It wasn't apparent from the response of fans following their first-round ACC Tournament loss last week, but the Miami Hurricanes still have some intriguing basketball to play. Frank Haith's boys got a tough draw and will kick off NIT play tonight at 7:30 on the road against Providence College. With a possible matchup against the University of Florida awaiting the winner, there's plenty of motivation.
"I think our guys definitely want to go back out and play better -- in particularly those seniors who are on their way out,'' Haith told the Miami Herald. "We're not going to go up there and not play well, and have a chance to win that basketball game. Our guys know that.''
First things first: Miami is ranked a seed higher than Providence at 4th, but lost home court advantage when the BUC was booked. Instead, they'll meet the Friars at the Dunkin Donuts Center (best name ever!) in Providence. Miami has beaten its former Big East rival four of the last six meetings, including a victory for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic championship in 2007. Providence’s Weyinmi Efejuku led scoring in that game with 21, and he faces the 'Canes tonight as an All-Big East Honorable Mention player. Watch out for the big guard!
UM will look to Jack McClinton and Dwayne Collins to step up tonight. McClinton's had another week to continue rehabbing the injured knee that slowed him at the end of the regular season. The slumping Collins has only put up more than 9 points once in the last ten games, but the physical matchup underneath favors the 'Canes. Haith hopes for a big night from the junior forward.
Miami admits to a 3-8 record in previous appearances in the NIT, which should serve to remind impatient fans that while expectations were high this year, it's still an accomplishment for the 'Canes to play past the regular season. It is, after all, only the 15th time in history UM has appeared in the postseason at all.
Should they beat Providence -- and they should -- Miami would face the winner of a game between #1 seed Florida and #8 seed Jacksonville. Miami doesn't see the Gators on the court much, and a battle between in-state rivals is always intriguing -- especially when both had late-season NCAA hopes.
Janie Campbell is a Florida native who believes in the pro-set and ballpark hot dogs. Her work has appeared in irreverent sports sites around the internet.