Notes on a Wednesday night:
### The UM basketball program has taken us on a wonderful ride this season, with tonight’s convincing 68-50 win at Notre Dame the latest achievement and what Miami hopes will be the first of 12 wins in March and April. (That's what is needed to pull off the dream scenario of winning the ACC Tourney and the NCAA Tourney, plus the regular-season finale.)
And the Canes could win their second regular-season title in four years, which would be a remarkable accomplishment in a conference with powerhouses who have such a natural advantage in recruiting (Duke, North Carolina, Louisville).
UM (24-5, 13-4) would win the ACC title outright if it wins at Virginia Tech at 4 p.m. Saturday and if North Carolina (13-4 in the conference) loses at Duke at 6:30 p.m. If both win or both lose, they would share the title but UNC would be the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.
What’s more, UM is now very much in play for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi currently has Kansas, Villanova, Virginia and UNC as his No. 1 seeds and Xavier, UM, Michigan State and Oklahoma as his No. 2 seeds.
But UM likely would move up to a No. 1 seed if it wins Saturday and wins the ACC Tournament.
“We put ourselves in position to win the ACC,” Angel Rodriguez told WQAM’s Joe Zagacki. "It’s not going to be easy. We will be on the road. Carolina will be on the road.”
Rodriguez has very good again tonight, with 19 points (7 for 13 shooting), with five assists and four rebounds. Sheldon McClellan added 17 points, and Tonye Jekiri had 14 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks.
UM ran out to a 21-3 lead and held a usually efficient Notre Dame offense to 34 percent shooting.
“The key was energy,” Rodriguez told Zagacki. “We watched the Kansas at Texas game and saw how they came out. We spoke about coming out the same way they did. I didn’t expect us to get so many stops in a row to start the game. We were so focused and so hungry. I believe in our team. I believe how good we can be. I want a ring badly. We’re a game away from doing something special.”
Assistant Chris Caputo, on WQAM: “I thought our guys’ focus was at an unbelievably high place. Kamari Murphy’s talk set the tone. You could see the razor type focus. Our edge was there for 40 minutes. This is one of the very good wins in our program since we’ve been here. Our edge was there.”
### Jerome Washington, an interesting developmental project, is gone from UM’s roster, but this UM coaching staff is still bullish on its tight ends, led by athletic freak David Njoku.
With spring practice beginning March 15, here’s how tight ends coach Todd Hartley assesses his tight ends:
Njoku “is a defensive nightmare," Hartley said. "Teams ask: Is he going to be a tight end, wide receiver, hybrid? Chris Herndon can do that. Even Stan Dobard was flexed out at times as a slot receiver last year. They can create mismatches in the passing game. They can line up on the line of scrimmage and block a defensive end. They can line up in the backfield and do what a traditional fullback does. I want exactly what we have here. I want guys that can do it all and all these have the ability to do that.”
Hartley also said Dobard “looks like the biggest kid I've got. A kid who is physically dominating at the point of attack, but also athletic enough to catch the ball in the slot. He's a leader of my room. He has a presence in the locker-room. Very mature kid. If I need something done, I go to Stan and say I need this done.”
Jovani Haskins “has the ability to make people miss and run over people,” Hartley said.
Michael Irvin Jr. “is projected to come to my room,” Hartley said. “He's almost 6-3, 237 pounds right now, which is a lot heavier than anybody thought. The kid is a natural pass catcher. He's a mismatch in the slot. He can run and accelerate, but he also has some toughness to him where he can stick his face on somebody and block a defensive end and linebacker when he's required. He's a kid who fits the mold of what we want as a tight end at Miami.”
### In an interview with Canesport today, four-star cornerback J.C. Jackson confirmed what his defensive backs coach had told me previously: that UM is pursuing him. He said he will make a decision in two weeks, and that UM and South Carolina are the schools "mainly" in it. UM "has a fair chance," Jackson said. "That's my home team."
His coach at Riverside Community College, Isaac Shipp, told me Tuesday that Jackson told him that UM is his top choice. Shipp also said that Jackson told Shipp that Jackson has been talking to defensive backs coach Mike Rumph "every other day." But Jackson told Canesport that he talked to Rumph for the first time last week and plans to speak with Mark Richt and Manny Diaz.
### In Todd McShay’s latest mock draft on ESPN.com, he has the Dolphins passing up UF cornerback Vernon Hargreaves to take UCLA linebacker Myles Jack at No. 8.
“Jack, who is still recovering from an early-season knee injury, didn't participate in drills at the combine,” McShay said. “But his tape shows a twitched-up athlete who thrives in coverage and can make plays all over the field versus the run. If the Dolphins are looking to add a much-needed playmaker to the second level, Jack is their best bet.”
The seven players McShay has going before Jack: Mississippi offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil; North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz; defensive ends DeForest Buckner (Oregon) and Joey Bosa (Ohio State); FSU DB Jalen Ramsey; Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley and Cal QB Jared Goff.
His picks 9 through 11: Hargreaves, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott and Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson.
### Rishard Matthews agrees with Greg Jennings that too many restrictions have been placed on Ryan Tannehill.
“When coach [Bill] Lazor was there, [Tannehill] really didn't have the flexibility he wanted,” Matthews told WQAM’s Joe Rose and Curtis Stevenson. “I don't know where the confusion was. I love coach Lazor and at times we were wondering why are plays [not] being audibled. I hope he gets that freedom in this new offense. Our second year, he had a lot of freedom.
“The staff now, they trust him, from what I'm hearing. I spoke to Ryan, and he's excited, too.”
Interesting that when asked about the problems with the offense, Matthews blamed not only consistency but also “creativity.”
### No team claimed Beno Udrih’s contract today, meaning the Heat --- which is adamant against going back over the tax threshold --- cannot sign another player until the range of April 6. The Heat had hoped Philadelphia would claim Udrih (who's out for three months after foot surgery) because the 76ers are below the salary cap floor.
Figure on Miami potentially adding a veteran at that time (the player would be playoff eligible as long as he was released by March 1) and then signing a developmental prospect on the final day of the season with the 15th roster spot.
### It will be interesting to see the fallout after colleague David J. Neal’s outstanding and shocking stories (one tonight, another today) about FIU women’s basketball team captain Destini Feagin alleging that first-year women's basketball head coach Marlin Chinn has been pursuing a sexual relationship with her for much of the season.
Here's David's latest story tonight, including allegations of FIU botching the case:
Chinn has hired prominent local attorney Darren Heitner, who has represented UM players in the past (including Dyron Dye when UM booted him off the team for murky reasons related to the NCAA investigation).
Chinn has not commented since the story broke yesterday, and Heitner said today: “We will respect FIU's process of conducting an internal investigation to uncover the truth of the matters at hand. No further comments at this time.”
FIU athletic director Pete Garcia, who hired Chinn last year but obviously had nothing to do with allegations, has survived other problems in his department, including lots of losing with revenue sports (football, men’s basketball) and academic problems.
Since Garcia took over at FIU in 2006, the football team, men’s basketball team, men’s soccer, men’s track and field, women’s cross country, and women’s indoor and outdoor track have all been hit by the NCAA for poor academic performance at least once.