Lance Hurdle. Tuesday, coach Frank Haith sounded optimistic Hurdle -- who practiced for the first time in weeks Monday -- will play some when the Hurricanes travel to the Virgin Islands Friday to play in the Paradise Jam.

Lance_hurdle"Lance practiced yesterday and based on what I saw in practice -- knock on wood -- he'll have an opportunity to play some," Haith said. "I don't know how effective he'll be coming off the box. But I think he'll have a chance to give us something."

Consider it good news for the Canes, who obviously are at their best when Jack McClinton doesn't need to tote the rock and is free to run off screens and knock down threes. In the meantime, expect sophomore Eddie Rios to continue to start in Hurdle's place. Haith said Saturday night after UM's season-opening win over Division II Florida Southern it could be awhile before you see the old Lance.

Eddie_riosOne thing is for sure, the Canes are hoping 2007-08 is the last they'll see of the first-year Eddie. Rios lost eight pounds (he's down to about 186) and looked a lot Saturday like the star point guard Miami thought it was getting when they received an oral commitment from him in the 11th grade. He was 3-for-3 from three point range, scored a career-high 17 points and got to the rim with the speed and quickness we all once heard about.

Southern Miss won't be a cakewalk for the Canes when the teams hook up at 2 p.m. Friday. Larry Eustachy's team (yes that Eustachy) went 19-14 last year and brings back All-Conference USA Second Team guard Jeremy Wise, a player Haith said will be as good a guard as his team faces all year. Look for James Dews to draw the assignment. I'll be there to provide a live Courtside Blog.

> Don't forget Wednesday is supposed to be Durand Scott's decision day. I'm not going to be in New York for it, but I'll be by the phone hoping to hear something in the morning.

> Here's the link the video from CBS 4 of Tuesday's basketball press conference.

> OK, I'll now leave you to your regularly scheduled football programming (THE BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO THE GEORGIA TECH TRIPLE OPTION) and our Mollie Rose with UM kicker Matt Bosher.

> OK, one more link... to my feature on freshman defensive end Marcus Robinson.

Sound bites: Hurricanes talk Georgia Tech

Want to know what University of Miami players are saying about their next opponent? For the past three years, I've uploaded audio clips from every time I've been out at a Canes practice or game -- from inside the locker room (when we had access) -- and outside of it.

Check out everything players were talking about this week at our UM audio page. I know our new website design hasn't made it easier to find it. But I try and post the link every time I upload something new. Feel free to bookmark it. I think its one of the coolest things we have on MiamiHerald.com. It's not often you get to hear everything asked and said by players because most of it gets edited down for time (in TV and radio) or space (in written stories). Here you get everything from when I turned my audio recorder on to when I shut it off.

Among the best conversations from Monday...
T1_forston> Defensive tackle Marcus Forston shares with us how defensive coordinator Bill Young brought entire room of players to laughter when he shared his new favorite song, Young Jeezy's Put It On For My City. Forston goes on talk about how UM plans to shut down Georgia Tech's triple option attack and how he and Marcus Robinson became close friends at the U.S. Army All-American game last year.

> Defensive tackle Josh Holmes, who has starred since coming back from injury, shares his own stories about Young and more.

> Quarterbacks Robert Marve and Jacory Harris, meanwhile, talks about Georgia Tech's defensive schemes and how they plan to prepare for it.

> Left tackle Jason Fox fills us on the condition of his injured right ankle including what he can do, how he's feeling with the pain and how much he thinks he can play this week.

Orangebowlfootballlogo> ESPN.com updated their Bowl Projections Monday and the Canes have climbed the charts since Bruce Feldman and Mark Schlabach's last entry. Feldman has Miami headed to the Orange Bowl to play Cincinnati. Schlabach has UM facing Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl. If you had your choice, including a shot at Notre Dame, would you prefer for the Canes to be in Jacksonville instead of Miami on Jan. 1? That video link might sway you to pick the Irish.

> Today, I'll be out at the BankUnited Center to speak with Frank Haith about his team's impending trip to the Virgin Islands to compete in the Paradise Jam. The Hurricanes won their season open 96-60 on Saturday night. I'll be following them this week while Susan Miller Degnan and Brian Costa follow the football team to Atlanta. Tuesday's chat, by the way, has been moved up to 1 p.m. so that I can make that press conference at 2:30 p.m.

> Haith's team could get some great news Wednesday. Published reports by Scout.com say highly-touted New York city guard Durand Scott is expected to announce his college choice and Scout.com writes the Canes are in the lead. Stay tuned for an update. I've contacted Scott's AAU coaches and am expecting to hear back from them soon.

