Despite a few defeats, Miami isn't dead
Quick hitters for Tuesday:
Over the weekend, I went to UMass-Dayton in Springfield, Mass., and then watched Miami beat BC in Newton, Mass.
• Miami isn't dead at all. The Hurricanes got a raw deal on Dec. 2 when Jack McClinton was tossed for his comeback slap at Anthony Crater, the Ohio State guard who has since left the Buckeyes. That ejection sent McClinton to the locker room and ultimately led to the Canes blowing a 14-point lead to Ohio State. That loss seems to have tainted the perception of the Canes. Miami did beat Kentucky on the road in the next game -- which will prove to be a quality win for Miami.
Losing to Connecticut in the Virgin Islands in November is no stain. Beating San Diego when the Toreros were at full strength is still decent. Winning at St. John's -- something Notre Dame couldn't do -- should count for something and beating BC on the road matters, too. (By the way, it had been 10 years since the Canes won at Conte Forum).
The loss to Clemson at home stings, but clearly the undefeated Tigers are a quality club.
"We haven't played poorly,'' Miami coach Frank Haith said. "There is a Miami perception that if we lose one, that all of a sudden we're down. That helps with my team. It's like, 'there goes the Miami fake team.' That's OK. We can play.''
Look, the Canes have quality guards in McClinton, Lance Hurdle and James Dews. Late in the game against the Eagles, with McClinton in foul trouble, Brian Asbury handled the ball and made 5 of 7 free throws. Eddie Rios is suspended, likely for the season, because he's not adhering to team rules, and that hurts the point guard depth. But the Canes can play with anyone on the perimeter.
The interior is rugged. Dwayne Collins doesn't finish well (he shot just 1-for-6 against BC) but he gets fouled. He made 11-of-14 at the free throw line. Haith was prophetic about forward Adrian Thomas, who missed all but four games last season with a torn ACL, saying Friday he anticipated Thomas would have a breakout game. Thomas scored 11 points, making 4 of 6 shots and 3 of 4 3-pointers. He hadn't scored in double figures all season.
"I knew he was going to do it,'' Haith said. "This kid brings something to the team. He can really stretch the defense.''
Miami should still be an NCAA tournament team, and one that will possibly find a way to win a game in March.
• Dayton started off 14-1, beating Marquette outside Chicago, and had the look of an NCAA tournament team. The Flyers still might get there, but they were bounced in the Atlantic 10 season opener by UMass in Springfield. Dayton has an intriguing team. The Flyers' guards can cause problems, especially with the quick hands of Rob Lowery and London Warren -- Dayton had seven steals in the first half. But they had only three steals in the second half. The Flyers made 4 of 6 3-pointers in the first half but then missed all six in the second. Chris Wright, who is a talent, can disappear at times.
The Flyers aren't a big team underneath, but when they're using their quickness, turning the ball over, they can be a tough out in the A-10. The most interesting thing about the Flyers is they go 12 deep -- legitimately. Not sure I've seen a team that plays 12 players in conference play.
• Dayton coach Brian Gregory said there is no player in the country who does more as a nonscorer than UMass senior Tony Gaffney. He's right. Gaffney scored 17 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had seven blocks in the 75-62 Minutemen win Saturday. Gaffney had 15 points, 18 rebounds, and nine blocks in an overtime loss to BC and had six blocks, 13 rebounds and six points in an upset win over Kansas.
"He's one of the best players in the country that gets nothing run for him,'' UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. "He plays with tremendous emotion. He plays his butt off every time on the court.''
UMass beat Kansas and Dayton, but also got blown out by 30 by Vanderbilt and lost on the road at Wisconsin-Green Bay and Toledo. The Minutemen are 1-0 in the A-10 and if, if, if they play consistently, they will be a tough out in the A-10 tournament. They all know they missed their opportunity to be an at-large team this season with inconsistent play in nonconference games.
• The Atlantic 10 is considering five cities for the conference tournament from 2010 to 2012. The candidates are: Atlantic City (hosting again this March); Cincinnati (U.S. Bank Arena); Dayton, Ohio; Springfield, Mass. (the Hall of Fame is backing this venture, too); and Pittsburgh (Duquesne at the new Penguins facility, which wouldn't be ready until 2011). The problem for the A-10 has always been attendance. The conference is going to home sites for the first round, which is a good move. It has good student participation, so a concerted effort on busing students to the tournament would be a good idea to make these sites work. Upon further review, the A-10 really had no choice but to go with CBS' offer to put the championship game on the Sunday of selection weekend.
• Missouri expects suspended Leo Lyons to play against Iowa State on Saturday after he misses Wednesday's game against Colorado, as long as he fulfills his suspension requirements of conditioning, etc. Lyons was stopped Sunday night after he didn't turn his lights on when he went out of the parking lot at Mizzou. Lyons never paid a 2006 ticket for an illegal U-turn and he didn't have an updated insurance card, either, according to Mizzou.
• Max Good said he would leave Bryant University only for a good job, one for a friend that he believed in -- someone like Billy Bayno. That's why he said he gave up a six-year contract at provisional Division I Bryant last spring to be Bayno's top assistant at Loyola Marymount. At 66 years old, Good had no reason to leave Rhode Island, a state he had grown to love. He had been down this road before with Bayno, going to UNLV to help him before abruptly replacing him as head coach when Bayno was pushed out. The odds that this would happen again, albeit for completely different reasons, were hard to fathom.
Good said late Monday night that he accepted the permanent head coaching position reluctantly. But he said the Lions will be a completely different team next season. The Lions have two transfers sitting out in Larry Davis (Seton Hall) and Drew Viney (Oregon), who are considered their best players. Good said he was told the players wanted him to be the next coach. He said in jest that if that was the case, he isn't doing his job. Good is the consummate old-school coach who doesn't hesitate to deliver tough love.
• Not surprised that Kansas transfer Mario Little is already playing this season. As a JC transfer, his time is now. The Jayhawks want him to contribute now if he's healthy, too.
• Great to see UMKC's Matt Brown, among countless others, participate in IUPUI coach Ron Hunter's initiative to coach barefoot this weekend in support of Samaritan's Feet. The goal is to raise awareness of those who can't afford shoes; the hope is fans will bring donations of shoes to the games with coaches who are participating in the event.