Lessons learned last season could be the key to success for the University of Miami this upcoming basketball season.
Asked this week what carryover effect there could be from the Hurricanes’ run to the championship game of the 2015 NIT, senior guard Sheldon McClellan had a ready answer.
“The only thing I would say is don’t play teams on paper,” McClellan said. “That was our big thing last year. We played a lot of teams on paper, meaning that we looked at the teams we knew instantly whether we were going to win or not, which cost us games and cost us to go the NIT.
“This year we don’t even want to look at the paper. We want to look at the scouting report and go out there and play the game as hard as we can and try to win each game one by one and not take any team for granted.”
A test of that approach comes up Friday when the Hurricanes open the 2015-16 campaign against the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. Tipoff is 7 p.m. EST at the BankUnited Center on the Hurricanes’ Coral Gables campus.
UT-Rio Grande is team that not many who follow the game closely may even recognize, but it poses more of a threat to the Hurricanes than might be expected, kind of like Eastern Kentucky and Green Bay a year ago. Those two both beat Miami by double digits despite coming into the game as underdogs.
“This Rio Grande Valley team has transfer students, they’re older, they’ve got a junior college player who was one of the leading scorers in the country in junior college ranks,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “I’ve competed against their head coach, Dan Hipsher, when he was at Akron and he was at Bowling Green.
“He’s a Bob Knight disciple so he runs a lot of the same things Indiana ran during that era — a lot of motion offense. They post up a lot of guys and that’s something we don’t see a lot of even during the ACC race. These guys have guards that a 6-4, 6-5 that will post up inside against smaller guards.
“So we’ve got to be really ready to defend motion, post-up players, and 3-point shooters.”
That juco player is guard Nick Dixon, who averaged a national-best 27.2 points per game last season at Morton College and was a two-time NJCAA Division II All-America honoree. Guard J.J. Thompson comes to Rio Grande Valley after stops at Houston and Southeast Missouri State. Forward Dakota Slaughter is a transfer from Alabama.
Thompson had 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting overall and 4-of-5 from behind the 3-point arc in the team’s exhibition win last week. Dixon had 12 points and 7 rebounds to go along with 3 assists and 2 steals, and Slaughter had 10 points in going 3-of-6 from behind the 3-point arc.
After the opener, the Hurricanes will be back in action on Monday night when they host Louisiana-Lafayette at the BUC.