Coming into a season they started ranked No. 16, the Hurricanes men’s basketball team fell victim to the “almost” bug.
The Canes lost six of their 11 regular season losses by five points or fewer, including three overtime losses. This landed Miami in the NIT, instead of an expected birth in the NCAA tournament, where Miami suffered a 74-60 loss to the Florida Gators after having knocked off Providence in the first round.
Miami’s inability to close out tight games and their mediocre performances in the second half of games are two of the major reasons the team had to settle for a 19-13 record.
Similar to their late-game letdowns, the Canes dropped nine of their last 13, including a first round loss in the ACC tournament and the second round NIT loss.
Besides the “almosts,” the season was also marked by inconsistency.
From coming up big in certain games to being invisible in others, junior forward/center Dwayne Collins had a roller-coaster season, disappearing in games where he was needed most. Additionally, senior guard Lance Hurdle, senior forward Brian Asbury and junior guard James Dews did not contribute in the same way, down the stretch, that they did last year.
Why note these things? The reason is quite simple. The team from two years ago had no expectations, but they rose to the challenge, finishing the season on a 9-4 run and making it to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Despite the increased expectations, this year’s team, on the other hand, faded down the stretch, going 4-9, and got knocked out of the NIT in the second round.
This disparity was magnified by the inconsistent performance of senior guard Jack McClinton during the last eight games of the season, as he struggled to find his stroke while dealing with an injury.
It will be interesting to see how this team responds next season. With the departure of star player McClinton, Dews, Hurdle and senior Jimmy Graham, all of whom started throughout or at some point this season, the Hurricanes will not have the burden of expectations on their shoulders. It will be left to see if the young Canes learn how to spread their wings and soar in an always-competitive ACC.