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...
> 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.
> 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.
> 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.
> 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.
> 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?
A: 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.