When looking at the men’s basketball season, I begin to wonder how things got so bad so fast.
About a month ago, the team sat at 13-5 and seemingly had a chance at making the NCAA Tournament, despite its out-of-conference schedule being weak. They also had won three Big East conference games. There were legitimate debates going on about whether or not this team would make the NCAA Tournament if they won 19 or 20 games with their strength of schedule. That was over a month ago, on Jan. 21, the date of the Hurricanes’ last victory over Rutgers at the Convocation Center.
Since then, the ‘Canes have lost 10 straight games and are sitting at 13-15 overall on the season. There are still debates about the men’s basketball team, but now there are mainly two. Will Perry Clark be fired, and will this team win another game the entire season?
To lose nine games in a row is pretty difficult when you have talented players like Darius Rice, Robert Hite, and Guillermo Diaz. To go 0-4 in overtime on the season is also not an easy task. I would think this team would win one game by accident. It hasn’t happened yet, and here’s why.
The problems with the Hurricanes start with the fact that they may be the worst defensive team in the history of college basketball. Men’s basketball games remind me too much of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, because all the opponents seemingly do is dunk the basketball. In the Valentine’s Day loss against Syracuse, the Orangemen had 10 dunks and countless open lay ups and shots in an easy victory. They shot almost 87 percent from the field in the first 10 minutes of the game, and over 70 percent in the first half. How any team could let another team shoot that high of a percentage is mind-boggling.
The four overtime losses is a direct tribute to the fact that this team cannot make a defensive stand when it needs to. In the 10 game losing streak, they could have won at least four of these games if they knew how to play defense. They could have gotten a big defensive stop when they needed one and converted a basket on the other end. Instead, this team gave up easy lay ups and dunks without adjustment.
Perhaps the only thing more frustrating than watching the Hurricanes attempt to play defense is watching them try to run their offense. The offense consists of passing the ball around the perimeter and having someone launch a three pointer, most of the time with a defender right near him. The ball rarely goes inside the three-point line, and the ball goes into the paint with even less frequency. This problem is not all Clark’s fault, however. You can only play with the players you have and the team lacks a post presence. Rice, despite his lanky frame, cannot post up very well, and Will Frisby and Rodrigue Djahue are not strong enough offensive presences. Putting that aside, the Hurricanes rarely even try to go inside, so defenses don’t respect the paint and defenders crowd the perimeter, making it harder for Miami to score. That is why ‘Canes fans have seen so many leads slip away and so little scoring from Miami in the closing minutes of a tight game.
So, to answer the two questions I brought up earlier, Clark is definitely in the hot seat. It seems like everyone is against the ‘Canes’ head coach. In the Syracuse game, several students had t-shirts on with the words “Fire Perry.” There have been “Fire Perry” chants at each game and the alumni are becoming more and more disgruntled with this basketball team.
To Clark’s credit, he is one of the nicest guys in sports. In a time where so many programs have morality problems, Clark is a class act and always nice to everyone. I can honestly say that I like Clark as a person, and I appreciate the kindness and respect that he has always given me. However, as a basketball coach, his decision-making often comes into question. Also, this team seems to lack direction and leadership that can be at least partially attributed to coaching. The team is frustrating to watch and when I look at the lack of defense and direction it has, I have to think that a change is needed.
As for winning another game this season, I do think this team will win another game at some point. They still have Seton Hall and West Virginia on the schedule, which are winnable games. However, don’t be surprised if this team loses out the rest of the way and misses the Big East Tournament. It will be a sad day for this program if they fail to make the Big East tournament because only the bottom two teams will have that honor. In close games, a good team that is well coached finds a way to win. This team always finds a way to lose. That speaks volumes about the direction this basketball program is headed.
Darren Grossman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org