Men’s Basketball: Gutcheck time for Miami

The Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball team seemed like a great story. The program’s resurgence and surprising 12-0 start cracked the national headlines and a ranking as high as 19th in the polls. Two months later, the Hurricanes are on the verge of becoming an afterthought.

It’s frustrating how the season has unraveled. By starting the season in impressive fashion, nothing less than earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament is clearly a disappointment.

Miami looks at best an NIT team at this point of the season. The Hurricanes would have to catch fire and win at least five of its last seven conference games, coupled with a strong ACC Tournament performance to be considered worthy of making the “Big Dance.”

The season has gone downhill since a lackluster performance at Boston College in January. Miami also suffered two heartbreaking losses at the hands of North Carolina State and Wake Forest, which has made a difference in the team’s downward spiral.

Miami has simply not played well enough. The late-game execution has been troublesome. The perimeter defense has reverted back to last season’s poor performance. The team’s inconsistency from game-to-game is hard to fathom. The three-point shooting success from earlier this season has also not been up to par.

But, it’s how you finish the season that determines where a team ends up in March. Miami must finally get over the hump on its next road trip. It seems like a distant memory when the Hurricanes won a tournament in Puerto Rico and closed out a game at Mississippi State.

If Miami is to turn its season around, it will be on the backs of its two leaders. Center Anthony King does not look hungry enough in his last season. King must bring more mental toughness and regain his confidence back. The Hurricanes have also yet to see the best from guard Jack McClinton He has struggled in conference games, despite his ability to score in spurts. McClinton can not disappear in the majority of contests down the final stretch of the season. Forward Brian Asbury and center Dwayne Collins also will need to elevate their game and provide consistency.

Miami sure could use a signature victory after coming up empty against North Carolina and Duke. Head coach Frank Haith will have another opportunity for the most defining win of his tenure in a rematch with the Blue Devils.

It’s easy to write the team off. The program does not have the track record of making this type of run. Haith said before Miami’s loss to Duke that “something good is bound to happen.” The coaching staff and players must follow through or it will be just the same story – an ordinary season that fans have grown accustomed to.

Alex Kushel may be reached at