> Miami's baseball program appears to have suffered some really bad luck. Canesport.com reported late Monday night left-hander Eric Erickson has gone down with a season-ending injury, leaving Chris Hernandez as the team's only returning starting pitcher.

November 17, 2008

Hurricanes prep for Georgia Tech's Triple Option

"60 minutes of assignment football." That's what coach Randy Shannon said the challenge will be for his defense this week as it prepares to face one of the nation's top rushing teams in chilly Atlanta Thursday night. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have won three straight games against the 23rd-ranked Canes -- all by close margins. But the team Miami will face this time around won't be anything like the Georgia Tech teams UM has faced lately.

First-year coach Paul Johnson, who built Georgia Southern into a national champion and Paul_johnsonNavy into a winner before making the move to Atlanta with his Triple Option Attack, has created another rushing machine at Georgia Tech. And opponents just can't seem can't to get a handle on it. U remember the days when Miami used to eat option-based rushing teams for dinner. Nebraska and Oklahoma tried it for years in big matchups with the Canes with little success. But Canes fans shouldn't get confused. This attack isn't exactly the same as the Wishbone according to Shannon, who described it during his Monday press conference as more of the rushing offense Arkansas used to run with former Steelers running back Barry Foster in the early 1990s.

Jonathan_dwyerMiami has tried to mimic the offense this week with the scout team. Walk-on Devon Hill, a former star quarterback in New Jersey, and sophomore Damien Berry are playing the role of Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt (6-1, 214) and fullback Jonathan Dwyer (6-0, 228). But even Shannon admitted it's not going to be easy to replicate what Georgia Tech does on Thursday in practice this week and could take the Canes some time to adjust in-game.

"There's no science to it," Shannon said. "If guys are doing their job and playing assignment football you'll be successful. Every now and then someone's going to get cut, be on the ground. So you have to have other guys chasing to over-compensate. You have to have everybody chasing the football. If you don't, you're going to have a tough time."

One advantage the Canes have though is that this isn't all brand new to them. UM has been preparing for it the past few weeks. Defensive line coach Clint Hurtt told me his defense first began seeing it during UM's recent bye week. Although most guys were seeing it for the first time in their careers that week, Sean Spence and Marcus Forston said they've at least played against it, when they played Lake Brantley in the Class 6A state championship game for Miami Northwestern two years ago.

Josh_nesbittThe problem is Georgia Tech is probably the best football team in the country at running the triple option. Dwyer, who bullies the ball up the middle, leads the ACC in rushing with 1,056 yards and has eight touchdowns this season. He's averaging 6.6 yards a carry. Josh Nesbitt is the team's second leading rusher with six touchdowns and 62.2 yards rushing a game. That's just six yards fewer a game than Graig Cooper. Shannon said there is no way his team is going to hold Georgia Tech to fewer than 100 yards rushing this week.

There's a key, though, to stopping it. Shannon said to be successful, Miami will have to get off the field on third down (something its done well in its last five games) and create turnovers. Fumbles have been a problem for Georgia Tech. In the games they've lost (28-7 to North Carolina, 24-17 to Virginia and 20-17 to Virginia) the Yellow Jackets coughed the ball up at least twice in those games. Shannon said he's made sure the focus for Miami in practice this week has been on tackling high. "The quarterback is going to carry the ball high in the option," Shannon said. "So every time we tackle them this week it's up high, grabbing the arms. That's where most of the turnovers are coming. When you have an opportunity to get on the football, you have to."

> While it's still unknown if freshman Travis Benjamin will be available to play this week, there's no doubt teams have figured out a way to neutralize The Blur and Miami's return game. Since the North Carolina game, Miami has a combined 76 yards on 14 punt returns. In the UNC and Texas A&M games alone, Benjamin had 108 yards on five returns. Shannon said teams are now getting more hangtime on the ball on punts and kicking it shorter to avoid returns. Miami finally adjusted last week against Virginia Tech, going with two guys back on most returns.

"Whichever way you go at least we have an opportunity to return the football," Shannon said. "When we put two guys back they kicked out of bounds. We have to come up with something to get the ball in those guys' hands."

Bill_young> Defensive coordinator Bill Young is 62-years old, but he isn't out of touch with the latest hip hop. Last week as Miami was preparing to play Virginia Tech, Young was asked by linebackers coach Micheal Barrow during a team meeting what his favorite song was. "Coach Young busted out, I Put On For My City," freshman defensive tackle Forston said with a chuckle Monday. "The whole room went crazy. It got us pumped up. When everybody is in the meeting room, quiet, he always says something to take our mind off it. He always has something funny to say. You never know which Coach Young will be out on the football field."

