Usually when one hears about the University of Miami contending for a title, they assume one is referring to their football team. That has not been the case for a while now, and there is a new Miami program vying for a championship.
The Hurricanes currently stand at 18-7, and their 10-4 in conference record has them in a tie for third place in the ACC rankings. They have had signature wins against some of the top teams in the ACC, including victories against North Carolina, and Wake Forest.
Their most impressive win of the season was against the best opponent on their schedule, the Duke Blue Devils. Against future NBA player Paolo Banchero, the U defeated Duke 76-74 on the road. Charlie Moore was the leading scorer of the game for the team, scoring 18 in the bout.Miami shocked the world when they took down Duke on the road earlier this season.
Most projections have Miami sitting around a nine or ten seed. While they currently sit in the middle of the pack in the bracket, they will have an opportunity to shoot up in the seeding with a run in the ACC tournament next month.
Why Miami Can Surprise
One might ask what separates Miami from other tournament teams as a title sleeper, and it comes down to their style of basketball. They have a great coach in Jim Larranaga, and are among the best twenty schools in the nation at preventing turnovers.
Roster-wise, the team’s biggest strength comes at the guard position, as their top four scorers all play the position. Their star player, senior Kameron McGusty is their leading scorer at 17.8 points per game. McGusty shoots almost 40 percent from three and has a variety of moves in his skillset when driving to the rim.
Their other starting guard, Isaiah Wong, is a slasher who has made a major impact in his sophomore season. Wong has had his best performances against the best teams in the ACC, where he has dropped 25 points on both Wake Forest and the University of North Carolina.
Guard play has proven to be essential for teams to have success in March Madness in the past, including last year for the champion Baylor Bears. Guards Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler, and MaCio Teague’s performances propelled Baylor to a March Madness title.
In order for the Miami Hurricanes to do the same, the team will need to demand a similar level of play from their star guards. Along with their guards, role players down low must continue to do their job whenever asked to.
Miami Can Shock the World, Despite Recent Struggles
Miami has not reached March Madness since they made three consecutive tournaments from 2016-2018. After making the sweet sixteen in 2016, they were unable to make it past the first round.
In their most recent tournament appearance, Miami lost in heartbreaking fashion. Against eleven seed Sister Jean and Loyola Chicago, Miami went on to lose 64-62 on a buzzer-beater three. The loss still resonates for the University of Miami program, as fans and players alike hope to avenge the loss.
Since 2018, Miami has not been close to contending for a championship. The best the Hurricanes have finished in the ACC is 10th before this year, including a 13th place finish just a year ago. Its recent failure in the conference is a major reason why some are shocked by the U’s recent success, and are still skeptical of their chances this year.
While for some, the idea of Miami being a sleeper seems far fetched. A nine seed has never won the title, but multiple teams have made the finals four while being a lower seed. Some teams may be better on paper, but one has to remember, weird things happen in March.