Brent: Your team made it as the 2nd seed of the NIT tournament this year. It is not the NCAA tournament, but it's definitely not a lost season or anything. Did the team overachieve or underachieve relative to its expectations this year?
Jerry: Coming into the season, the 'Canes were picked 10th in the ACC by the media. They finished 6th. That being said, I think many of us at State of the U felt this team, given its' talent, was grossly underrated. The problem Miami has run into (and perhaps the reason for the low expectations) is that they had 9 new players this season. Three were transfers/redshirts who practiced with the team last year. Nonetheless, it is hard to find chemistry and continuity with that many new players. Given the big time wins at Duke, at Syracuse, and at Florida, I would say it is disappointing that UM did not make the NCAA Tournament.But they only have themselves to blame, as losses to Eastern Kentucky, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest really hurt them on Selection Sunday. Overall the inconsistency of the season, while explainable to an extent, has been slightly disappointing.
Brent: Sheldon McClellan has the most minutes per game of any player on your team by a longshot. Is he considered the team leader? What can you tell me about his game?
Jerry: Actually the team leader is PG Angel Rodriguez. But Rodriguez has had a very up and down shooting season, and also has missed a lot of time lately with an injured right wrist. While he is expected to play versus 'Bama, his role has diminished some.As for McClellan, he is a player that Head Coach Jim Larranaga has called "the most talented offensive player he has ever coached." And, at times, it is evident why. McClellan possesses a 44-inch vertical, a smooth jumper, nice handles, and can finish in transition as well as any player in the country. However, he is often hesitant to take over games, and defers to teammates more than he should -- in my opinion. When he is on, he can be unstoppable. But it is just not his nature to force things.
Brent: What style of offense does Miami run? What players make the offense work, and how could it be shut down?
Jerry: The 'Canes love setting high screens, and letting their guards probe and find the open man. They attempted more threes than any team in the ACC, so they are not shy about launching. When they are at their best, they get some easy buckets in transition. If you keep Miami in the half court, and force them to take a lot of contested.. late shot clock shots, you can shut them down. But they are a hot and cold team, so early success does not mean you will stop them the whole game. Just ask Notre Dame, who destroyed Miami in the first half of their ACC Tournament match-up, only to have the Hurricanes storm back and take the lead. The Irish ended up winning the game (and the tournament) but they had to scrape their way to the win. No game epitomized how Jekyll and Hyde UM is more than that one.
Brent: I’m stealing this one from you: What are your all time starting 5 for Miami?
Jerry: Miami did shut the program down for 15 years, so this is not an easy one.At PG, Shane Larkin has to be the man. He was the best player on the best team in program history. Vernon Jennings who led the Big East in assist for two consecutive years in the late 90s, and Kevin Norris who was another star of the Leonard Hamilton era, also deserve consideration.At SG, it has to be Rick Barry. While I never witnessed the Hall-of-Famer play at UM, I do know he averaged 36 ppg back in the '60s, an era predating the shot clock and the three-pointer. Pretty impressive stuff. '90's streak shooter Johnny Helmsley would get the nod if not for Barry.At the third guard (we are going small here) I have to go with Durand Scott. He was a 4-year starter, 2012 ACC Defensive of the Year, and the heart and soul of every team he played on.At SF, I would go with John Salmons. Salmons once averaged 13ppg, 6rpg, and 6apg in a season. Heady stuff for a college player. He has also had a nice, long career in the NBA as well. '80's star Eric Brown is the all time leading scorer in the program and would be a nice fit here as well. NBA sharpshooter James Jones also gets consideration.Miami has a very short history on bigs, but I'd have to go with late '90's pivot Mario Bland, who helped the team make the Sweet 16 back in 1998. Bland was only 6'6," but played like a less-athletic Charles Barkley. Also I have to include arguably the best player in the school's history, 6'7" PF Tim James, an All-Big East Selection in 1999.
Brent: Playing in the ACC is a lot different from the SEC. While we have Kentucky, and sometimes Florida to worry about, the rest of the SEC is typically at about the same level as Alabama. You, on the other hand, have to deal with playing Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, Virginia, etc. every year. Do you think Miami’s program would look better if put in a different conferences schedule? Or would you rather keep your top-notch competition to sharpen your team every year?
Jerry: The is an interesting question. Because, while playing in the ACC is as tough as it gets, it affords the program the opportunity for marquee wins more often than any other conference. This in turn helps recruiting. Larranaga is 3-2 versus Duke since taking over at Miami, and the 'Canes had a 4-game winning streak versus UNC broken this season. Given the enormity of those wins, I can't argue that the Hurricanes would look better anywhere else.I miss the old Big East days because of the style of play. Other than that I am perfectly happy with Miami in the ACC. Now, if only they can beat FSU (wrong sport.)
Brent: And, lastly, what are your game predictions?
Jerry: I think UM is better personnel-wise than Alabama. That being said, an 11 a.m. EDT start in front of what won't exactly be a capacity crowd, worries me. Also, Alabama is coming off of their best performance of the season, and the passion they played with versus Illinois was impressive. If UM defensive stopper Davon Reed can slow down Levi Randolph, it should be enough to overcome the Tide. I think Miami takes it 65-62, in a very competitive contest.