When the Men’s NCAA Basketball Committee looks over the final teams that will make its 68-team field, members will look at the University of Miami’s resume and rub their brows, shake their heads and pull at their hair.
Probably the same thing coach Jim Larranaga has done for most of the season.
March Madness has been going on five months now for the Hurricanes.November:
Miami rallies from a double-digit deficit to beat Florida 69-67, then a top-10 team
A 28-point home loss to Eastern Kentucky.
A 16-point road win over Duke, then a 20-point home loss to lowly Georgia Tech.
One- and two-point losses at Florida State and Wake Forest
A survival 67-63 win at Pitt, then a 70-63 ACC tourney loss to Notre Dame where Miami fell behind by 20, then rallied in the second half and led by two only to fade late.
After the loss to the Yellow Jackets, 31-year coaching veteran Larranaga said, “This team probably has the widest range of performance I’ve ever seen. They can be absolutely great one night, and you just don’t recognize them the next day.”
If there’s one game Miami (21-12) will look back on and rue its fortunes, it’s the 55-53 loss on Feb. 21 to Louisville.
The Hurricanes led Louisville 19-6 early and 29-19 at halftime. They still led 53-50 but didn’t score in the final 1:37.
Guard Chris Jones, who led the Cardinals’ comeback with 17 points and five rebounds, was dismissed from the team the next day. A few days later, he pleaded not guilty to charges alleging that he raped one woman and sodomized another.
This wide-range of Miami performances has created a resume that’s like mixing filet mignon and ketchup, lobster and ramen noodles.
Miami is actually better away from home (11-6) than at home (10-6). It is just 2-7 against the top 50 but one of those is over the Blue Devils, a certain No. 1 seed. Extend it to the top 75 and Miami is a respectable 6-8.
ESPN analyst Joe Lunardi, who joins CBS’ Sportsline’s Jerry Palm as putting Miami on the first four out, said road wins vary with various committee members but “generally is very important.”
Take away the loss to Eastern Kentucky and win over Duke and he said, “It would be worse for Miami than the current profile.
As for the agonizing Louisville loss, he said, the Hurricanes probably would’ve been in with a win “but the error is in viewing a single team in a vacuum. Every other bubble team also has if/then scenarios.”
Larranaga, big numbers guy, is confident in the Hurricanes’ chances of making the tournament, noting the double-digit wins away from home.[callout2]“The NCAA Tournament is played at neutral sites,” he said. “How have you played away from home? On the road? And how have you played on neutral sites? I don’t get a vote, but I believe we’re a quality team deserving of a bid. My criteria might be different than theirs. We have some tough losses, but it’s balanced by some impressive wins.”[/callout2]
So will the Hurricanes’ get in? It’s doubtful.
Overall strength of schedule will hurt them. Five of their 11 ACC wins have come over Virginia Tech and Boston College. Their better wins – Florida, Illinois, Syracuse, Pitts – are over teams that underachieve. There’s also other bubble teams who’ll likely make strong conference tournament runs and play their way in.
The margin is too thin. The high end of this team is high but there were too many lows during an up-and-down season.
The committee just won’t have the stomach to give the Hurricanes a bid.