> Freshman defensive end Marcus Robinson earned Defensive Line Player of the Week honors in the ACC this week for his three sack, seven tackle performance. Kicker Matt Bosher was selected Special Teams Player of the Week. It's a bit of a surprise for Bosher that's he's only been selected once for the award.

> POST PRACTICE UPDATE... Just wanted to share with you it looks like a go for left tackle Jason Fox, who saw his 22-game starting streak snapped against Virginia Tech. Fox said he expects to play against Georgia Tech with a brace on his heavily taped right ankle. "The last couple of days I've been running around and it feels pretty good," Fox said. Receiver Travis Benjamin supposedly practiced "a lot more" than he did Sunday according to Shannon. UM's official injury report will be released Tuesday morning.

November 16, 2008

Sunday notebook

The Miami Hurricanes are ranked for the first time in two years and control their own path to the ACC title game. But if you ask them, they don't really care.

Sunday, after the team began preparing for another Thursday night primetime game, coach Randy Shannon and his players didn't exhibit a lot of excitement over their newest rewards created by their current five-game winning streak. It seems they've got their eyes on the bigger prize.

Randy_shannon2_2"It really doesn't matter," Shannon said when asked what it means for his team to be ranked 23rd in the country by AP, the first time Miami has been ranked since it lost at Louisville Sept. 15, 2006. "The only thing that matters to us is we have an opponent on the road that's playing very well, which is Georgia Tech. That's the only thing that matters to us right now."

What about the fact you can win your way into the big game in Tampa now and that you don't need to worry about what happens anymore with North Carolina? "We don't think about it," Shannon said. "Not at all. We're just worrying about Georgia Tech."

For what's it worth, Javarris James and Xavier Shannon said said they had no idea the team was ranked when asked about it after practice. "Everyone outside of the University of Miami is all hyped about it, but we're not going to change anything," Xavier Shannon said. "Why would we?"

Truth is, no matter what they say, the Canes are definitely excited to be in front of the steering wheel and no longer sitting in the back seat of a conference many thought they would come in and dominate right away. And the truth is, UM could have everything locked up for a trip to Tampa by Saturday (at least we think). Today, Associated Press writer Tim Reynolds and I began trying to figure out if the Canes could clinch the Coastal Division title by this weekend. And it appears they can.

What HAS to happen? UM needs to beat Coastal Division rival Georgia Tech first, and then have either two scenarios play out. One, North Carolina loses at home to N.C. State. Or, if Carolina wins, Virginia Tech and Virginia both win their home games against Duke and Clemson. How does that get UM in? It's complicated. But, basically Miami would own all the tiebreakers needed regardless of what happens a week later. UM owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with Virginia Tech and Virginia, and in a three-way tie (best record among teams tied in the Coastal Division would be used as the tiebreaker) Miami would own that with a 4-1 in-division record. We tried explaining the scenario to Randy Shannon after practice and he didn't care. He took off his hat and said "You can get these [pointing to two gray hairs on his head] if you worry about that," he said.

JavarrisjamesBut you know his players are excited. James said he received text messages from teammates who were watching the North Carolina-Maryland game while he was driving home to Immokalee this weekend. James admitted practice had more of a spark Sunday. "From here on out, we can control our own destiny," James said. "I think its definitely put more of a spark into us. Guys were talking about how they're ready to practice, ready to work. We know what we got to do now."

And it starts with beat Georgia Tech. Believe me, you don't want to know the other scenario if Miami loses to the Yellow Jackets.

> The best news from Sunday appears to be that left tackle Jason Fox is expected to return to the lineup Thursday night. Fox had his 22-game starting streak snapped when a right ankle injury forced him out against the Hokies. But he returned to practice Sunday with his right ankle heavily taped. Shannon said Fox will play.

> Receiver, speedster and return man Travis Benjamin is a different story. "We don't know about him yet, but he moved around pretty well," Shannon said.

> Quarterback Robert Marve had some extra drills to do after practice for some apparent fumble issues in practice. He was doing rolly-pollys and came off the field with some grass in his hair.

Canes crack AP poll

It's been a long time, but the Miami Hurricanes are finally going to have a number next to their name when they play at Georgia Tech this week. The Hurricanes moved into the 23rd spot in the Associated Press poll Sunday, the first time Miami has been ranked since Sept 16, 2006. The Hurricanes were just outside of the rankings in the ESPN USA Today poll, but led all other teams in receiving votes.

