Expectations were high for the 2008-09 men’s basketball team as it came off its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002.
Campus was abuzz about this veteran team that reached the second round of the tournament and had inspired talk of a shot at the title.
Unfortunately, the Hurricanes didn’t qualify for the Big Dance, instead falling into the NIT, where they went on to lose in the second round to Florida.
Miami started the season ranked No. 16 and was selected to finish fourth in the ACC. But the Canes dropped six of their 11 regular season losses by five points or less, including three in overtime. They had to settle at 19-13 overall and 7-9 in the ACC.
“I think it was a disappointing what happened to us, but it was not a disappointing season,” head coach Frank Haith said. “Other people may look at it differently. But I think this team had a lot of bright moments: beating a top-10 team in Wake Forest by 27 points at home. I think we made basketball pretty relevant at Miami.”
Senior guard and captain Jack McClinton finished third in scoring in the ACC with 19.7 points per game and stood atop the pack in free-throw and three-point shooting percentage. McClinton’s hard work paid off as he earned his second consecutive First Team All-ACC and third straight All-ACC selection.
He also won the men’s three-point championship at the 21st Annual College Slam Dunk and Three Point Championships in Detroit.
“Jack is the face of the program,” Haith said. “Thirty-three had an unbelievable career. He did it in three years. The thing I love about Jack is he is who he is because he works his tail off to get there.”
The season started tough as Miami lost to Final Four team Connecticut and dropped its first home game to another NCAA-bound team in Ohio State.
However, the Hurricanes defeated Kentucky at Rupp Arena and St. John’s at Madison Square Garden to go on a six-game winning streak.
Even with the tough ending, Haith is confident that next year’s team will be better.
“We’re excited about the young men we have coming back,” Haith said. “It’ll be a young team, but I think it’ll be an exciting team. We want to win championships at Miami, and we will.”