The upstart Miami Hurricanes, unranked in the preseason, are staring at a potential No. 1 ranking when the newest college polls are released.
The No. 8 Hurricanes (19-3, 10-0 ACC) made easy work of North Carolina, 87-61, sweeping the Tar Heels and building a two-and-a-half game lead in the ACC.
Since losing back-to-back games against Arizona (50-69) and Indiana State (55-57 OT) in late December, the Hurricanes are undefeated, having won 11 in a row, including a 90-63 thrashing of Duke, which had been ranked No. 1.
In its latest statement game against the visiting Tar Heels, Miami made fifteen three-pointers, including five by sophomore guard Shane Larkin, the son of baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. The Miami guard scored 18 points and added nine assists.
With their 10-0 record in the ACC, the Hurricanes remain the only undefeated team in a major basketball conference. Next up for Miami is a rematch with Florida State in Tallahassee on February 13. The Canes defeated the Seminoles, 71-47, in Coral Gables on January 27.
The Hurricanes are playing arguably the best basketball in the country. Whether that translates into a No. 1 ranking remains to be seen. The Hurricanes would need to leapfrog seven teams to gain the top spot in the polls. However, four of the teams ranked ahead of the Hurricanes lost at least once last week (Indiana, Florida, Michigan and Kansas).
A strong case could be made that the Hurricanes are entitled to a No. 1 ranking based on their consistent performance since January. It is still an unlikely scenario for a team that lost its second game of the season to Florida Gulf Coast University (51-63) on November 13.
However, Miami head coach Jim Larranaga has the Hurricanes churning in uncharted waters with the Canes' domination of traditional powers Duke and North Carolina. Prior to this season, Larranaga was best known for guiding 11th-seeded George Mason to the Final Four in 2006.
There are still nine conference games remaining for Miami, including a rematch with Duke on March 2 in Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham. But for the moment, based on its performance over the last month, Miami deserves consideration for a No. 1 ranking.
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