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ACC Preview # 11 - Miami

UNC | N.C. State | Wake Forest | Clemson | Maryland | Virginia | Georgia Tech | Virginia Tech | B.C. | Florida State

Last season must have seemed like a curse for Miami's Frank Haith as injuries decimated his roster. His best big man, senior Anthony King, went down for the season. Promising 6-8 Jimmy Graham was never at full speed. 6-11 Fabio Nass blew out his ACL halfway through the season. Adrian Thomas, 6-7, ripped an abdominal muscle after four games and was done. And Denis Clemente, a very promising point guard, turned out to be a problem and Haith had to kick him off the team.

They were at .500 as late as the Duke game, at 9-9, before hitting hard times, losing seven straight. They broke the skid by beating N.C. State, a team which was about to put things together in an impressive way. They beat then #19 Virginia and #20 Maryland and took Clemson and FSU to overtime. They only won 12 games, but they were often competitive, despite the disastrous injuries and the unfortunate parting with Clemente.

This season should be much different. For one thing, the NCAA gave King an extra year. Miami didn't count on that, since he played too many games to redshirt. But the rules changed and Miami got a major break, getting their best rebounder and interior defender back.

Graham is presumably healthy as well. He is big and rugged and his play has periodically excited scouts and drawing (perhaps premature) comparisons with guys like Ben Wallace.

Dwayne Collins had a solid season as a freshman and filled in down low, scoring 8.6 ppg and pulling down 5.6 boards. He was a big part of why Miami was a tough out late as he averaged 10.2 points and 9.8 rebounds over the last nine games.

Prior to last season, Haith praised the potential of forward Brian Asbury but wanted him to step up more. He started to live up to that last season, starting all but one game and averaging 11.7 ppg. and 5.9 rpg. after averaging just one point as a freshman.

Thomas' season was wiped out, but he's big and strong and could find a role.

Raymond Hicks is also back, and while he'll never be a star, he should be a competent reserve, and got a lot of experience in different situations last season, which could make him quite valuable.

Nass returns as well, but he was recruited as a project and it was understood that he was a long shot. He remains one.

Miami adds 6-9 Cyrus McGowan, a transfer from Arkansas, where he had a minimal impact. At the least, he's a useful practice player.

They also bring in 6-9 Julian Gamble, the second player from Durham's Southern High after King, and the third big man from North Carolina, after King and Graham.

All things considered, Miami has to feel good about their frontcourt. They've got a lot of size, power, and reasonable athleticism. They have enough depth to conceivably redshirt Gamble.

In the backcourt, though they lost Clemente, they found a surprising player in transfer Jack McClinton, who started out at Siena.

McClinton was a bit of a sensation as the season started, but as the injuries mounted, as as ACC rivals focused on McClinton, his scoring fell off. Still, he was Miami's most effective offensive player, which almost no one expected.

6-3 James Dews also returns, and while he wasn't an overnight sensation like McClinton, he wasn't a disaster, either. His minutes went up considerably towards the end of the season, indicating that he gained Haith's confidence.

He'll be competing for time with newcomers Lance Hurdle and Eddie Rios.

According to the Miami Herald, Hurdle looks like he has moved ahead of Rios and may well start.

A JUCO transfer from San Bernadino, if Hurdle can provide a steady presence at point, and can score enough to take some pressure off of McClinton, he'll be a huge asset.

The alternative, Eddie Rios, was a solid high school point guard who could eventually emerge as Miami's answer.

For Haith, the good news is that everyone is healthy and presumably on the same page. The players who were able to play last year had a tough season, but they all took on extra responsibilities and burdens and generally speaking acquitted themselves well. Records are fairly cold and don't reflect character. Our hunch is that they grew a lot and that they'll be as highly motivated as any team in the league. Their main issue is going to be at the point, but if they can work that out, they should be competitive with just about everyone in the conference.