The Miami Hurricanes won their first outright regular season title this season with a 15-3 record in ACC games. The 24-6 Hurricanes will enter the ACC Tournament as the top seed when the tournament starts on March 14th. They will receive a bye in the first round of the tournament and will await the winner of the Georgia Tech-Boston College first-round game.
While the Hurricanes are the top seed in the Conference tournament, their road to an ACC Tournament championship will not be an easy one.
The ‘Canes could be facing a potential rematch vs. Georgia Tech in the tournament quarterfinals. Georgia Tech handed Miami its last regular-season loss on March 6. The Hurricanes lost 71-69 on a last second tip-in by Georgia Tech guard Marcus Georges-Hunt. The loss was the ‘Canes' only loss on their home floor this season.
If the ‘Canes win their quarterfinal game, they would face Virginia, NC State, or Virginia Tech in the semifinal round. Miami defeated Virginia Tech in both games that the two teams played during the regular season. However, as the lowest seeded team in the tournament, Virginia Tech has a slim chance of advancing into the semifinal game.
Miami also defeated both NC State and Virginia during the regular season, but both teams pose significant threats for the Hurricanes.
NC State was ranked for a better portion of the regular season and features a roster full of All-ACC talent. NC State forward Richard Howell received All-ACC First Team honors and guard Lorenzo Brown received All-ACC Second Team honors. Forward C.J. Leslie was picked as the ACC Preseason Player of the Year but struggled throughout much of the season and finished with All-ACC Third Team honors.
Virginia played the Hurricanes tough during their only regular season contest, despite eventually losing 54-50 to the ‘Canes. Virginia is one of the best defensive teams in the country and finished fourth in the nation in points allowed by holding opponents to 55.0 points per game. Virginia forward Joe Harris was also selected to the All-ACC First Team.
Barring any upsets, the Hurricanes will likely face the Duke Blue Devils for the third time this season in the tournament final. The Blue Devils appear to be one of the top teams in the nation since forward Ryan Kelly returned from injury towards the end of the season. Duke was 18-0 during the regular season with Ryan Kelly in the lineup.
The Hurricanes defeated Duke 90-63 on January 23 when the Blue Devils were the No. 1 ranked team in the country. However, Duke got its revenge on March 2 by defeating Miami 79-76, powered by Ryan Kelly’s 36 points in his first game back from injury.
The potential finals matchup vs. Duke could mean a number of things for the Miami Hurricanes: An ACC Tournament championship, a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and ACC bragging rights could all be at stake. However, before looking ahead to the final ACC Tournament game on March 17, the Hurricanes need to focus on their quarterfinal game on March 15.