Miami Basketball: Hurricanes Are Easy Choice for No. 1 Seed in NCAA Tournament

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Miami Basketball: Hurricanes Are Easy Choice for No. 1 Seed in NCAA Tournament
USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes are taking college basketball by storm. That's right, the basketball team, not the football one, is making national headlines after yet another big win—this one over North Carolina by 26 points on Saturday.

With selection Sunday just a few weeks away and the 2012-13 season inching closer to March Madness, there's a good chance No. 8 Miami will be one of the teams in contention for one of the four No. 1 seeds the selection committee will dish out.

In fact, Miami deserves one.

Saturday's win over UNC was just one of the 'Canes' 19 on the season, and it helped improve their ACC record to a perfect 10-0. Their team-first attitude and fun-loving persona have spilled over to the public eye, and it's not the only reason that Miami will be extremely ticked off if it doesn't claim a No. 1 seed.

The 'Canes got off to a slow start, and a 12-point loss to Florida Gulf Coast University in the second game of the season started to make fans wonder whether this season would be yet another disappointment in the long line of teams that had plenty of talent, but no cohesiveness.

Now, that loss is just a blip on the radar.

Miami now boasts two wins over North Carolina and other wins over North Carolina State and Duke—ranked No. 1 at the time of the upset. Five different 'Canes average over nine points, led by Durand Scott, Kenny Kadji and Shane Larkin—the rising star of this group and son of former MLB star Barry Larkin.

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They make threes, play stingy defense and suffocate the opponent on the glass—all marks of teams that can be extremely dangerous come March. And, as Gary Parrish of CBS Sports reports, the 'Canes have an overlooked component that slumping teams need more of—they have fun together.

Miami players enjoy each other's company on the court together, and they are even drawing big names like NBA superstars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who were both at Saturday's game against the Tar Heels. And the crowd continues to rise in total numbers as the 'Canes prepare to contend for an ACC Championship.

Head coach Jim Larranaga has this bunch playing great basketball heading down the stretch, and ESPN's Dana O'Neil agrees that this group is absolutely worthy of a top seed in this year's dance:

This is not a good team beating average competition. This is a very good team—period. Worthy of a No. 1 seed right now? Absolutely. A candidate for the top spot in the ranking? Sure. A national championship contender? Why not?

An endorsement from O'Neil isn't exactly going to drive this point home with the committee, but a closer look at the stats and a strong finish certainly will.

A look at this year's RPI has Miami at No. 2 in the rankings, behind only Duke—the last team on Miami's schedule that is in the AP Top 25.

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A win over the Blue Devils would mark a second upset of the powerhouse this season, give the 'Canes the regular-season ACC title and a No. 1 seed heading into the ACC tournament. Virginia and a road game against Florida State also threaten Miami, but the way this team is rolling, it's going to be hard to stop all the momentum built up over the course of this season.

After spending the past decade as a football powerhouse, Larranaga has built this program into a national title contender. Not only is the school built for success in 2013, but this success could lead to an influx of high-caliber recruits who are drawn to the prestige and high-profile attitude that the university exudes.

That's thinking too far ahead, though, especially considering the opportunity that has afforded itself to Larkin and Co. this season.

Miami has all the makings of a No. 1 seed. If it takes care of business, the road has been paved for a No. 1 seed and a chance to make the 2013 Final Four.

 

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