Friday, March 21 2014 7:28 AM EDT2014-03-21 11:28:45 GMT
RALEIGH, NC (WMBF) - This week, Coastal Carolina joins Duke, Virginia, Tennessee and several other big name schools at PNC Arena for a weekend of games as the NCAA Tournament is off and running. TomorrowMore >>
Chants take the floor for a practice in Raleigh before taking on top-seeded Virginia Friday night.More >>
On the night of Jan. 23, both my cell phones, the iPad and my laptop started going off like the Fourth of July with social media alerts from my sporty pals who wanted to make sure I knew that Miami was in the process of beating the tar out of No. 1-ranked Duke.
I wasn't surprised. Miami had no business being ranked only No. 25 in the nation, and Duke, which fully deserved its top ranking, was riding for a fall.
Long before the game, my stat nerd radar had allowed me to deduce that Miami was the coolest team in the ACC and one of the coolest around. I'm one of those folks who reads box scores and studies stat sheets obsessively. What can I say? There's no 12-step program for it, and in spite of my addiction I am a fairly productive member of society.
There's not a single thing fancy about the Hurricanes this year – except their win-loss record, which is delightful. I hadn't even seen them play when I first started to fall in love. Looking over their statistics, I started to develop feelings for The U's hoopsters much as I imagine Manti Te'o started getting all giddy when he received a text from Lennay Kekua.
Offensively, the 'Canes are meh. Miami is shooting a humble 45 percent from the floor, a good but not amazing 35 percent from 3-point range, and a less-than-spectacular 65 percent from the line.
Oh, but that defense. Their opponents shoot 36.9 from the field, 30.2 from north of the arc. Miami has ripped off 124 steals in 17 games, which is a bunch. They have caused 214 turnovers and committed only 188.
This against a good schedule. Be still, my heart.
In return for such excellent defense, the basketball gods put the whammy on ‘Cane opponents and made them shoot only 64 percent from the line.
It's no accident that Duke had an 8-minute scoring drought in the first half. The basket looks different with a hand in your face. Miami forced the pace and created points off turnovers and missed shots.
Six different players have led Miami in scoring this year. Six! And four players are averaging in double figures.
Against Duke, enormous (6'10", 292) senior Reggie Johnson returned to the lineup after missing eight games with a broken thumb and gave his team a shot in the arm. His dominating presence should do nothing but help - and hats off to the rest of the gang that won six of eight games with big Reggie on the bench.
Speaking of Johnson, the Hurricanes are loaded with seniors this year – that doesn't carry the same connotations it used to. Now it means none of these guys were good enough to go the NBA early. On the other hand, it still means what it always did. These gentlemen are used to each other, they are seasoned in the system and know how to play together.
Everybody saw that in the Duke win.
Here's what Miami is – a plain, old team. They do what their coach says and they beat you. We'll see what kind of percentages they post now that they're famous.
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