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Canes proving the transfer portal works just fine

Miami v Houston Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The scoreboard read Drake 55, Miami 47. Under 5 minutes remained in the game. What had appeared to be a red-letter season for Miami was beginning to slip away for the normally explosive Miami Hurricanes.

Then, in the next 4 minutes and 30 seconds, they found a way to close it out. Nijel Pack made two big jumpers, including the shot to go ahead for good, and Norchad Omier, Bensley Joseph, and Jordan Miller drained some big free throws during the Canes’ 16-1 run to close out a 63-56 win.

But, for some, surviving and advancing apparently wasn’t enough. Ohio University head men’s basketball coach Jeff Boals thumbed out the following ill-advised tweet:

He deleted it not long after, but it was up long enough for many to capture screen shots like this. You’d think a division 1 basketball coach would know better than to: A) make light of players getting paid, and B) criticize another program. Nothing positive for you or your program can come from it. Oh, and maybe be right on the money. The $800,000 he smart-assingly referenced was Pack’s 2-year, $800,000 deal with John Ruiz’s LifeWallet. In reality, Pack, Miller, Omier, and ACC player of the year Isaiah Wong are all LifeWallet athletes being compensated in various amounts for NIL.

But, rather than bitch about players getting paid, what the focus should be is the success that the Miami basketball program has found in the new landscape that is the college athletics transfer portal. College basketball has gone through some changes over the years as far as how championship caliber teams have been built. Senior-laden/experienced teams have carried the banner for decades. Then, the one-and-dones came around, with blue-blood programs like UConn and Kentucky riding the coattails of players like Jeremy Lamb and Anthony Davis to national titles.

Now, with the free transfer rule and robust NIL opportunities, the talent pool is endless for experienced players who can fill needs quickly. And Miami has played that field extremely well. It’s no secret that last year’s team was woefully undersized. Sam Waardenburg was long and an excellent shot blocker, but Miami sorely lacked a banger under the boards. Enter one Omier. Suddenly Miami has a decent front court player who can score in the paint and pull down tough rebounds on the defensive glass. That’s very, very much proving to be a difference maker this year. In the tournament so far, Omier has pulled down 14, 17, and 13 rebounds against Drake, Indiana, and Houston, respectively. That’ll do.

Miami also had a sizeable hole to fill this offseason with the departure of Charlie Moore, who arrived by transfer himself in April 2021. Moore was an effective field general last year, piling up the assists as Miami advanced through tournament play in March. Miami replaced him this year with an absolute assassin in Pack, who has paired with Wong to produce perhaps the finest pair of guards in the country. And in the tournament you simply can’t have enough players who can score (ask Tennessee about that). When Wong has been off, as we saw against Drake, Pack stepped up when needed. Against Indiana, when Pack was a little off on his deep ball, Wong caught fire and went for 27 points and 4-6 from three. And in the sweet 16 against Houston, it was Pack’s turn again to get red hot, going 7-10 from three and hitting some from the logo as Miami caught the nation’s attention with an 89-75 romp over the Cougars.

The bottom line is that without either Pack or Omier, Miami likely would be heading home right now. Instead the Canes are one win away from the program’s first Final Four appearance. And the Canes are doing it their way - with new faces, a fast-paced offense, and an aggressive defense.

Maybe Jeff Boals will close his twitter app this offseason and spend more time looking in the NCAA transfer portal website. That’s the new way to build a contender. Just look at what’s happening in Coral Gables.