Our questions and State of the U's answers below.
BC Interruption: Miami is riding high after a 3-0 start in ACC play. This all despite losing their top player and rolling with a short bench (all five starters logged 30+ minutes in the win against Maryland). What has been the secret to the Canes fast start in ACC play?
State of the U: When the ‘Canes lost Reggie Johnson, he was the one true inside scoring option for the team at the time, but Kenny Kadji and Julian Gamble have been huge in filling in for him both offensively and on the glass. Johnson was the leading rebounder for the Hurricanes, averaging over 10 a game. So with the injury, that quickly became a concern moving forward. The ‘Canes have been successful so far in the ACC because they've held their own in the rebounding category (outrebounding their opponents 103-97 in the last three games.) The lack of a deep bench has not yet been a factor, because of the pace the ‘Canes are playing, which is slow and in control.
BCI: The Hurricanes already have a bunch of quality wins under their belt this season. They also have two losses -- at Florida Gulf Coast and vs. Indiana State -- that, while both those programs are having good seasons on paper, seem to be head scratchers. What happened in those two games?
SOTU: The Florida Gulf Coast loss was powered by a huge 23-2 run by the Eagles to give them a nice lead. The ‘Canes were also awful inside the paint. Miami allowed 40 points in the paint to FGCU and only scored 14 of their own inside the colored area. The team was also outrebounded 40-32 in that game. The Indiana State was a little more disappointing, however.
Not to take away anything from how Indiana State performed, but the team just did not look interested in playing this game. Shane Larkin and Durand Scott were awful in this game, only scoring 16 points combined while shooting 6-26 from the floor, which is by far their worst performance of the season, as was the team's effort and competitiveness.
BCI: In recent seasons, Miami was good for 20 wins a year after playing a light non-conference schedule, only to fade down the stretch in ACC play. This season, the Canes have played an appreciably harder schedule. Is this a concerted effort by Haith / Larranaga to beef up the non-conf schedule? Or did Miami sort of luck into a schedule that looks more difficult on paper based on certain programs having good years?
SOTU: Definitely a strategy by the coaching staff. Last season, as you mentioned, Coach Larranaga felt the team wasn't tested enough in non-conference games to prepare them for the grueling ACC games. This season, however, that's clearly a different story. Coming into this BC game, Miami has the toughest schedule in the country and the coaching staff feels the non-conference games helped this team for the dog days of January and February.
BCI: Miami used to be a basketball doormat in the early (and then late) Big East years. Recently, the 'Canes have put together a string of successful seasons under Frank Haith and now Jim Larranaga. How was Haith able to turn the program around and what things has Larranaga done to continue that success?
SOTU: I feel that success in college sports always comes with what the head coach does outside of the basketball court for the players. Coach Haith made the players very accountable in their schoolwork. This may sound silly to some people, but the team had great success graduating seniors instead of chasing pipe dreams and leaving school early to maybe get drafted. I think Coach Larranaga has done an excellent job continuing that trend. The 2012-2013 team is filled with veterans. Take Shane Larkin out of the picture and the entire starting five are playing their final season in college basketball and will graduate from the University of Miami. Other school's thrive with freshmen, but Miami is better suited to have a more experienced teams due to the fact that it's not known as a "basketball school."
BCI: Despite the 'Canes recent success, the program enjoys some of the smallest crowds in the ACC. What is the general pulse of the Miami basketball fan base right now? Is fan support and attendance this something the program is working trying to improve?
SOTU: Miami is a success-driven city as you can obviously see with the increased attendance at Heat games since the arrival of LeBron James. The Hurricanes have had a really tough time getting the Bank United Center full and ready to rock for game days, but I think that's starting to change. The atmosphere inside the BUC was absolutely fantastic for the game against Maryland. The students were back on campus and for the first time this season, it actually felt like a home game. The team is 7-0 at home this season, so hopefully that, and the recent success from this team can get them to the arena, and on time!
BCI: After BC owned this series for a long stretch of the last decade, it's been Miami who has turned the tables in this series -- winners of four straight and six of eight. How do you see this matchup going down? Percentage chance that BC springs the upset here?
SOTU: I don't see signs of the recent rise of Miami to crumble against a weak BC team. Being that it's a road game, it makes it a bit tougher, especially being a conference game. I don't know how high this percentage is, but I give the Eagles about a 30 percent chance of winning because Miami has been struggling on offense lately and a lapse defensively wouldn't surprise me. With all that being said, I'm being too kind. I expect Miami to get a double-digit victory and come home 4-0 in conference play before the much-anticipated Duke.
For more on the Miami Hurricanes, be sure to check out State of the U.