Programs like Michigan, Duke, Louisville, Florida, Kansas, and Ohio State have all suffered major upsets this year. Meanwhile perennial powerhouses North Carolina and Kentucky are not even ranked. This season has undoubtedly been full of surprises – led by the hottest team in all of college basketball, the Miami Hurricanes.
If you don’t follow college hoops you might not know Miami is 12-0 in arguably the best conference in college basketball. The Hurricanes are currently ranked No. 3 in the nation with a 21-3 record and only one ranked team (Duke, a squad they have previously beaten) remaining on the schedule heading into tournament play. Their coach, Jim Larranaga, is also one of only three current head coaches in the ACC with Final Four experience (the other two being Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski).
Given all that, am I picking Miami as a legitimate contender to make it to the Final Four and win the NCAA tournament? No.
While I do believe Miami is a good team with a great shot at making the Sweet Sixteen or the Elite Eight, Miami has been blown out of proportion a bit of late. While going undefeated in the ACC is nothing to dismiss, the conference is undeniably weaker this year with only two ranked teams. By contrast the Big 10 conference has five ranked teams and Minnesota – which has been in and out of the rankings all season. And even though Michigan State lost to Miami in the first game of the year, I would still pick Sparty over the Hurricanes knowing they played seven ranked teams (including four left on the schedule).
Miami has three wins over ranked teams – Duke, Michigan State and N.C. State – while losing to Arizona. And while winning three of four against ranked opponents looks good on the Hurricanes NCAA resume – two of those wins were at home and Miami needed a tip-in with less than a second left to defeat the Wolfpack.
Meanwhile Miami’s one ranked loss (to Arizona) was an embarrassing 69-50 thumping at home.
Also worth noting, Miami is not ranked in the top fifty in the country in rebounds per game, points per game, assists per game, or shooting percentage. Of the Top Ten teams, only Miami is not top fifty in at least one of those categories. By contrast six of the top ten are top fifty in at least three of those categories while top-ranked Indiana is in the fop fifty in all four.
In light of all of the above, I’m not predicting Miami to win the Big Dance in March – although a high seed and a run to the Elite Eight certainly appear likely.