Newton’s absence finally catches up with Hurricanes


The Miami Hurricanes won two more games without Ja’Quan Newton. But they couldn’t win three. And now any hopes they had for being a No. 1 seed are over.

Saturday’s 77-62 loss at Virginia Tech cost the Hurricanes a share of the ACC championship (24-6, 13-5) with North Carolina (25-6, 14-4). Miami tied with Virginia (24-6, 13-5) for second but the Cavaliers own the tiebreaker and will be the No. 2 seed while the Hurricanes are No. 3.

‘We wanted it so badly – to win and to solidify that we would get at least a share of the conference regular-season championship,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. ”I told the team afterwards, `It’s not about focusing on the result. It’s focusing on the process. The process is playing good defense, rebounding, and executing the offensive game plan. We just didn’t do that.”

That’s why Larranaga is such a good teacher as well as coach. It’s a bit concerning in that games the Hurricanes were really focused on they got over anxious and didn’t close play to their capabilities. In hockey, it’s called gripping your stick too tight. It’s not so much about beating Carolina or winning the ACC or going to the Sweet 16 or Final 4 but Larranaga has been trying to get his players to understand it’s about doing your job, executing and giving great effort.

It’s a lesson, he hopes sinks in soon, real soon. Miami could’ve used Newton, considered by many to be the best sixth man in the country. He has played just 17 minutes the last four games, first with a bone bruise in his leg, then a violation of team rules.

In his absence, the Hurricanes beat Virginia, Louisville and Notre Dame before falling to Virginia Tech.
Larranaga can use this as another teaching moment. He can talk to Newton that while he’s very important to the team, he’s not above it. He’s needed to make an NCAA run but he can’t screw up anymore. The loss to the Hokies almost certainly ended Miami’s chances of being a No. 1 seed – and not just because it lost to a team with an RPI in the 80s by 16.

According to CBS’ Sportline’s Jerry Palm, he said the Hurricanes being a No. 1 seed would be historical.
While he admitted the top of the bracket is wide open – “Kansas is the only lock” – and Miami has a good record with a number of good wins, he said it has a quirk in its resume.

“They’ve got three bad losses,” he said. “And the (NCAA) committee never has given a No. 1 seed in 23 years I’ve been doing this to a team with more than one loss outside of the top 100 RPI.

“Miami may peaked as a No. 2 no matter what.”

A bad loss is considered to anyone with an RPI over 100 and the Hurricanes have lost to No. 112 Northeastern (78-77), No. 116 Clemson (76-65) and No. 119 North Carolina State (85-69). By comparison, Kansas, Villanova, Virginia and North Carolina have no bad losses and Michigan State, Oklahoma, Xavier and Oregon have one. That’s eight teams; and that’s why Miami needs a couple of more wins in the ACC Tournament to become a No. 2 seed.