No one had a better week than Miami.
Sure, Villanova beat two Top Five teams, and La Salle beat ranked opponents in consecutive games for the first time in 60 years. But no team has as much positive momentum as the Hurricanes.
Miami is the most dangerous team in the country, and that was on full display during its 90-63 drubbing of then-No. 1 Duke and its 71-47 beatdown of in-state rival Florida State.
The Hurricanes are experienced with 10 juniors and seniors on their roster compared to just three freshmen and sophomores. Defensively, there aren’t many teams better.
According to KenPom.com, Miami is No. 4 in adjusted defensive efficiency and is allowing its opponents to shoot just 40.6 percent from inside the three-point line.
The Hurricanes are versatile enough to play man and zone. In its first 6-0 ACC start in history, Miami is allowing opponents to shoot just 34.3 percent from the field.
Offensively, the veteran roster is extremely balanced. Five Hurricanes are averaging double figures with senior Durand Scott leading the way with 14.3 points per game. Scott has scored at least 11 points in 13 of his 15 games this season.
Scott is part of a backcourt that is as good as any in the country. The emergence of sophomore point guard Shane Larkin, a fantastic shooter who can make plays off the bounce, has been invaluable. Larkin is averaging 12.3 points and 4.1 assists per game while shooting 39.7 percent from beyond the arc.
That backcourt pairs very well with a frontcourt that has a little bit of everything. Reggie Johnson can bang down low and will only get better as he works his way back into shape after a thumb injury forced him to miss eight games.
At 6’11”, Kenny Kadji gives the Hurricanes more size but can also stretch the defense as he is shooting 34.4 percent from three. Julian Gamble comes off the bench to do the dirty work, playing good defense while providing energy and rebounding.
Wings Trey McKinney Jones and Rion Brown are athletic with the ability to knock down jump shots.
Put it all together, and Miami is a complete team with everything it takes to make a deep run in March. That includes an underappreciated head coach who has been there and done that in the NCAA Tournament.
While VCU’s Shaka Smart and Butler’s Brad Stevens justifiably get plenty of publicity, Jim Larranaga, a 63-year-old veteran, was the first to take Cinderella all the way to the ball when his George Mason team made the Final Four in 2006.
Now, Larranaga is in his second year down in Coral Gables, and he has this team hitting on all cylinders, providing plenty of excitement for a program that is used to playing home games in a half-empty arena.
Miami doesn’t have a rich basketball history. After the 1971 season, the university’s board of trustees dropped the program “temporarily until such time as a permanent field house can be constructed on the main campus,” according to the 2006 media guide. The program was not reinstated until the 1985-86 season.
The BankUnited Center was sold out on consecutive nights for the first time since it opened in January of 2003 last week against Duke and Florida State was a big deal for a program that has six all-time NCAA Tournament appearances with one Sweet Sixteen trip in 2000.
That wave of excitement is contagious and something this year’s team can ride for the rest of the season, maybe all the way to Atlanta.
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