With a 12-3 record, fans in the seats and the fourth ranked Duke coming to town, there is finally a buzz surrounding University of Miami basketball, and coach Frank Haith could no be happier.
"Duke is obviously a great ball club and I think all of South Florida should be excited that a team of that caliber is coming here it play," Haith said. "I do not want the guys to get too pumped up, I want it to be as normal as it has been all year.
"I would hope that the emotion of the game would not affect the way that we play. We do have a couple of guys that are emotional players, but I think that is good. If you can bottle that up and not let it hurt the way you play, it is a good thing."
How could Miami not be excited for this game?
It is on national television, ESPN at 8:30, against the greatest team in the last decade in front of a sell out crowd.
"I can feel a buzz," forward Anthony King said. "We are playing Duke and the name speaks for itself."
With the move to the ACC and an exciting team basketball is finally taking off at the University of Miami. Haith still sees room for improvement in the fans involvement, but does see a dramatic difference from the beginning of the season.
"I thought our crowd the other day (versus FSU) was really good," Haith said. The crowd is getting better, everyone is learning. What you see at a game at Duke (from the fans) is no lull. They do not wait for you to do great things, they try to pick you up. Here they are waiting for us to do something. You go to Duke, and the crowd there is pushing you on."
The Hurricanes will need the crowd to help push them tonight against a Duke team that many thought was going to be sub-par this year. Duke is thin on the bench, but gets great production out of its starters. Guard J.J. Redick leads the ACC in scoring with 21 points per game while Shelden Williams leads the ACC in blocks and rebounds. Veteran Daniel Ewing chips in with 16 points per game.
"The big three," Haith said. "You look at the minutes they played against Virginia and it was 39, 39, and 38. Those three guys are the cornerstone of there team. Sheldon inside is a monster. Then they have that inside-outside attack with JJ and Daniel. They do a great job of executing and spreading you out."
Miami will try to treat this game as any other, but Haith knows that is going to be easier said than done.
"We have to attack Duke as we did Florida State and NC State. We cannot go into this game thinking it is a national championship game, that it is a do or die game, or it is the end of our season if we do not win this game. We know we are going up against a good team that has not lost all year. They are well coached. A lot of people want to make light of how this Duke team is beatable, but nobody's beaten them."
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