Despite the football season and national signing day having passed, there is plenty of happenings in the Miami sports universe...and therefore plenty of semi-arbitrary random thoughts floating around in the recess of my head....
1) Miami 2020-2021 men’s basketball season should be flushed down the toilet, with all associated with it given a pass for the year. When I think of this team, I think of the 2019 Philadelphia Eagles. Or the 2020 San Francisco 49ers. Those two teams stick out to me more than any other in recent memory for one reason: a nest of injury bugs setting up shop and biting everyone it sees. The 2019 Eagles were pulling dudes off the street to stick in at wide receiver, while journeyman Josh McCown was called upon against the Seahawks in the Wild Card round. It was a rash of injuries I hadn’t remembered seeing in a long time........until this past season when San Francisco lost starter after starter, and depth player after depth player. I don’t know how many players they lost. I just know that it was twice as much as any team could endure and still have a snowball’s chance in hell of making the playoffs. Somehow that team hung around in playoff contention until December, for which Kyle Shanahan deserves a HUGE amount of credit.
And that’s what this UM basketball team feels like...the 2020 49ers. Centers Sam Waardenburg and Rodney Miller were gone for the season before the calendar even hit 2021. Two centers!!! That’s absolutely bat-bleep crazy. Your best player, Chris Lykes, has missed most of the season with an ankle injury. Kameron McGusty, Earl Timberlake, and others have missed tons of time as well. I mean, you can only say next man up so many times. Having 6-7 scholarship players available for a game is comically low, and borderline impossible to compete night in and night out. Beating Duke shorthanded (thank you, Isaiah Wong and Elijah Olaniyi) was nothing short of miraculous.
There have been some forgettable and inexcusable moments in a losing season (letting Virginia Tech get off a three pointer with 2 seconds left chaps my backside worse than anything this season. THAT. CAN’T. HAPPEN.), but all in all, chalk this one up to the worst luck this program has ever seen, and hopefully will ever see. Maybe they can make a run in the ACC tourney if Lykes can come back and is effective, but - more realistically, - let’s come back healthy and strong in November 2021.
2) Speaking of strong, Miami opens their 2021 baseball season with a strong opponent this weekend - #1 Florida. The Canes came into the 2020 season with plenty of hype and hope, rising to the #1 ranking early in the season as they faced off against the #2 Gators. Unfortunately Florida soured UM’s shortened season early with a sweep, although Miami would only drop one more game until the season was called due to COVID-19.
The task of doing significantly better against UF this time around will not be a small one. While Miami returns most of its talent, featuring the power bats of Alex Toral, Adrian Del Castillo, and Raymond Gil, the Gators return 8 starters and most of their pitching. There should be plenty of fireworks this weekend in Gainesville, and hopefully the good guys can bring home a series win this time.