Miami should be the top-ranked team in the nation.
Season-long resumes matter and should be a factor when voting, but so should how a team is currently playing, and no club has been better over the last month than the Hurricanes.
They have not lost since Christmas Day, and have disassembled most of their ACC foes. At 19-3 overall and 10-0 in the ACC, and coming off a 22-point win over Boston College and a 26-point demolition of North Carolina while the other top teams in the nation lose and/or are pushed, it’s clear the Hurricanes are the nation’s best team right now.
They can win pounding the ball down low and then shooting lights out from the perimeter. They can play fast and they can play slow. They are efficient on offense and their strength is defense. They are experienced, unflappable and exceptionally well coached. And, no team has more true road wins than Miami’s eight this season.
Ironically, the lone true road loss that keeps people from taking the Hurricanes more seriously is a Nov. 13 shocker at Florida Gulf Coast. But Durand Scott didn’t play that night and the ‘Canes were just not ready to play. Also, FGC has 18 wins, an RPI of 98 and leads the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Miami’s other oft-criticized loss came in overtime to Indiana State in Hawaii. The Sycamores, who have an RPI of 40, are currently tied for first in the very competitive Missouri Valley Conference and in the last couple of weeks have beaten Wichita State and Creighton.
The Hurricanes were ravaged by a sickness that drained their energy on the Hawaiian trip, plus they had just lost big man Reggie Johnson to a broken thumb and were still trying to learn how to play without him.
Many national pundits said this weekend Duke should move up to No.1, but didn’t the ‘Canes beat the Blue Devils by 27 points a few weeks ago and haven’t lost since? Neither has Duke, but to promote its resume, especially early-season wins over some excellent teams, should be questioned. Duke had senior Ryan Kelly for those games, and in fact never lost with Kelly in the lineup. But they have two losses without him and have only recently been impressive in its wins, though the Devils escaped 10-13 Boston College on Sunday night with a one-point win.
Miami, by the way, also has some nice nonconference wins, such as at Massachusetts (RPI No. 53), at Central Florida (89), over Charlotte (57), Detroit (70), LaSalle (29) and Michigan State (11).
The Hurricanes are Final Four good. Look around at the other top teams: they are national championship good. Don’t let the name and slight history fool you, this team is for real and deserves to be ranked No. 1.
Regardless, they will get a big challenge this week beginning with a trip to rival Florida State (13-10, 5-5) on Wednesday night. To win, the Canes simply need to keep doing what they have. Starting out with a power game can send a message to FSU’s interior and establish a winnable tone.
Pick: Miami, 66-62.
Virginia Tech (11-12, 2-8) at Virginia (17-6, 7-3)
When: 7 p.m. Full Court Press: The Cavaliers are very tough at home and usually defend about as well as any team when playing before their fans. That doesn’t bode well for a Hokies’ team that has not one remotely consistent player other the Erick Green, the nation’s leading scorer. Pick: Virginia, 64-47.
Wake Forest (11-12, 4-7) at Boston College (10-13, 2-8)
When: 7 p.m. Full Court Press: Wake has been awful on the road and BC has played pretty well at home, even though the Eagles have lost seven of eight games. If they recover from nearly beating Duke on Sunday evening they should beat the Demon Deacons, who have lost three of their last four road games by at least 22 points. Pick: Boston College, 73-67.
North Carolina (16-7, 6-4) at Duke (21-2, 8-2)
When: 9 p.m. Full Court Press: The Tar Heels have not played well on the road against quality teams and that is highly unlikely to change in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke will be ready to stomp on the Heels, who must get a steady performance from freshman point guard Marcus Paige and big-time games from forward James Michael McAdoo and junior wing Reggie Bullock. Carolina must hot a bunch of 3s because Duke will. The Blue Devils have a chance to dominate inside with Mason Plumlee and got nuts on the wing with Seth Curry. Soul trouble could hurt Duke, as UNC regularly used a lot of bodies. Pick: Duke, 87-71.
Clemson (12-11, 4-7) at Georgia Tech (13-9, 3-7)
When: 7 p.m. Full Court Press: Clemson’s two wins-two losses finally came to an end with a 3-pointer by N.C. State on Sunday at Littlejohn, and now the Tigers must go on the road, which hasn’t been kind. A fourth straight loss is likely because the Yellow Jackets, who start three freshmen, are playing better and overall are better. Pick: Georgia Tech, 59-54.