First of all, let's give some credit to the Demon Deacons as they played a great game in front of their home crowd. The problem that I have, however, isn't entirely with that loss. The previous scares by Florida State, Clemson and Virginia are the problem. Their sloppy play finally cost them a game and ultimately it cost them three spots in the new AP Polls.
Now it's time to see how the team can respond to being defeated for the first time since Christmas day.
I take a closer look into the last four regular season games that will be to improve and to prepare the Canes for the conference and NCAA tournaments.
Wrong place at the wrong time:
First meeting: Miami 73 - Virginia Tech 64
Last week I looked at this game and it had "Trap game" written all over it with the game against Duke looming that coming Saturday, but it's a little different now. I hope. The 'Canes should come out inspired if they want to prove the country wrong (yet again) and improve their recent play, which has been uncharacteristic to say the least.
During the first meeting, I thought this game also served as a trap game because the Hurricanes were looking forward to playing NC State that Saturday, but the team held their own and came out with a win. The 'Canes came out sloppy and trailed by as much as 11 in the first half before cutting the lead to 3 by halftime. Shane Larkin was a man on a mission that night, however and exploded for 25 points. Erick Green can score, we all know that and he got his own against Miami as he went for 30 that night. Durand Scott shot 2-10 from the floor in the first meeting against VT and without the offensive explosion of Shane Larkin and the 18 points that were added byKenny Kadji, the 'Canes would have been in a lot more trouble down in Blacksburg.
In the second meeting I'm expecting this to be a statement game for the Hurricanes. The team needs to do a better job containing Erick Green and Durand Scott needs to get out of his funk and get back to playing good team basketball. This game will be a battle, as is every game in the ACC, but Miami needs to come out with a huge sense or urgency and blow out the Hokies right out of Coral Gables and I believe they will and they'll get right back on track. This is a perfect example of a team playing another team at the wrong place and at the wrong time for Virginia Tech.
Three words: Here. we. go.
First meeting: Duke 63 - Miami 90
January 23, 2013. That's the date, Canes fans. That was the night Miami sprung itself onto the national scene. A 27-point shellacking of Duke? Are you kidding me? Miami? Yeah, that actually happened.
Dick Vitale was in the house, Reggie Johnson came back from his hand injury, Warren Sapp and Jimmy Graham were in attendance. It was the second sell-out in BUC history. Heck, the team even did this: (via Eric Wells)
This was pronounced to be the biggest game in Hurricanes hoops history even before tip-off. After the final buzzer, it was undoubtedly the biggest win and game in school history.
That all sounds amazing and I still get goosebumps thinking about that night, but there's just one problem: We have a date with the Cameron Crazies and the Duke Blue Devils. Coach K, the Duke players and their insane fans have had March 2nd circled on their calendars ever since that aforementioned date of January 23.
During the first meeting, the 'Canes did everything perfect. To beat a team like Duke by 27, it takes perfect play, with or without Ryan Kelly. Durand Scott had his best defensive game of the season as he shut out Seth Curry while also dropping 25 points on the other end of the floor. The Hurricanes led by 23 points at the half and the feel around the BUC was still a sense of fear, mostly because we've never been in that situation before and we thought Duke was going to come out and lay the hammer on the Canes and send us all home disappointed. Instead the 'Canes came out firing and took a 30-point lead at one point and everybody drove home happy after witnessing the massive court rush.
During this meeting, the Canes must be ready. Anybody that thinks Miami is 27 points better than Duke is wrong and should not talk basketball for at least a week. Duke is going to come out with something to prove because that was the worst loss in a very long time for their program. Seth Curry will have some points, I would put my house up on that bet and Coach K will have this team ready to play. As perfect as the Canes played that game in late-January, they committed 16 turnovers and they can't afford to do that on the road against a really good team.
I for one, cannot wait for this game to tip-off and it will show, to some degree, how tough this Miami team is. Duke will be ready to play, but if Miami wants to be considered as one of the elite teams, they'll have to play Duke tough on the road and I don't expect anything less from this team.
Last home stand:
First meeting: Miami 62 - Georgia Tech 49
This is simple. This is the Rion Brown game.
Rion Brown went ballistic against Georgia Tech during the first meeting, in which was also the first ACC game of the season for the team. Brown shot 9-11 from the floor and 4-6 from beyond the arc, en route to a 22-point performance. The team played outstanding defense against the Yellow Jackets this game as they held them to 32.7% from the floor and only 49 points. The concern that I have about the first meeting (which I didn't realize it until I saw the box score) is that everybody, except for Rion Brown, played a really bad offensive game. Larkin was 2-7, as was Durand Scott and Kadji was just 3-9 from the floor. The 'Canes pounded the Jackets on the boards 38-26 and were able to dominate the tempo of the game even with the poor shooting.
For this matchup, I would like to see a more balanced attack for the Canes as I wouldn't want to rely on 4 three's from Rion Brown to win a game. Everything else, looks about right. If the 'Canes shoot the ball as well or better than the first contest, Miami should have no problem walking away with this win with just one game remaining in the regular season.
First Meeting: Miami 45 - Clemson 43
When I started writing this, I really wanted to skip this game because of how awful the first meeting between these two teams was. I think this was the game that I began to worry about how Miami was coming out and approaching games. Some people look to the Florida State game, but that was a big time rivalry game and no matter how superior one time is, it goes out the window in a game where the two schools despise each other.
This score was so bad that the score at half time was a 18-16 Miami lead. If a Heat game started out that badly, Skip Bayless would have a blast talking about all the things LeBron did not do. Let's do some of the same for the Hurricanes, but this is pretty simple: They couldn't find the bottom of the net. The defense was stellar in a game were the possessions were limited in a slow-paced game, but if I got a dollar for every open shot or layup the 'Canes missed that game I would be a pretty happy guy. Larkin and Scott combined for only 10 points on 3-16 shooting and the rest of the team didn't help out much either, except for Kenny Kadji (kind of) who had 12 and led the team in scoring on the night.
Okay, enough talk about that godawful game.
This is going to be an emotional game, as most senior nights turn out to be but this has a special feel to it. The Hurricanes have 5 seniors who are not going to play at the BUC past this game against Clemson. Their career continues with the Canes gearing up to make some noise in postseason play, but as far as playing in Coral Gables, this is it. Trey McKinney Jones, Durand Scott, Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble are all graduating and unluckily for Clemson, they're in town for the celebration.
If the 'Canes come out and stumble against Clemson, I would be very disappointed and extremely heart-broken for the five seniors who have helped resurrect the Hurricanes back to the college basketball world. It's not going to be easy to hold back the tears, but I might just be forced to hold them in.
Now back to the game. Jordan Roper had a fantastic game against Miami during the first meeting and without him, Clemson might have not broken the 20-point mark last game. He's a very good young player and can flat out shoot the ball. Besides Miami needing to shoot better this game, they need to contain Roper and force him into taking tough shots.
I fully expect a 'Canes win during the last day of the regular season and it could also be the regular season tittle clinching game if Miami is not able to come out and beat Duke on March 2nd. Which will end up being another first in school history in what has been a season filled with magic.
This is goodbye.
Ultimately, this season will be looked at depending on how Miami does in the postseason and we've earned the right to think like the elite programs, at least for one year. Regardless of what happens the next month, let's enjoy these last four regular season games and prepare ourselves to what promises to be a March-to-remember for all 'Canes fans.
See U there.