The football team may be floundering in South Beach, but the basketball team has risen to be one of the best in the ACC.
Last season, the Hurricanes made their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002 and advanced to the second round before bowing out to Elite Eight team Texas.
Miami made a 10-game improvement from 2007 to 2008, winning 23 games in the process. An improvement of 10 games from last season to this year isn't likely, but a marked improvement of five or six games is a definite possibility—especially when the best shooter in the conference wears Miami green and orange.
Jack McClinton somehow managed to go mostly unnoticed by the majority of ACC coaches, even Miami's Frank Haith. McClinton began his collegiate career at Siena, but after a year of tearing up the MAAC, McClinton sat out a year in order to transfer to Miami to play for Haith
Sitting out a year may have been the best thing possible for McClinton's career. The guard hit a respectable 35.7 percent of his three-point attempts as a freshman in 2005. When the 2007 season rolled around, McClinton had refined his stroke and was ready to rain down treys on ACC foes.
McClinton shot 44 percent from distance and hit at least three trifectas in 22 of 31 games his sophomore season. His numbers continued to improve, increasing his scoring average by a point.
McClinton will lead a very experienced Hurricane team that returns the majority of its scoring from a year ago. Miami has seven upperclassmen that averaged at least 18 minutes per game in 2008.
McClinton's backcourt partner Lance Hurdle isn't a prototypical point guard, but he also doesn't play a huge chunk of minutes. Hurdle's offensive rating is an abysmal 97.7, which is more than five points lower than the majority of his teammates.
Combo guard-forward James Dews compliments McClinton as Miami's second-best scorer. Dews is actually more efficient with the ball than McClinton (120.9 to 113.7 offensive rating) but uses a surprisingly low number of possessions. Dews finishes just 16 percent of the Hurricanes' possessions (with five players on the floor, the average is 20 percent).
McClinton and Dews provide the majority of Miami's three-point punch. The two combined for over 150 three-pointers, which is almost twice as many as their remaining teammates.
Miami lacks depth in the backcourt past the trio of McClinton, Dews, and Hurdle. Sophomore Eddie Rios played 14 minutes per game last season but was very ineffective with an offensive rating of 83.1.
The Hurricane frontcourt doesn’t have the big name players like the backcourt but has more depth. The lone Miami freshman expected to contribute is the highly touted DeQuan Jones. Scout.com described Jones as potentially the best recruit since Miami brought back its basketball team over 20 years ago.
Jones will still only see a reserve role behind a mix of seniors and junior big men. Center Jimmy Graham will fill the void left by Anthony King, who led the team in rebounding and blocks. Graham will follow in his footsteps, as the senior is a very strong rebounder and shot blocker.
Dwayne Collins is the team’s leading returning rebounder and a decent scorer. Collins also lacks consistency. He led Miami in its upset of Duke with 26 points but faded into obscurity during the ACC Tournament.
Brian Asbury is entering his final season in South Beach but could finally be poised to break out. The senior has apparently been working on his shooting stroke since Asbury likes to hang around the three-point line. He’ll likely be the first man off the bench for Coach Haith.
The next player off the bench will likely be Cyrus McGowan, an Arkansas transfer. McGowan brings girth to the paint with his 6’9”, 235-pound frame. Like Asbury, McGowan can step out and hit a three-pointer.
2009 Season Forecast
Coach Haith put together a pretty weak non-conference schedule. The Hurricanes only have three remotely tough games on the slate. The ‘Canes host Clemson and Ohio State but do travel to Lexington to face Kentucky.
Miami should be able to fly through its non-conference schedule with at most two losses, but going undefeated is certainly not out of the question.
The ‘Canes have a pretty fair conference schedule. They take a trip to North Carolina for games against UNC and Duke, but also get a shot at UNC at home. Miami also has two games against Maryland and travels to Boston College.
Overall, it’s a workable schedule, and Miami should be able to get through it with 11 wins.
Best Case Scenario
Jack McClinton overtakes Tyler Hansbrough as the conference’s best player and in the process takes Miami to a top three finish in the league. The frontcourt uses its size and depth to wear teams down under the basket.
The Hurricanes finish 11-1 in the non-conference schedule and win 11 games in the ACC to finish the regular season 22-6. Miami reaches the ACC Championship game but loses to UNC.
The ‘Canes have the talent and experience to make a run into the Sweet 16, if not the Elite Eight.
Worst Case Scenario
Miami doesn’t progress like they should and loses its three big games against Kentucky, Clemson, and Ohio State.
The ‘Canes win only nine games in the ACC, one more than last year’s breakout campaign. Miami finishes with just 18 wins and needs several wins in the ACC Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament, where the Hurricanes are bounced in the first round.