So, all in all, the 2010-2011 season was another unremarkable one for Frank Haith's program. The thing of course is that "unremarkable" can probably stand as slight progress for these Canes. On Monday we'll analyze how each player performed individually this season and what we can anticipate from them next year, but today we're going to look at the good (there was some!) and bad (there definitely was some) of the season as a whole.
- The overarching feel of this season is that while the team did improve, they didn't improve as much as they could have, especially in a relatively weak(er) ACC. Likewise, you'd be hard-pressed to name a player who made a marked improvement this past season. Some players, like Reggie Johnson and Garrius Adams, increased their production with increased usage, but no player's game made a huge "leap" this year.
- In games decided by four points or less, the Canes finished 5-7, but of those five wins, three came against Virginia, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, all of which finished in the bottom half of the ACC. The losses came at the hands of teams like North Carolina (twice), Florida State, Memphis and Virginia Tech, opponents that need to be beaten in order for Miami to make an NCAA Tournament.
- Holding onto double-digit leads— and in the process, consistently breaking a full court press— have long eluded Frank Haith's teams. This year, unfortunately, was no different. The Canes led Ole Miss by 30 at halftime, only to get outscored by 17 in the second half. Against UCF, the Canes led by 10 at the half, only to get outscored by 16 in the second half in a loss. At home against Florida State, the Canes blew a nine point halftime lead, also in a loss. Against Georgia Tech, the Canes at one point had a 20 point lead in the second half only to turn the ball over an absurd 11 times in the final 10 minutes in a nail biting win. In the final game of the regular season, also against Georgia Tech, the Canes lead at half by seven only to be outscored by 16 in the second half in an embarrassing loss to the last place team in the conference. And of course, there was the team's masterpiece, a blown 19 point lead in the ACC tournament to North Carolina, in the process throwing away a win that would've likely erased a lot of the ills of the season in many people's minds.
- The Canes were, by most measures, a pretty terrible defensive team. Their glacial pace meant that they didn't give up an overwhelming number of raw points per game, but Ken Pomeroy's pace adjusted stats don't paint a pretty picture. They ranked 99th in the country in adjusted defense, and that's actually the good news. The Canes ranked 279th in the country in forced turnover percentage and 143rd in the country in offensive rebounding percentage against. It should be noted though that a lot of the team's defensive and rebounding woes can be attributed to circumstances outside of Frank Haith's control. The Canes were a thin team up front to begin the season, and that was before Dequan Jones (an oftentimes horrible offensive player but a legitimate game changer on the defensive end) broke his hand and before promising back up power forward Donovan Kirk left the team for personal reasons. Haith was forced to fill these gaps by giving major minutes down low to 6' 4" freshman Erick Swoope and 6' 8" freshman Raphael Akpejiori. Those injuries combined with Reggie Johnson's predilection for fouling meant that Haith was often patching line ups together with scotch tape.
- Though the pace adjusted stats did nothing for the Canes defensive reputation, Pomeroy's calculations have Haith's team as a surprisingly good offense. They ranked 34th in the country in offensive efficiency, ahead of teams like Butler, Xavier, Georgetown, North Carolina and Louisville. The Canes also finished in the top 50 in the country in offensive rebounding percentage, ahead of teams like Ohio State, Kentucky and Arizona. The latter stat can be attributed largely to Reggie Johnson, who Pomeroy has rated as the seventh best offensive rebounder in the entire country.
- The Canes also had three of the most efficient players in the ACC. Of players that used at least 20% of their team's possessions, Miami had three players— Johnson, Malcom Grant and Durand Scott— in the top 15 of Pomeroy's individual offensive ratings for the ACC.
- In the Jack McClinton Era, Frank Haith had a go-to play, one that involved McClinton running off a series of screens along the baseline and eventually popping open for a three pointer along either wing. This year, the team also seemed to be able to lean on a certain play: the pick and roll. Though Reggie Johnson weighs nearly 300 pounds, his agility and footwork are arguably his greatest assets, and at times this year the Canes killed teams with Johnson slicing to the basket after providing a high screen for either Scott or Grant.
- After losing three road games last year by at least 15 points and winning no conference road game at all, the Canes actually won two conference games away from home this year. Granted those victories came over Wake Forest and Boston College, but they were victories nonetheless. On a "moral victory" tip, the Canes did hold their own in tough road environments like Memphis, Duke and NC State, which will hopefully translate into meaningful road wins next year.
- The ultimate good news is that this team is still young. And while teams like Kentucky or Ohio State can make deep tournament runs on the backs of freshmen, the truth of the matter is that Haith is often working with players that were passed over by top programs. As we'll get into further on Monday, no player on the team regressed, and almost all players improved in some regard or stayed consistent in areas where they were already proficient. Next year is likely a make or break year for Haith and his staff, but they'll be coaching a nucleus of players that has grown— and grown together.