It is never easy replacing the impact Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan and Tonye Jekiri had on Miami’s incredible run to the Sweet 16 last season.
Coming into this year, many fans expected the team to take a little hit, and perhaps a bid to March Madness was not automatically guaranteed. While the team has had its highs and lows this season, the recent success of winning four of its past five games has shown us that the team is on the rise, yet it still has not played its best basketball of the season.
The ACC has been so competitive this season with home court advantage being crucial. It is likely the winner of the conference regular season will not take home the conference tournament title in March.
With all that being said, I can assure you of one item that will happen.
The Canes will make the NCAA tournament. Standing at 16-7 overall in the season, four more wins will likely seal the deal. With seven games remaining plus conference tournament games, it would only take a major collapse for the Canes to be sent to the NIT tournament.
The quality win over North Carolina will booster the Canes RPI, and it will be looked at on Selection Sunday when the team gets its seed for the NCAA tournament.
Going back to the team itself, Davon Reed and Ja’Quan Newton have not only led the team in scoring; they have stepped up their roles from last season.
Reed has been the vocal leader on the court, directing traffic on defense, and he has been hitting his three-pointers this season. Newton, who was the sixth man last season, is driving to the glass with force this season. Last season, he would put more floaters up in the paint instead of taking it to the rim.
Freshman Bruce Brown has been incredible all season in the scoring, rebound and assist department. He became the second Cane ever to record a triple double. Much speculation says he will go to the NBA after his sophomore season, but that has yet to be determined.
McDonald’s All American Dewan Huell has not put up big numbers this season, as he is only averaging 6.4 ppg and 3.8 rebounds in 19.2 min per game. However, he is shooting 50.8 percent from the field. That is a promising sign for the future as he continues to come off the bench.
The most important element for the Canes to find success in March is the team chemistry, with many new faces playing active roles this season. Winning four of the past five games should build confidence for the team as they finish the ACC regular season and go forward.