The Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. has been the site of Miami coach Jim Larrañaga’s greatest moment in the NCAA Tournament as well as one of the worst. Ironically, Larrañaga probably had mixture of feelings Friday night when Virginia held off his Hurricanes 73-68 in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament. But my thought is he left the arena with the thought in his head that no matter whether his team is seeded No. 2 or 3 in The Big Dance, “We’re going to make a run.”
“That’s a real good team,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. “They are men.” While Larrañaga’s George Mason team beat UConn to go to the Final Four 10 years ago, his Miami team in 2013 lost to Marquette in the East Regional semifinals. Like in games with North Carolina and Virginia Tech where the Hurricanes seemed overanxious and played themselves out of the game, they also struggled early against Virginia. They committed 16 turnovers, which led to 19 Cavaliers’ points.
But this time, Miami kept coming back against getting down double digits. It’s a good omen. No. 1 seed is out of the question – those spots seem destined to go to Kansas, Michigan State, North Carolina and Virginia. The Cavaliers get the edge over Villanova for the fact they beat the Wildcats earlier this season. Virginia also seems to get the edge over Oregon because of its 8-3 record against top 25 foes, which includes Miami twice, Louisville twice, North Carolina, West Virginia and California as well as Villanova. Oregon’s advantage is that it is both the Pac-12 regular-season and conference tournament and the Pac-12 may send more teams to the NCAAs than anybody else.
The Ducks are 5-1 against the top 25 but outside the conference, their only quality win is over Baylor. Oregon, Villanova and Oklahoma would seem set at No. 2 leaving Miami to duel with Xavier and West Virginia for the final No. 2. Let’s look at the resumes:
- Oregon (28-6) – Best wins: Utah three times and Arizona twice; Baylor and Cal. Road and neutral W-L: 10-6. Top 25: 5-1. Top 50: 12-3. Top 100: 22-4.
- Villanova (29-5) – Best wins: Xavier, Seton Hall twice. Road and neutral W-L: 14-4. Top 25: 4-4. Top 50: 7-5. Top 100: 13-5.
- Oklahoma (25-7) – Best wins: Villanova, West Virginia twice, Iowa State twice, Baylor. Road and neutral W-L: 11-6. Top 25: 7-4. Top 50: 10-6. Top 100: 13-7.
- Miami (25-7) – Best wins: Utah, Virginia, Louisville, Duke. Road and neutral W-L: 10-6. Top 25: 4-3. Top 50: 8-3. Top 100: 16-4.
- West Virginia (26-8) – Best wins: Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Baylor twice. Road and neutral W-L: 13-6. Top 25: 6-5. Top 50: 9-7. Top 100: 13-8.
- Xavier – Best wins: Villanova, Dayton, Seton Hall. Road and neutral W-L: 12-4. Top 25: 3-3. Top 50: 7-3. Top 100: 11-3.
My analysis: I think the three biggest criteria looked at when deciding on top seeds should be quality non-conference wins, record in road and neutral-site games and record vs. top 25. What is the NCAA Tournament? Playing some of the best foes from all parts of the country away from home. With that in mind, I feel Virginia joins Kansas, North Carolina and Michigan State because of its quality non-conference wins. Miami joins Oregon, Villanova and Oklahoma because of its win over Utah, which will be a No. 3 or 4 seed.