Men’s basketball not shying away from competition

All-ACC first team member Jack McClinton celebrates an upset victory over Duke last season. File Photo by Steve Root // Hurricane Staff.

While most Hurricane fans were focused on football, the Hurricane basketball team, coming off a season that saw them reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2000, released their 2008-2009 schedule.

Despite all their success, Miami’s 2007-2008 out-of-conference schedule ranked only 143rd. That will not be the case this season.

Expectations are higher this year, thanks to Miami returning all but two scholarship players from last year’s squad, including senior guard Jack McClinton.

McClinton led the ACC in free-throw percentage and three pointers made and was fifth in scoring. He is a player who is drawing much national attention for his offensive prowess, making him a force that all teams will have to reckon with.

This year’s non-conference opponents will provide fans with an early indication of whether those expectations will be reached.

“We have definitely put together a tough schedule this season,” head coach Frank Haith said. “We are going to test ourselves versus some of the nation’s most storied basketball programs.”

The season kicks off on Nov. 15 against D-II Florida Southern. On the 21st, Miami will begin the Paradise Jam Tournament against Southern Miss. If Miami advances, it would face the winner of the La Salle-Connecticut matchup. Connecticut is one of the favorites to win it all this year. Big Ten power Wisconsin is also in the tournament field, as is San Diego, who beat Connecticut in last year’s NCAA Tournament.

After returning home from the Virgin Islands, Miami faces in-state rival Stetson before a much-anticipated home date – Dec. 2 – against 2008 NIT Champion Ohio State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

After a couple tune-up games, Miami will open its ACC schedule against Clemson at the BankUnited Center on Dec. 21. The game will be Fox Sports Net’s Sunday Night Game of the Week.

From here, the Hurricanes will take on four non-conference opponents, including St. John’s, before diving into ACC play.

The Hurricanes’ first ACC road game is against All-ACC guard Tyrese Rice and Boston College.

The rest of the ACC slate features 16 games, including two against North Carolina, Maryland, Florida State, Boston College and NC State and one against Duke, Clemson, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Virginia and Georgia Tech.

The Canes will face off in at least five contests against teams that made it to the NCAA Tournament – North Carolina twice, Clemson, Kentucky and Duke.

The schedule also includes at least seven nationally televised games on ESPN, ESPN 2 and FSN.

Not only are the Hurricanes boasting quite the testing non-conference schedule, but Miami’s conference schedule also figures to be more difficult than last season as the ACC is expected to be more talented than last year.

In Haith’s words, “I expect that this team will meet each challenge and continue the growth it demonstrated last season.”