The Washington Times - January 13, 2009, 10:57AM

Just got into Comcast Center a few minutes ago, and quickly checked in for a flight to Fort Lauderdale tomorrow.

For the first time in a long, long while, I will not be part of Southwest’s A group. And that makes me sad.


Or mildly irked I haven’t traveled on Southwest enough to get the automatic check-in. One of the two.

One thing that doesn’t make me sad is the continuation of the Out-of-town Q&A series. Today’s guest is Manny Navarro, who covers Frank Haith’s Miami Hurricanes for the Miami Herald.

You can check out Manny’s “Eye on the U” blog at the Herald’s website, and my portion of the Q&A exchange should pop up sometime in the next day or so.

Much appreciation to Manny for helping out and lending his insight. So let’s get on to three questions about the 12-3 Hurricanes:

1. It would seem Miami possesses no shortage of options for the rotation on a given night, but no one beyond Jack McClinton and Dwayne Collins who consistently produces. Is there any chance the rotation can reach eight or nine guys or is the double-digit depth viewed as a major strength?

MN: The fact Miami now has two consistent scoring options is new around here. Last year, only McClinton was the team’s consistent scorer. Coach Frank Haith likes it that way. He views depth as a major strength and employs it often. At times, he will switch out as many as four or five players at a time. Right now, with Eddie Rios (suspension) and Julian Gamble (mild concussion) out, the rotation is at nine.

2. Miami has three understandable losses this season (Connecticut, Ohio State and Clemson), but only a couple victories so far with the chance to carry much weight later in the season (road wins at Kentucky and Boston College). Is it difficult to get a sense of how good this team is, or are these guys likely to live up to their preseason expectations?

MN: Saturday’s win at BC was encouraging — especially after the way Miami looked at home against Clemson. Yes, the Eagles did lose to Harvard after knocking North Carolina. But BC was a place Miami hadn’t won since 1999. And the Canes did it without much help from Jack McClinton or without a point guard on the floor in a tight game for the final 33.9 seconds. It was impressive. I said before the start of the season if Miami could match its 8-8 ACC record and fifth place finish from a year ago, it would be a huge accomplishment. I still feel its achievable. The Canes look to me like the fifth or sixth best team in the ACC behind the big four.

3. This is a program that reached the second round of the NCAA tournament last season and figured to be even better this year, yet the average home crowd is just barely over 50 percent capacity at BankUnited Center. Has Miami basketball gained any traction among local fans, and are the attendance numbers a concern for those within the program?

MN: Attendance has not gotten better. But it really comes as no surprise. Miami as a sports town doesn’t support winners or losers. They only support champions. And they only show up for huge games against big time opponents. I think while more people are following this team, they still aren’t buying tickets and showing up. It won’t happen until Miami wins a championship or plays for one.

Much thanks again to Manny Navarro for taking the time to offering his take on Miami.

—- Patrick Stevens