GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The press room inside the Greensboro Coliseum is usually a pretty quiet place. At around 4:30 p.m. Friday, the neighbors did a nice job disrupting the peace. On the other side of the thick brick wall dividing the press from the locker rooms, a jubilant University of Miami basketball team could be heard celebrating their second upset win in a row at the ACC Tournament.
Before Friday, no UM team had ever won two post season conference games in the same season. Not the one Jack McClinton took to the second round of the NCAA Tournament two years ago. Not even the one that shared the Big East Title in 2000. Somehow, the most successful tournament team in UM history has become the one that finished in last place and is surviving without its leading scorer and rebounder.
"For real?" a puzzled Reggie Johnson told me when I mentioned his Canes were the first to win twice in a post-season conference tournament. "I had no idea. I guess that means we should have been doing this all year then."
It's far too late for UM (20-12) to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The only way for the Canes to go dancing is to beat top-seeded Duke Saturday and then win again Sunday. But one can only imagine the what-if scenarios at this point.
> What if Durand Scott would have actually listened to Haith and been more aggressive at the start of the season instead of waiting for the final month to show everybody why he was so highly touted?
> What if DeQuan Jones would have averaged 14 points a game -- what he's done at the ACC Tournament -- instead of losing his spot in the starting rotation, his confidence and riding the pine since Christmas?
> What if Dwayne Collins would have gone pro? Would a full season of Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble been more fruitful for the Canes?
> Would the Canes have blown a 17-point lead at home against Boston College?
> Would UM have let their 12-point halftime lead against Duke wilt away?
> Would Miami really have finished in last place?
There's no way to really know. But there is a feeling in the Canes' locker room things would have definitely been different. Scott admitted he was nervous early this season to step on anybody's toes, despite the fact Haith was pushing him to take on a bigger role.
Friday, though, Scott had no problem handling it. With the game against Virginia Tech in the balance, he scored 11 points over the final six minutes by attacking the basket like it was nobody's business. His teammates were glad he did.
"Coach said four low and just move out the way and let Durand go to work," guard Malcolm Grant said. "Durand's a great driver and a great finisher. It was just great for him to come through. The way I've always felt about it is whoever helps us win, that's who we want to do it."
The Canes are finally coming through this season. Win or lose against Duke, all U can say is better late than never.
I'm certainly not trying to single out Haith, Collins or anybody on this team for its regular season underachievement. What I'm saying is after watching them beat two NCAA Tournament teams in a row here, its obvious they should have been better than last place. This is a young basketball team and its taken time for them to learn how to win, feel confident. But it's obvious the talent was there for better results.
A FEW MORE TIDBITS...
> For those of you still wishing for Frank Haith's reign as Canes coach to be over, ESPN reporter Andy Katz posted on his Twitter account that Haith could be a candidate to replace Jeff Lebo at Auburn, who was fired Friday. Haith and the Canes were already gone when Katz tweeted the message.
> With UM's two wins in the tournament, the Canes have gone from missing the NIT entirely to at least having a shot.
> According to UM's sports information office, Ohio star cornerback Latwan Anderson has formally signed his national letter of intent for his track scholarship.