Marcus_robinsonIt's been a long journey for the Canes since the last time they were ranked. UM was 15th in the nation when they were knocked out for good after losing at Louisville 31-7. Miami's streak of 107 straight appearances in the rankings ended with the loss. After that, Miami went 13-14 before starting a five-game winning streak. Georgia Tech has won three straight games against the Canes by a combined 14 points. They ended UM's last long winning streak in 2005 with a 14-10 win at the Orange Bowl.

Miami controls its own path to the ACC Title game in Tampa Dec. 6. UM leads the Coastal Division in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 4-2 record. Maryland, ranked 22nd in the AP poll, leads the Atlantic Division at 7-3, 4-2.

> By the way, while critics may bash the ACC because it doesn't have a top-tier team, the computers at least say the ACC is the second best conference in the country. The Big 12 is tops. But the ACC is actually ahead of the SEC. Check out Jeff Sagarin's rankings.

> Here's a link to Randy Shannon's press conference Friday after the Virginia Tech game.

November 15, 2008

Courtside blog: UM 96, Florida So. 60 (F)

BANKUNITED CENTER -- Here at the BUC for the start of the season for Frank Haith's 17th-ranked basketball team. I'll provide you with highlights and thoughts as this one rolls along...

> The first surprise of the night: Cyrus McGowan gets the start in the post in front of Jimmy Graham, who was penciled in as the starter. Haith has always liked using Graham as his sixth man because of the energy and scoring he brings to the floor. Graham did exactly what Haith wanted him to do after UM got off to a sluggish start, he put the Canes in front 6-5 with 16:32 to play with short jump hook.

> So far, the crowd looks pretty good for a game against a Division II opponent -- well, at least better than last year's.

> Freshman De'Quan Jones made his collegiate debut with 14:49 and got his hands on the ball quickly. He then promptly overthrew Dwayne Collins, who had position in the post. Looked like nerves for DJ, who is obviously pumped up for the game. Jones followed up his first turnover with another when he dribbled the ball off his leg. He followed it up with an air ball.

> Well, it definitely looks like a season opener. Miami is playing without starting point guard Lance Hurdle (his high ankle sprain still hasn't healed) and has been sloppy with the ball. So far in the first eight minutes, UM has five turnovers. This is what Haith was most unhappy with in the preseason.

> Well, so much for those early struggles. The Canes have gone on a 17-2 run since McGowan's offensive rebounding got UM rolling. McGowan hit a three during the run and provided a ton of energy on both sides of the court. He's impressed me most of all the newcomers so far.

> Here are some halftime numbers: Dwayne Collins leads the Canes with 10 points and 8 boards. Eddie Ros has played well. He's got 8 points, 2 assists and 1 turnover. Miami has 11 turnovers in all.

Canes control destiny now

BANKUNITED CENTER -- Randy Shannon's football team now has a clear path to Tampa and the ACC Championship game. The Canes got an assist Saturday night when Maryland came back to beat North Carolina 17-15, giving Miami sole possession of first place in the Coastal Division. All UM has to do now is win its final two games against Georgia Tech and North Carolina State and the Canes will get to play in the ACC title game on December 6th.

I'm sure many of U were glued to your TVs just like Canes players and coaches were tonight trying to follow the important game. The fact Miami is even in this position is a huge accomplishment. I keep thinking back to where this team was just a little over a month ago, 2-3, 0-2 in the conference. Now, these Baby Canes have grown up and learned how to win. The defense has been the key. I know I've thrown this stat out a ton, but third down defense is the most glaring number you can thank for the turnaround. In Miami's 2-3 start, the Canes were allowing opponents to convert 55 percent of the time on third down. In their five straight wins, that number has been squeezed down to 23 percent. Bill Young obviously deserves a lot of credit.

Now that Miami is in first, expect the Canes to crack the Top 25 poll this week.

By the way, Florida State and Maryland are tied for first in the Atlantic Division with 4-2 records. They play each other next week and that will likely decide the other representative in the ACC title game. FSU still has to play Boston College tonight.

November 14, 2008

CoachSpeak: Shannon, Haith talk Friday

BANKUNITED CENTER -- Just got through a double-header of press conferences for football coach Randy Shannon and men's basketball coach Frank Haith here at The U and wanted to pass along what was talked about. We'll start with the guy who is coming off a big win Thursday night in front of a national TV audience...

Randy_shannon2> Shannon was obviously happy with his team's fifth consecutive win, especially with how the defense and special teams played. But Shannon said the goal this week in preparing for Georgia Tech is to learn how to "seal the deal." Shannon said he was frustrated Miami couldn't punch the ball into the end zone while in the red zone and settled for field goals. He also wasn't happen with Graig Cooper's fumble and Kayne Farquharson's drop. He said there are lessons to be learned. "We got to capitalize when we get those chances," Shannon said. "We got to seal the deal and not wait until the fourth quarter to make those plays. We're not getting hat extra push in the red zone. And we need to."

