The big story from this past weekend was the rematch game featuring the Duke Blue Devils securing a small measure of revenge by defeating the Miami Hurricanes. The Blue Devils, led by Ryan Kelly, who returned from injury to score 36 points, defeated the Hurricanes 79-76 on their home floor. The loss put the possibility of the Miami Hurricanes obtaining a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament in real jeopardy.
The Hurricanes further complicated their chances with a 71-69 loss to Georgia Tech on Wednesday night. While a top seed in the tournament could very well be out of the question at this point, the Hurricanes still may have an outside shot. In order to make that happen, a number of things must fall just right for the Hurricanes.
1. Win the ACC regular season title and tournament.
Saying that the Hurricanes need to win their remaining games would be too easy. Actually, given recent history, it may be easier said than done. However, that is precisely the first step needed for the 'Canes to have a shot at a top seed.
After losing to Georgia Tech, the Hurricanes have one remaining regular season game, against Clemson. Miami has already clinched at least a share of the ACC regular season title, and a win would give them the title outright. In order for the Hurricanes to at least have an argument for a top seed, they will need to win the regular season title outright and then advance to win the conference tournament title as well.
The best-case scenario would be for the 'Canes to defeat Duke to win the tournament title. The Blue Devils are undefeated (17-0) with Ryan Kelly in their lineup. A win for Miami over Duke, currently a projected No. 1 seed, would make a strong case for the 'Canes as a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
2. A loss by any of the teams with higher seeding projections
Joe Lunardi of ESPN is widely considered as the foremost expert in NCAA Tournament projections. As late as Wednesday night, Lunardi projected Gonzaga, Indiana, Kansas and Duke as the No. 1 seeds in the upcoming tournament. After Wednesday's loss to Georgia Tech, the 'Canes fell to a No. 3 seed in the most recent projections. While it may appear to be a long shot, Miami could still have a chance to move up in the projections before the tournament.
Miami will not only have to win their remaining games, but they will also have to hope that teams projected above them suffer some losses also. A loss by any of the teams projected above Miami will only help the 'Canes chances of obtaining a top seed. Given the topsy-turvy nature of this college basketball season, that may not be too much to ask for.
Gonzaga appears to have the easiest remaining schedule of any of the four No. 1 seeds. Gonzaga is currently the top-ranked team in the country and is the top seed in the West Coast Conference Tournament after finishing their regular season with an undefeated conference record. Kansas will also likely win their remaining regular season games and appears to be a strong favorite in the Big 12 Tournament.
Indiana suffered a recent loss to Ohio State and has another tough conference game remaining versus Michigan. After their game versus Michigan, Indiana will have to survive a tough Big Ten Tournament to secure a top seed. Michigan is also projected as a No. 2 seed in the most recent projections, so a loss by them would help the Hurricanes also.
Two Big East teams, Louisville and Georgetown, are currently projected as No. 2 seeds in the most recent projections as well. However, the Big East Conference is one of the toughest in the country, and the conference tournament could prove troublesome for both teams. Florida is the last No. 2 seed and appears to have a strong grip on the Southeastern Conference, but they have faltered in conference play also.
Lastly, Duke could also stand between Miami and a No. 1 seed. If the Blue Devils and the Hurricanes meet in their conference tournament championship, the Hurricanes could very well be playing for a No. 1 seed.
3. Strength of their current NCAA tournament resume
According to Joe Lunardi’s most recent projections, Miami is currently a No. 3 seed following the Hurricanes' loss Wednesday night to Georgia Tech. However, that projection could change at any time given the volatile nature of this college basketball season thus far.
While the Hurricanes have struggled recently, according to TeamRankings.com, Miami has a 66.3 percent chance to get a No. 1 seed in this year’s tournament. Kansas has the highest percentage chance at a No. 1 seed at 84.1 percent, while Duke and Louisville are the other two projected top seeds according to website.
Despite their recent struggles and a few bad losses, Miami has a pretty solid NCAA tournament resume. The Hurricanes are ranked fourth in the nation in RPI, third in strength of schedule and 16th in the BPI rankings. Miami does, however, have some bad losses on their resume, losing games to Florida Gulf Coast, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech—all teams with RPI rankings above 100.
While the Hurricanes have faltered recently and have suffered a few bad losses, their tournament resume remains fairly strong. However, no team can be certain of their seeding until the final seedings are announced on Selection Sunday, March 17th. Until then, the best thing the Hurricanes can do is to handle their business on the court. Regardless of whatever their final seeding is, the ultimate goal is to win six straight games and be the team that cuts down the nets in the championship game.