Understanding that ACC play endures even after wins over Duke and North Carolina, Miami wields the attitude of an unsatisfied predator hungry for more. And with Johnson easing back into the fold, the team’s appetite just got a good deal bigger.
“They were men, we were boys,” a peeved and possibly confused Mike Krzyzewski said of the Hurricanes after the game.
They were men, alright. The Canes bullied and strong-armed the Blue Devils inside, even with Johnson limited by the thumb and freshman Tonye Jekiri forced into the rotation in an expanded role. Miami does that to a lot of teams. Though only an average rebounding team as measured by total rebounding rate, the Canes are Teflon Dons along the front line, armed with a cast of frontcourt players capable of moonlighting on the offensive line during football season.
As we teased in October, this Miami hoops outfit is the real deal, arguably the best ticket value on campus. Who’s to say this team can’t be a Sunshine State duplicate of 2011-12 Florida State? It’s yet to lose a game this season at full strength, falling to Florida Gulf Coast in the absence of Scott and Arizona and Indiana State without Johnson. The Hurricanes are 14-3 and two games up in the loss column in the ACC despite playing 12 of their 17 games undermanned.
With an imposing and physical frontcourt plus an athletic backcourt replete with perimeter shooters who space the floor, Miami has the balance to club opponents from all angles, as Duke learned first-hand on Wednesday night. Equally importantly, the Canes have the experience to stake out and protect big leads or play from behind in a pinch. Five of their top-six players are seniors, including sixth-year senior Julian Gamble—one of the best backup pivots in all of college basketball—and the fifth-year senior Johnson. Bind that together with the most underappreciated coach in the league, and a bona fide ACC contender is the net result.
Miami’s brand of basketball may not always look as pretty as it did tonight. Defensive-oriented teams are a fickle bunch offensively. You wouldn’t be wrong, either, for doubting the Hurricanes’ staying power given the history of the program. But don’t, for one moment, assume this act is smoke and mirrors and fated to end abruptly.
“It’s a big win for us,” Johnson said after the game. “But we’re still hungry for more.”
That’s bad news for the teams remaining on Miami’s schedule-turned-menu. Feeding time has just begun.