Like many health-conscious college sports fans I spent most of this past weekend exercising.
I firmly exercised my right to be a couch potato and watch almost every game of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. As I sat there on my couch stunned in amazement at the incredible upsets happening all around me I started to wonder to myself: "Why can't Miami do that?"
Every year one or more Cinderella teams emerge at the NCAA tournament. I mean if little St. Marys can beat #2 seed Villanova and Northern Iowa can beat big bad #1 seed Kansas and all that talent, then why can't Miami beat ACC rivals Duke or UNC or any other of the designated NCAA kings of the hardwood and win an ACC title or make it to the Big Dance next year?
Even the Butler did it! The Butler Bulldogs advanced to the Sweet 16 from the West Region as did Cornell from the East Region. Located in Ithaca, NY Cornell was the first Ivy League school to make the sweet 16 since Penn did it 31 years ago. They beat #5 seed Temple and #4 seed Wisconsin (take that Badgers!) to advance.
If universities that you have never even heard of like Wofford, Morgan State, Lehigh, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, East Tennessee State, University of Cal at Santa Barbara, Utah State, Montana and Vermont can get invited to The Big Dance then why can't Miami?
Did all of those schools recruit better players than Miami? Do they have more talent on the floor? Do they have better coaching? Do they have better teamwork and chemistry? Do they play in a less competitive conference?
Each of these questions are not easily answered. Yet the Hurricanes return their three young stars that sparkled most brightly in the ACC tourney this year: Durand Scott, Reggie Johnson and DeQuan Jones.
So Hurricane fans I have to ask U: Why can't Miami do that?
The 10th seeded Gaels of St. Mary's sent Villanova packing on Saturday by the score of 75-68. The Gaels did so by playing a team-oriented style of offense and a solid, relentless defense. And don't be mistaken, it was not the Gael's "luck of the Irish" that won the game. St. Mary's was not hurt by their lack of five star recruits or McDonald's All-Americans. The Gaels won the game by simply giving greater effort than the highly favored and more talented Wildcats.
So why can't Miami and head coach Frank Haith do that in 2011?
The good 'ol boys from Northern Iowa put a good old fashioned whoopin' on the high flying Kansas Jayhawks. The ninth seeded Panthers used an aggressive defense to set the tone early on and held the usually high scoring Jayhawks to just 67 points. The Panthers managed to survive the Kansas press and over come a late Jayhawk rally to pull off the 69-67 victory. Northern Iowa had never played a #1 ranked team and nobody from their conference had beaten one since 1962. What were the chances that NIU would play bracket buster? Go figure, huh?
So why can't Miami and freshman sensation Durand Scott do that next year?
During the 2009-2010 season your Miami Hurricanes started the season with easy early victories to post up a 16-1 record. The one loss? To ACC foe Boston College on the road.
Then during the second half of the season the Hurricanes faced much tougher Atlantic Coast Conference competition. Miami faded down the stretch and finished the regular season at 18-12 overall and a 4-12 record in the ACC. The Hurricanes four conference regular season victories were against Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Virginia.
(Note: The ACC sent nine teams to the post-season. Duke, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Clemson and Maryland all made the NCAA tournament while Virginia Tech, UNC and NCST made the NIT).
However, the Hurricanes gained strength in March and played their best basketball of the year in Greensboro, NC. With leading scorer Dwayne Collins on the bench due to injury Miami beat Wake Forest by 21 points and nemesis Virginia Tech (both for the second time this year) before losing to eventual ACC champion Duke in the semi-finals.
"Faith in Haith" was restored for most if not all of the Hurricane faithful.
In fact it was Collin's injury that may have been the proverbial "blessing in disguise" for Miami. The Hurricanes offense actually found an identity (it never really had one all year) and the Miami defense became much more physical with the BIG inside presence of RS freshman Reggie Johnson.
While Johnson was banging the boards and claiming the paint as his own, the Hurricanes were being led on offense by dynamic freshman Durand Scott and athletic sophomore DeQuan Jones. All three of these key players will be back at UM next year. So I have to ask U:
Why can't Miami put on their boogie shoes and do some serious dancing next year?
Why can't Miami be next year's St. Mary's, Northern Iowa, Butler or Cornell?
Why can't Miami do that?
With some Faith in Haith, returning talent and a little luck I think we can.