The Miami Hurricanes will enter the NCAA tournament as the ACC regular-season champions and the winners of the ACC tournament for the first time in school history, and Shane Larkin has been a massive part of the team's fantastic year.
This is far and away the most success the Miami basketball program has ever had, but a poor showing in March Madness would erase all of it and overshadow everything the team has accomplished thus far.
But at this point, Larkin does not look like he will let his team fail in the tournament.
Miami has several components of a team ready to make a run to the Elite Eight or the Final Four.
The Hurricanes have been remarkably consistent throughout the season. Losses to Wake Forest and Georgia Tech are black marks on their resume, but the hardware the team has earned speaks for itself.
To balance out those bad losses, Miami can point to a blowout victory over Duke, and 13 straight wins at the start of its ACC campaign.
In addition, the team has excellent balance and senior leadership. KenPom.com ranks the Hurricanes 18th in defensive efficiency and 27th in offensive efficiency.
Jim Larranga has seven players who are averaging at least 20 minutes per game. This group includes five seniors and one junior, with Larkin being the only underclassman.
But the star sophomore is the key to the team’s tournament hopes. The last component this team needs for a deep tournament run is a star it can lean on in important moments.
Larkin proved he is capable of putting the team on his shoulders multiple times this season, and he added one more impressive outing in the ACC title game. He is averaging 14.2 points, 4.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game this season, but he has repeatedly stepped up for big games.
In Miami’s blowout win over Duke, he had 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. When Ryan Kelly’s monster night allowed the Blue Devils to get revenge, Larkin ensured that the Hurricanes were in the game until the very end with 25 points.
In the final game before the start of the tournament, Larkin delivered 28 points, seven assists and five boards to beat the Tar Heels and make school history.
Miami is better on defense than it is on offense, but as his numbers show, Larkin has no problem shouldering the scoring load and lead his team to victory.
Larranaga has an efficient, balanced and consistent team. These are all qualities of team set for success in the NCAA tournament.
But the final, and most important, component for success in the Big Dance is a star player who steps up when he is needed most. In the ACC Championship Game, Larkin once again proved to be this type of leader. Watch out for Miami.