Is Miami a Contender?With Reggie Johnson’s tip in with 0.8 seconds left on the clock, the Miami Hurricanes escaped Raleigh with a 79-78 win over the NC State Wolfpack. With the victory, the Canes moved to 8-0 in ACC play. It marks the first time since 1981 that a team not named Duke or UNC started 8-0 in the conference. As we have a full month and some change before March Madness, it’s time to start taking a closer look at who has an actual shot of cutting down the nets.
This season it is hard to pick one team who will run through the NCAA Tournament. Michigan, Kansas, Indiana, Florida, Duke, Syracuse, and Louisville all have high expectations moving forward. Butler, Arizona, Gonzaga, Ohio State and Oregon are right there too. It’s probably time throw Miami in the mix too.
Miami is probably the hottest team in the country right now. After blasting Duke by 27, they responded with a 24 point drubbing of rival Florida State. To prove they aren’t a fluke, the Canes won their fourth and fifth conference road games with wins over Virginia Tech and NC State respectively this past week. It isn’t the 16-3 overall, which includes solid wins over Michigan State, Detroit, UMass, Charlotte and UCF that should have you paying attention. It isn’t the 8-0 start in the ACC either. It all boils down to the make up of this team.
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This Miami Hurricane basketball team is built for a deep NCAA Tournament run. You need great guard play in order to go far in the big dance. Shane Larkin and Durand Scott are as good as a tandem as you can find in college basketball this season. Up front they have depth too. When Reggie Johnson missed a chunk of games, Julian Gamble stepped up. Along with Kenny Kadji, the Canes have a lot of options in the paint. With Big Reg back and settling in, the Canes are even more dangerous.
It doesn’t end there. With Trey Mckinney-Jones on the wing and Rion Brown’s shot making abilities, the Canes have a ton of offensive options. But the offense side isn’t where titles are won. Everyone that is familiar with Jim Larranaga knows that his bread and butter is defense. His George Mason teams were known for smothering D and he has brought that intensity with him to Coral Gables. If you watched the end of the NC State game it was that defensive pressure that forced key steals. Those steals won the game for Miami.
With the team buying into the overall system that Coach L has instilled, this Miami team is very scary. They may not have the five star blue chippers as some of the other contenders, but they sure as heck have some heart. The NC State win was a gutsy effort. Miami didn’t play well, but they stuck around enough to beat a talented Wolfpack squad. The teams that win those types of games on the road in conference are the teams who can do some serious damage come March. Miami proved it Saturday, and it’s safe to say that the Canes are for real.
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