Although the Miami’s men’s basketball season came to an end over a week ago, the NCAA season didn’t end until Villanova’s win against North Carolina Monday night.
The Hurricanes made the Sweet 16 for only the third time in program history this season (2000 and 2013 being the other two). While the 2012-13 team won both the ACC Regular Season and Tournament titles, the 2015-16 edition indelibly made their own mark on the ‘Canes faithful.
To cover the season adequately, I’ve gone through the games and have decided on presenting one or two cases of the following: The Good of the season, The Bad of the season, The Top Performances, The Top Moments, as well as a Look Forward to the future of Miami basketball.
Now, without further ado…
- Senior shooting guard Sheldon McClellan
McClellan began his Miami career as a transfer from Texas. He ended it as one of the most consistent players in Miami basketball history, with a Sweet 16 appearance to boot.
McClellan scored in double digits in all but three games this season for an average of 16.3 PPG (points per game), best on the team, and made acrobatic plays throughout the year. Those three games with under 10 points all came before the New Year.
McClellan scored a season-high 27 points against then No. 16 Utah in November. He scored 26 points, with 5-7 shooting on three’s, in Miami’s Sweet 16 matchup with Villanova. His five three’s against Villanova was his highest total on the year.
Just as impressive as his consistent scoring was his ability to make the shots he took. His 54.5% field goal percentage was the best on the team and the best in the ACC among guards.
Check out some highlights of McClellan while you’re at it. Oh, and, since you are at it, marvel at that athleticism. (Video courtesy of Canes Film)
- The BUC
Miami lost only one game at the homely BankUnited Center. Northeastern got the win on a last second shot all the way back in November to hand Miami a 78-77 loss.
The ‘Canes were perfect at home the rest of the way, including thrilling victories against No. 24 Duke (80-69), No. 3 Virginia (64-61), and No. 11 Louisville (73-65). All rankings were current at the time the games were played. Video recaps of those games can be found here (Duke), here (Virginia), and here (Louisville).
The home win-streak – currently at 13 games – included back-to-back two-point wins, first against Pittsburgh (65-63) and then against Florida St. (67-65).
What was the largest margin of victory at home? That would be a 46-point thrashing of La Salle on December 22, just in time for the holidays.
The losses. All of them, basically, were ugly. Miami only lost one game by three points or less, being the loss to Northeastern, for an overall away record of 6-5.
- The next two Miami losses came back-to-back and, of course, were on the road. First came the eight-point loss to Virginia on January 12. Four days later Miami lost in South Carolina to Clemson by 11 points. That would be a Clemson team that finished the year with a 17-14 record. The ‘Canes were ranked No. 8 in the country at the time, their highest ranking until the final week of the season (where they were ranked No. 7). A two-point halftime lead dissipated thanks to a second-half in which they were outscored by 13 points.
- Exactly two weeks later the ‘Canes lost to lowly North Carolina St. by 16 points. NC State finished the year 16-17, better than only two other teams in the ACC.
- The state of North Carolina wasn’t kind to Miami, as the ‘Canes lost by 25 points to the eventual NCAA runner-up Tar Heels in February.
- Finally, Miami lost at Virginia Tech by 15 points in the season finale. If there was one game Miami could get back this season, this would have to be it. The loss arguably cost Miami a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the ‘Canes were a three-seed in a region that included two de facto number one seeds, Kansas and eventual-national champ Villanova, whom the NCAA gave a two-seed.
Finishing tied for second-place in the ACC undoubtedly yields some fine individual performances. Here are the top three of the year:
- Davon Reed against Virginia
The junior guard had a career-game against the No. 3 Cavaliers. He was the biggest ‘Cane contributor with 21 points on 6-8 shooting, including 5-6 from three. The 21 points were a career-high.
Every time Miami needed a big shot, Reed stepped in. He scored the first six points for Miami on two three pointers in what was a sign of things to come. With the ‘Canes clinging to a five-point lead, Reed knocked down another triple before going on to make a pair of free-throws to effectively clinch the game and give Miami their biggest win of the year, 64-61.
Some highlights of that performance are here.
- Angel Rodriguez against Wichita St.
With a place in the Sweet 16 on the line, point guard Angel Rodriguez gave Miami arguably the best performance of his career against the Wichita St. Shockers. The senior scored a career-high 28 points, including 3-6 from downtown, while dishing out five assists.
His impact wasn’t felt on offense only. As he had all year, Rodriguez was around the ball on defense with his all-out style of play. His four steals against Wichita St. helped Miami fend off a furious Shockers rally and send the ‘Canes to their third Sweet 16 all-time with a 65-57 win.
As always, highlights are here.
- Anthony Lawrence Jr. against Notre Dame
The freshman guard had a breakout game against the Fighting Irish to help Miami bounce back from their hideous loss to NC State in the previous game. Lawrence Jr. gave Miami a crucial 18 points off the bench in a 79-70 win.
In the 20 games leading up to the Notre Dame bout, Lawrence Jr. averaged just over three PPG. The 18 points was a season-high. He also connected on all four of his three-point attempts. The four made three’s were also a season-high.
Did someone say highlights?
THE OUT OF NOWHERE PLAY OF THE YEAR:
As with the top performances of the year, there are many candidates for plays of the year. Honorable mentions include every alley-oop thrown (they were all great), McClellan’s two running halftime buzzer-beaters, and every successful Tonye Jekiri post-move.
- The winner is the last-second tip-in by Rodriguez that eked out a 65-63 win for the ‘Canes against Pittsburgh. It was a wild sequence at the end leading up to the game-winner.
With seven seconds left and the game and the score tied, Rodriguez dished the ball out to an open McClellan at the three-point line. His shot missed off the rim and bounced straight up into the air. A high-flying Reed came in on the follow-up but missed as well. The ball bounced off a Pitt player’s hand and back up into the air.
Enter Rodriguez. Hidden in a mass of bigger bodies, the five foot 11 inch Rodriguez out-jumped them all to get a hand on the ball and put it through the hoop. The win left Miami at 19-4 on the season.
See it for yourself here.
A LOOK FORWARD:
Yes, Miami has several key seniors leaving, including Rodriguez, McClellan, and Jekiri. However, there is reason to remain optimistic about the potential of the program. Miami has a five-star and two four-star recruits, according to 247 Sports, coming to Coral Gables next season.
The five-star recruit is forward Dewan Huell out of Miami Norland High School. Huell is the 25th ranked player in his class, standing at six feet 10 inches. The forward should help Miami maintain their strong defensive inside presence. Highlights here.
Four-star recruit Bruce Brown will be coming to Miami from Vermont Academy in Saxton’s River, Vermont. As a shooting guard, look for him to one day take over McClellan’s duties as primary scorer and playmaker. Brown stand six feet four inches tall. Highlights here.
Finally, Rodney Miller fills out the 2016 Miami recruiting class. The center is from Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, and stands at six feet eleven inches. He has a nice post-game, as can be seen here.
That’s it for the 2015-16 Miami Hurricanes. Am I the only one excited for next year?
I can’t be.
(all videos courtesy ESPN and 247 Sports)
Alex Goldman is a senior majoring in journalism with a minor in political science. He is currently the Sports Editor of distractionmagazine.com. He’s a Northern California native and loves snowboarding, writing, and above all the Green Bay Packers.