Canes face Hokies in first round of ACC tournament

SENIOR STAR: Jack McClinton backs down his defender at a game against Boston College earlier this season.  ALEX BROADWELL // FILE PHOTO

SENIOR STAR: Jack McClinton backs down his defender at a game against Boston College earlier this season. ALEX BROADWELL // FILE PHOTO

It will all be on the line for the No. 9-seed Miami Hurricanes today at noon, as they will face the No. 8-seed Virginia Tech in the first round of the ACC tournament in Atlanta, Ga.

As most experts believe, the Hurricanes would need this win to keep their hopes alive for the NCAA tournament.

However, head coach Frank Haith understands that he and his team cannot pay attention to bracketologists.

“I really try not to pay any attention to it,” Haith said. “I think all it does is probably upset you, the more you watch it. I don’t know what they’re saying right now, but I just know this, we’re going to be fine if we take care of business. Win a game or two and I think we will be okay.”

The last time Miami faced Virginia Tech, the Canes suffered a heartbreaker in overtime, losing 88-83.

“We did a really good job last time, in terms of execution, offensively,” Haith said. “We did not defend as well, and we have to defend a lot better.”

Winners of three of their last four games, the Canes have advanced past the opening round of the ACC tournament in three straight seasons.

However, last year, Virginia Tech bounced Miami out in the second round. This year, the Hokies are struggling down the stretch.

The Hokies ride a three-game skid into Atlanta and have dropped six of their last seven games.

The key for the Hurricanes is to stop the Hokies’ big three. The trio of Malcolm Delaney, Jeff Allen and A.D. Vassallo combined for 74 of the 83 points for Virginia Tech’s win over the Hurricanes in their last meeting. If the Hurricanes are able to slow down at least one of the three, the Hokies will not be in sync.

“They all had great performances against us,” Haith said. “The big three shot the ball extremely well, and we have to do a good job on all three of those guys.”

Offensively, the Hurricanes have to worry about captain Jack McClinton getting healthy. Tuesday was the first time McClinton practiced fully in a long time. Miami will need every bit of first team All-ACC McClinton today. McClinton finished third in scoring in the ACC, with 19.7 per game, and he also finished first in free throw percentage and 3-pointer percentage.

“It’s an awesome day for Jack and an awesome day for the University of Miami,” Haith said.

Now that it’s crunch time, the Canes need another weapon in the ACC tournament. Haith believes that if junior Dwayne Collins plays loose, he could definitely contribute for Miami.

“I just want him to relax and play, not worry about the past and stay aggressive,” Haith said. “I think [thinking about the past] can only hamper him going out and playing.”

Today, Miami has to find a way to win. The season and a shot to return to the NCAA tournament is riding on this game.

“Obviously I want us to win and get to the NCAA tournament,” Haith said. “Four games have come down to the last possession. This time could be totally different, if the ball bounces our way. We’ve been in every game. We have a great game [today].”