Expectations were high entering the 2005-2006 men’s basketball season.
The Hurricanes surprised everyone a year ago by going 7-10 in its first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference and earning a National Invitation Tournament bid. Somehow, it looks like we’re stuck in the same spot a year later.
This season got off to a rough start, and I truly believe the early injury to Anthony Harris hurt the team much more than we would have thought. They quickly racked up non-conference losses to teams it could have beaten with a healthy Harris in the backcourt.
An undefeated Florida came to the Bank United Center in December, and the Hurricanes almost beat them for the second straight year, but the Gators went on a 10-0 to finish the game and won by that margin.
Louisville arrived with a record of 11-1 and looked like one of the elite teams in the country. Miami found itself down by as many as 15 in the first half but clawed its way back into the game. After UM took a 39-38 lead with 7:28 to play, the Cardinals went on a 20-4 run it.
Are you sensing a pattern here? I give this team plenty of credit. Rarely could one say that the Hurricanes were blown out from the start of a game. This team was in almost every game they played, but that only got them so far. Miami folded in late-game situations many times, squandering a chance for important wins that would have them dancing in the thralls of March Madness right now.
Fans must remember that this team was 6-3 in the ACC and had a shot to defeat the second place N.C. State on its home floor. A Miami comeback in the final seconds of regulation led to even more heartbreak, as the Wolfpack ended up winning in double overtime. That was the beginning of a streak in which the Hurricanes ended the season with six of seven conference losses, dropping its record to 7-9.
There’s no need to tell the coaching staff or its players that this team had a chance to make some serious noise this year, whether it was against Florida or Louisville earlier this season or in the four straight games against ranked ACC opponents. But this is what happens with guard-oriented basketball teams. On some nights, the hoop looks like there’s a lid on it.
As a senior, I’m upset that I was never able to be at UM when the team went to the Big Dance, but back-to-back seasons of 7-9 in the ACC regular season is nothing to get too upset about. We have to keep telling ourselves that this is the same Miami that didn’t even make the Big East Tournament in 2004.
Douglas C. Kroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.