Canes Grossly Underachieved

After close to 90 games and three full seasons of University of Miami men's basketball under the direction of one Perry Clark this much is clear -- X's and O's aren't one of his strengths. Getting players ready to play isn't high on that list either and his recruiting, although incomplete, isn't going to knock anybody's socks off.

Nobody is racing to put Clark up in the coaching ranks along side the likes of Jim Calhoun in Connecticut, Rick Pitino in Louisville, Mike Montgomery in Stanford, Tubby Smith in Kentucky, Rick Barnes in Texas or Ben Holland in Pittsburgh. All candidates to take their respective teams deep into the NCAA Tournament. But regardless of Clark's shortcomings the Hurricanes should at least be getting ready for the NCAA's and not fighting to play on at the Big East Tournament this week.

Miami isn't one of the best teams in the land. But it's hard to fathom they can't crack the top-64 and find a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Yes, the Hurricanes didn't have much of an inside presence this season past a raw Gary Hamilton, a fill-in Rafael Berumen, a lifetime project in Rodrigue Djahue and a game James Jones. None of the freshmen developed at least gradually until late in the regular season when Armondo Surratt started showing some consistency. And for all of Darius Rice's talents he never put it all on display as he promised back in September. Still with Rice and Jones, two of the best players in the Big East in tow, the Hurricanes should have been good enough for 18-20 wins and an invitation to the tournament.

The Hurricanes simply underachieved and that's not going to cut it in this day with the current watered down state of the sport they play. This isn't professional baseball where Andre Dawson can have one of best seasons ever on his way to the MVP Award but the team he played for –Chicago Cubs- finishes last. This isn't professional football where the Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins can all have 1,000-yard rushers and not make the playoffs. This is college basketball where two players and a supporting cast are sufficient to send a team dancing.

Miami is done for the season a year after making the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five seasons. But a closer look just might conclude what the Hurricanes did last season wasn't so impressive and that Clark's time at UM should be running out.

The Hurricanes finished 24-8 a year ago, which included a 13-0 start to the season. The only problem with that is those victories came against the likes of Eastern Michigan, University of Alabama-Birmingham, Clemson, Lafayette, Florida Atlantic, Howard, Florida International, Texas A&M, Charlotte and St. Francis, Indiana, Florida A&M and Georgetown- with only the one over Indiana deserving high praise.

It didn't get any better this season as the Hurricanes failed to win consecutive conference games at any point of the season. Miami had two separate three-game winning streaks, one to start the season (New Hampshire, Texas A&M and Savannah State) and another in late December (Central Florida, Lehigh and North Carolina). Miami's ability to win on the road also took a spin for the worse as the Hurricanes only won twice all year away from home.

The Hurricanes failure to win in an opponent's building with more regularity was traced by Clark, on more than one occasion, to the team's youth and inexperience in facing Big East competition for the first time. Clark has made sure to tell us about the Hurricanes lack of offense besides Rice and Jones. He blamed most of UM's troubles as of late on poor decision-making and playground defense. But at some point the face of the program has to be accountable for their struggles.

Miami is still having the same problems on the court today that they had in November. Usually a team, no matter who it is, shows gradual improvement during the course of a season, even though they might not be one of the top squads. Only for some reason that hasn't happened with the Hurricanes. For one, the team's defense - once a staple under Leonard Hamilton has regressed to the point that some players don't even know where to go on the court sometimes.

Miami gets beat in transition and off the ball consistently. And that rarely happened under Hamilton. The decision-making, although that can be linked to two freshmen in the starting line-up, hasn't improved throughout the season either. Too many times this season the Hurricanes threw away close games with poor ball handling (just check out the 67 turnovers in a three-game stretch in February). Being a bad road team is one thing but being sloppy in the process is another. Having Rice or Jones double teamed is one thing but not having a back up plan is another. Not having enough offense to win close games is one thing but never coming out of a timeout prepared is another.

The Hurricanes should have a better record than what it is. But Clark's ability to win is whole other story.

Canes Time Top Stories