The Miami Hurricanes have been one of the NCAA's biggest surprises this year, going 27-6 in the regular season and outright winning the ACC. So it's no wonder that the Canes find themselves in the Sweet 16 of this year's NCAA tournament.
While Miami can attribute its success to many factors, the biggest has been the emergence of Shane Larkin. So it's a no-brainer that the sophomore guard is a key factor to any deep tournament run.
Larkin was a stud for the Hurricanes throughout the regular season, averaging 14.5 points per game while shooting 47.9 percent from the field. He shot 40.6 from three-point range.
The sophomore took things to a whole new level in the ACC conference tournament, scoring 71 points in Miami's three games.
Playing in his first NCAA tournament, things started a bit slow for Larkin.
He shot 25 percent against Pacific in the round of 64, scoring just 10 points. That game was a big blowout for Miami, and Larkin was only on the court for 29 minutes.
The Canes star came alive in the round of 32 against Illinois, scoring 17 points on 5-of-12 shooting in 40 minutes of play. Larkin knocked down three shots from beyond the arc in that game, including a go-ahead three with 1:04 left.
Larkin's contributions to Miami go far beyond scoring, as he's one of the most selfless players on the court.
In a recent article by the New York Times' Tom Spousta, Miami guard Durand Scott was quoted as saying of Larkin:
He’s a selfless point guard. We always go into it together fired up. I know if I just run the floor and if I get open, he’ll find me. I was just able to knock the shots down.
In the same article Larkin was quoted as saying of Scott:
He’s hot right now. I’m going to do the best I can to find him and get him easy shots.
Those two quotes show the caliber of floor general Larkin's become. Despite his ability to score, he'll always put the team first in order to get a win—even if it means he's not filling up the boxscore himself.
Larkin's selflessness has been evident in each of Miami's tournament matches. Against Pacific he only took eight shots but had nine assists. Even with his hot hand against Illinois, he managed five assists.
With a mature demeanor that's not always associated with a player of his age, Larkin has emerged as a team leader in Miami.
His ability to not only score a lot of points, but also flawlessly facilitate the Canes' offense, makes Larkin one of the most dominating point guards in this year's tourney.
Miami has gotten this far riding shutdown defense and great team chemistry. But that doesn't mean its individual role players haven't been a key in every victory.
No player has done more for this squad than Larkin. Heading into the final stretch of the tournament, his ability to contribute becomes all the more important.
As long as the he can keep his hot hand going against No. 3 Marquette this Thursday, Shane Larkin and the Miami Hurricanes will be unstoppable for the rest of the tournament.