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You Better Believe!

Canes take college basketball world by storm

By: Pravin Patel // Sports Editor

Issue date: 7/8/08 Section: Sports
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Coming into this past season, no one took the Miami Hurricanes' men's basketball team seriously. Experts picked the team to finish in the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), where 10 wins would have been acceptable.

This, though, was not the outlook and approach that the Hurricanes' players and the coaching staff came into the season with. They new what they were capable of, and they new they had the talent to get to where they wanted to go.

Right from the start, the Hurricanes went to work. They started out by winning the 2007 O'Reilly Auto Parts ESPNU Puerto Rico Tip Off, an early season tournament where the Canes beat Marist, Virginia Commonwealth and Providence, to take the crown.

That momentum carried through, as the Canes jumped out to a 9-0 start, allowing them to break into the top 25. Spearheaded by the strong play of junior guard Jack McClinton, the Canes continued to plough right ahead, earning themselves a 12-0 record and jumping to No. 19 in the rankings.

The Canes hit a sight bump in the road in their next game, as they suffered their first loss of the season to Winthrop. This did not seem to have a major affect on the team, as they finished up their out-of-conference schedule with a win over Penn, finishing up with a 13-1 record before heading into ACC play.

Miami started out strong, taking the ACC opener against Georgia Tech. From there, though, things got very rocky for the Hurricanes, as they dropped there next three and six of their next seven, leaving them 2-6 in ACC games with eight games to play.

Miami finally woke up against Virginia Tech, pulling through narrowly. This win sparked a four game winning streak, marked by an upset of No. 5 Duke at home. The Hurricanes ended up winning six of their final eight games, allowing them to finish 8-8 in the ACC and 21-9 overall.

Heading into the ACC Tournament, Miami had proved that it was a resilient team, unwilling to be overcome by difficult times and able to stare hardship in eyes, matching it punch for punch.

The five-seeded Hurricanes faced little difficulty in overcoming North Carolina State, beating them 63-50. This pitted the Canes against Virginia Tech, a team Miami had beaten earlier in the season. This time, though, the Hokies proved too much for the Hurricanes, who fell 63-49.

Having been eliminated from ACC play, the Canes returned home hoping that their NCAA Tournament dreams were alive. On Selection Sunday, those dreams were more than just alive, as the Hurricanes had earned themselves a seven-seed and were matched up against 10th-seeded Saint Mary's.

Although many still doubted Miami's chances, the Hurricanes put doubters to rest with a 78-64 victory, setting themselves up for a date with second seeded and No. 7 Texas. The Hurricanes did not back down to the challenge, giving Texas a run for its money, but ultimately falling short in the final seconds, 75-72.

A look back at the season shows just how remarkable Miami truly was. Led by the play of All-ACC First Team selection Jack McClinton, the Canes surprised many skeptics and doubters. The emergence of guards James Dews and Lance Hurdle, the steady play of forward Brian Asbury and the further development of center Dwayne Collins were also major boosts for the team.
The Canes will come into this upcoming season returning the core of its team, including McClinton. The team will have to overcome losing forward Raymond Hicks and center Anthony King, but the recruiting class Miami brings in seems to make the additions outweigh the subtractions.

Based on their performance from last season, many are giving the Hurricanes the respect they earned, having them amongst the nation's top 25 in preseason polls.

The core group of players is returning, the talent is unquestionable and the drive and passion is visible. Now all that is left is for Miami to put everything together and show the basketball world what they have and what they are about.

Pravin Patel may be contacted at p.patel7@umiami.edu.
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