Overall record: 20-10
Conference record: 10-8
Best wins: vs. North Carolina (77-62), at Virginia (54-48), vs. Duke (55-50)
Worst losses: at Wake Forest (96-79), at Syracuse (70-55)
Key players: Davon Reed, Ja’Quan Newton, Bruce Brown
Coach Jim Larrañaga will be leading Miami to a second straight NCAA tournament appearance this season, despite what happens in the second round of the ACC tournament against Syracuse.
It is interesting to note that this year’s Miami team has nearly an identical record to the 2014-15 Hurricanes team that lost in the NIT finals. Miami actually finished higher in the conference that year (sixth) than it will this year (eighth). The difference will be the quality of their opponents in their losses.
For example, that 2014-15 team had two bad non-conference losses (Green Bay and Eastern Kentucky). This year’s team had just two non-conference losses, both against teams heading for the NCAA tournament (Iowa State and Florida). In 2014-15, Miami lost a couple games to teams in the bottom of the standings. This year, the Hurricanes do not have a truly ugly loss on their resume.
Miami is ranked 41st in the RPI rankings. The Hurricanes have only dropped one game to a team ranked in the RPI beyond 50 (Syracuse is ranked 80th). Wins against top RPI teams (North Carolina is fourth, Duke 14th, and Virginia 16th) helps their resume significantly and justifies a slot in the tournament.
The Hurricanes may have the second or third best defense in the conference, holding teams to just 63.4 points per game this season. One of their leaders on offense and defense, Davon Reed, was named to the ACC’s All-Defensive Team and was a third team All-ACC selection this year. UNC fans saw how effective Miami’s zone defense can be, and in their three best wins, including their victory over the Tar Heels, the Hurricanes held their opponents to less than their scoring defense season average.
However, those defensive efforts are difficult to replicate on consecutive days during tournament time and the Hurricanes will need some help from their offense. In their last four regular season games, Miami went 2-2 in low scoring affairs. The most points they scored in that span were 61 in a loss at Virginia Tech. They cannot rely on Reed or, in the case of the game against UNC, Bruce Brown to have a big offensive performance every night during the tournament.
If Miami gets past Syracuse Wednesday, the Heels will get a chance to get revenge on the Hurricanes during the noon game in the quarterfinals Thursday.