Walking into the BankUnited Center Saturday for Miami’s game against Maryland, I witnessed something that I don’t remember ever seeing before in my four years here: There was a guy standing by the student entrance attempting to scalp tickets.
While this may not seem like a big deal, I found it to be quite indicative of the men’s basketball team’s current reputation. They’re good. They’re exciting. They win games. People should actually want to see them play.
I have no idea if the scalper ever sold the tickets he had, but that was irrelevant. What registered was that it would have been ridiculous for him to even attempt that in the past three years. No one would have cared enough to buy tickets from him, and he probably wouldn’t have even cared enough to try selling them.
The biggest difference is that the Canes are an actual team now. I’ve been in Miami as long as Head Coach Frank Haith has, and I’m sure he’d agree that the past three teams have not had the level of cohesiveness they now display. While Robert Hite and Guillermo Diaz were excellent individual players, they didn’t possess the ability to make those around them better. It could even be argued that the team was made worse by their presence, as their teammates were often caught watching them and expecting something to happen.
Saturday’s win was a perfect example of this change. In their win against the Terrapins, four players scored in double figures, with none scoring more than 14. The Hurricanes won by 15 points.
Another huge boost for Miami has been the maturation of sophomores Dwayne Collins and James Dews. Collins has the ability to be a focal point for their offense, providing a legitimate post option on the low blocks. This was most evident in the Hurricanes’ win against Duke, where he scored a career-high 26 points. Dews serves as a constant three-point threat, and has improved his scoring average by 7.5 points since last season.
Though some may not have noticed the team’s success until recently, things have really been going well for the Canes since the beginning of the season. After winning their first 12 games, the team earned an early No. 19 ranking. The common sentiment, however, was something along the lines of, “Well, they haven’t beaten any good teams yet.”
Two months later, after beating No. 4-ranked Duke and reeling off four straight wins, people are just now starting to take them seriously. And really, it’s about time. It’s ironic that Miami’s basketball team has earned a solid chance to make the NCAA tournament in the same school year that their football team failed to make a bowl game. It’s just a shame that it took the football team being so bad for the student body to finally recognize the basketball team.
And despite the understanding that the basketball team is a solid ACC contender, there still seems to be a lack of support for the most part. While the arena was sold out against both Duke and the University of North Carolina, most games are relatively empty. On Saturday, there were more Maryland fans than Miami. When the Terps went on a run in the second half, it got so loud that I temporarily forgot which team was home. It translates poorly for the team’s morale when the BankUnited Center has more red in the crowd than orange and green.
Surprisingly, when our football team lost four in a row, people were still lined up outside the Orange Bowl cheering them along. So why doesn’t a basketball team that has won four straight get the same support? While I’m sure that has something to do with the tradition of football here, it’s still hard to believe that a team this good hasn’t had a similar backing.
But the point remains: They are actually, legitimately good. With the ACC tournament just around the corner, the basketball Canes have their sights set on making the NCAA tournament. And for the first time since I can remember, those dreams deserve to be a reality. With a record of 19-7 (6-6 ACC), the team has proven itself worthy to compete in the ultimate playoff of the top 64 teams in the country.
I don’t condone scalping, but a part of me hopes that guy sold those tickets on Saturday. More people deserve to see and appreciate how good this team really is.
Joel Brown may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.