Convocation Center (7,000), Coral Gables, Fla.
7:00 p.m., ESPN (Sean McDonough and Len Elmore)
Apparently, Miami isn't just a football school -- or at least they're trying not to be.
A day after the Hurricanes compete in the national championship game on the gridiron, they open their new 7,000-seat, $48 million Convocation Center against the Tar Heels.
Coming off of an impressive 24-8 season, the Canes are off to a 6-4 start, with losses to Florida State, Florida Atlantic (OT), Charlotte and Florida (OT). Their biggest win thus far was against Texas A&M, and in their most recent game, they beat Lehigh 68-62.
Coach Perry Clark's star is Darius Rice, who returned after leading the team in scoring the last two years. The preseason Wooden Award candidate is averaging 16.3 points and 5.6 boards.
Leading the Canes in points, rebounds, blocks and three-point shooting is 6-8 senior forward James Jones, who has emerged into the spotlight after several years as a member of UM's supporting cast.
"I really think as a sophomore he surprised people and last year with the talent we had no one could really focus on him," Clark. "Now they might be able to, but I think he can hurt you in different ways. He has tremendous work ethic."
Two freshmen have worked their way into the starting lineup and made a big impact.
Robert Hite, a 6-2 guard, is posting 8.4 points per game, while Armondo Surratt has taken over floor general duties.
"He's the first pure point guard we've recruited and has the ability to push the ball and create," Clark said.
Surratt's presence on the court has produced improved play from Jones and Rice.
In the six games Surratt was not in the starting lineup Jones averaged 16.2 points while shooting 36-84 (.429) from the floor including 9-21 (.429) from three-point range. In the four games that Surratt started Jones averaged 22.3 points and shot 30-50 (.600) from the field and 14-22 (.636) from long distance.
Rice is averaging 12.3 points while shooting 24-66 (.364) from the field including 7-25 (.280) from three-point range when Surratt comes off the bench. With Surratt in the starting line-up Rice is averaging 22.3 points and has shot 32-65 (.492) from the field and 13-27 (.481) from behind the arc.
The Canes tend to play 10-11 players deep on the bench, led by Rafael Berumen (5.9 pts), Gary Hamilton (5.2 reb) and Paulo Coelho (42% 3pt).
Background Location: Coral Gables, Fla. Enrollment: 13,500 Conference: Big East Nickname: Hurricanes Colors: Green and Orange Head Coach: Perry Clark Record at UM: 56-25 Last year Record: 24-8 Conference record: 10-6, 3rd-E Postseason: NCAA first round Probable Starting Lineup: Armondo Surratt (5-11, G, Fr.) – 5.9 ppg, 3.2 apg Michael Simmons (6-1, G, Sr.) – 2.1 ppg, 2.4 apg Robert Hite (6-2, G, Fr.) – 8.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg Darius Rice (6-10, F, Jr.) – 16.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg James Jones (6-8, F, Sr.) – 18.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.0 blk Key Reserves: Rafael Berumen (6-9, C, Sr.) – 5.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg Paulo Coelho (6-2, G, Sr.) – 5.6 ppg, 42% 3pt Rodrigue Djahue (6-7, F, Jr.) – 4.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg Eric Wilkins (6-3, G, Fr.) – 4.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg Gary Hamilton (6-9, F, Fr.) – 3.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg
James Jones ... Darius Rice
Armondo Surratt ... Rafael Berumen
(Photos courtesy Iona the AP.)