> What Shannon liked most in reviewing film was how Miami cut down on the number of penalties it drew two weeks ago against Virginia. The Hurricanes were flagged one time for 10 yards Thursday night -- a 10-yard illegal block penalty, which cost the Canes good field position.

But overall, Shannon liked the fact Miami was able to win the field position battle and praised kicker Matt Bosher for getting great hangtime on his punts and kickoffs, allowing the special teams unit -- led by Sam Shields -- to get down field and not allow for big returns. "It was probably his best performance in terms of all three phases," Shannon said of his kicker. "Our plan was for him to kick it up, let it hang and let our two fliers -- Sam and Ryan [Hill] to get there." Shannon pointed out freshman Ramon Buchanon had an opportunity to block a punt and didn't.

> Shannon said Shields big hit on the kickoff after Miami scored to make it 10-7 got the team excited and the crowd excited and gave Miami momentum.

> Shannon said one of the biggest keys to the game was winning the time of possession battle -- especially in the second half. Miami had the ball for 18 minutes in the second half -- including 10 in the third quarter. "Everybody talks points, points, points," Shannon said. "But sometimes, holding on the football is just as important. Bud Foster is one of the best coordinators in the nation. We knew if we could hold onto the football and keep their offense off the field, it was just as effective."

> Shannon was happy with the play of his defensive line, which produced six sacks and was led by freshman Marcus Robinson's three-sack performance. But as good as the line played, Shannon said he saw a few other blown opportunities for sacks and big plays.

"Allen Bailey missed a sack and Marcus had a few mistakes where he was out of position," Shannon said. "But I like what we're doing. It was a great game to see [Robinson] come around. But he wouldn't have had that type of a night if not for the guys inside. Coach [Clint] Hurtt pointed out how guys were not reacting to run pass like they should. We just did a better job recognizing that. Another guy who deserves some praise is Josh Holmes. He's been very active on the inside."

> Shannon said the only way Bailey will move to defensive tackle permanently is if he were to put on more weight. Right now, Bailey is only playing at the tackle spot in bandit formations.

> Shannon also had high praise for left tackle Reggie Youngblood, who stepped in and started for Jason Fox at left tackle. Shannon said Youngblood did a good job picking up the blitz. Miami rotated four guys at tackle -- Chris Rutledge, Matt Pipho and Tyrone Byrd rotated in at right tackle and a few snaps on the left side. Shannon said he doesn't know if Fox will be back for Georgia Tech this week.

> The other injured guy to follow this week is receiver Travis Benjamin, whom Shannon said was "nicked." It appears Rutledge, who was injured Thursday but returned to action, is "fine."

> Shannon talked a little about Georgia Tech and the challenge Miami faces next week. The key he said to stopping the Yellow Jackets option running game is stopping their fullback. "It's going to be difficult," Shannon admitted. "We got to play assignment football."


Frank_haith> As expected, Haith told us Friday starting point guard Lance Hurdle will not play in Saturday's home opener against Florida Southern. He still hasn't practiced at full-speed since suffering an ankle injury the first week of practice. Haith said there is no guarantee Hurdle will play in next week's Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. "He's a couple days away," Haith said. "But for a guy like him, whose wheels are so important to how he plays, you got to take time to make sure its right. I don't think we'll see Lance at 100 percent for awhile."

> Sophomore Eddie Rios will get the start in place of Hurdle alongside Jack McClinton, James Dews, Dwayne Collins and Jimmy Graham. Haith said Rios has had a really great week of practice and is hoping he takes advantage of his opportunity.

> Saturday night's opponent Florida Southern is in Division II. But Haith warns the Moccasins won't be a pushover, not with 7-foot center Rashaad Singleton, a transfer from Georgia in the lineup. Miami beat Florida Southern last year 104-61 last year.

> Haith said he's excited about his two new post players including Cyrus McGowan, who led UM in scoring in their two exhibitions. Haith said he was pleased with the play of redshirt freshman center Julian Gamble as well as Miami's defensive effort in the preseason. The Canes are trying to create more turnovers this season and trap teams. What Shannon didn't like in the preseason were the turnovers Miami had.

> Haith said he's hoping to use freshman DeQuan Jones in a Jimmy Graham type fashion -- energy off the bench. He said Jones (6-6, 217) has the physical tools to block shots, rebound, score and create steals, but needs to work on his positioning. "He's a freshman and it takes time. I hope our fans understand that because he's going to be special."