Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
I sat down with Juan from the revamped Miami blog - the State of the U. They have lots of basketball coverage over there, so check them out.
My answers to his questions are posted over there, so check it out.
TN. Since the Indiana State loss, Miami has been playing exceptionally well. Were the early season ups-and-downs entirely due to injuries? Why is Miami playing so well now?
SOTU. When Reggie Johnson went down with his injury, it struck the team in an extremely negative way. He was their enforcer, their big inside presence. The loss to FGCU is still surreal and is a games the 'Canes wish they can re-do. The loses to Arizona and Indiana State were the games after the news of Johnson's injury and it shows the team was just adapting to playing without the big senior. After the tournament, the team began to adapt to not having him in the lineup and I think that is the biggest reason to their success. It can't be said enough, how huge Julian Gamble
has been towards the team's success this season. He stepped up when the team needed him, and he did it in a big way. He's led the charge to an improved play across the board. Kenny Kadji
, Shane Larkin
, Durand Scott
, Trey McKinney Jones, they've all stepped up. The defense has been outstanding and the team is doing a much better job rebounding the ball in conference play. The sky is the ceiling for this Miami team and we're getting a chance to look at them playing their best basketball in a long, long time.
TN. Miami has never won an ACC Title. Are the fans getting behind the team? What sort of crowd do you expect for the game?
SOTU. I've been watching Miami Hurricane basketball since I was a little kid and I've never seen the community come behind a 'Canes basketball team like it has the past couple of weeks. Yes, the win against Duke has a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon and has a lot of folks around the country taking notice of how good this 'Canes team is. The game against the Blue Devils was the second sell-out in the BankUnited Center's history, and hours after the Duke game finished, the Florida State game had been sold out. The crowd was electric on Wednesday night and I expect nothing less on Sunday afternoon against the biggest rival to the school.
TN. Miami is a senior heavy team, just like FSU was last year. Is there a feeling that this has to be the year to get it done?
SOTU. It's taken quite some time for the 'Canes to finally become a good team, but it seems like this season is different, mostly because of the seniors on this team. Everybody knows the team next season won't be in the same class as the team we're watching this season. There is definitely a sense of urgency for all the guys as Shane Larkin is the only player from the starting lineup returning next season. The guys are definitely in it to win it this season.
TN. In Miami's 3 losses, what did the opponents do well? Can FSU do those same things?
SOTU. Rebounding and solid guard play. The 'Canes were out rebounded 92 to 120 in the three loses this season, led by the pitiful effort against Arizona where Miami got crushed on the boards, 44-19. The guard play for those team was also key in those games. Obviously, we have to start with Mark Lyons. He had 19 point for the Wildcats and completely controlled the pace of the game. The Seminoles are slightly worse than the Canes on the rebounds as they averaged 3 less than the Hurricanes this season, but the one thing FSU does have going for them is Michael Snaer
. I expect Snaer to cause a lot of trouble on Sunday, similar to what Lyons did to the Hurricanes this season.
TN. Finally, give me the final score and tell me how it happens.
SOTU. I just mentioned that Michael Snaer will cause a lot of trouble on Sunday, but I don't think it'll be enough. Usually, a team that goes on such an emotional high comes out the next game with a little less sense of urgency. I would be shocked if a veteran team like the Hurricanes led by Coach Larranaga don't wake up Sunday ready to beat their rivals. They won't perform like they did against Duke, but It'll be enough to improve to 6-0 in conference play and send FSU to .500. The final score I think will be somewhere around 64-56.