Known to be one of the more illustrious football schools in the country, the Miami Hurricanes have never been a real force in college basketball. After a mediocre first season under new head coach Jim Larranaga, the team is off to their best start in school history and undefeated in ACC Conference play. The Hurricanes currently sit eighth in the AP Top 25, and with a win this weekend over North Carolina, coupled with losses to three of the top five teams in the AP poll, could move into the top five for the first time ever with a win.
Since rejoining Division One in 1985, the Canes basketball program has only made the NCAA Tournament five times. Of their five trips to the big dance, the Canes have made it past the first weekend of the tournament once, a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2000. The school has one regular season conference title over the same time period. A title with which they share with Syracuse from the 1999-2000 season.
After head coach Frank Haith left the school for Missouri following the 2010-11 season, the school turned to the aforementioned Larranaga to take the rains. After 14 successful seasons at George Mason, Larranaga looked to turn the Hurricanes program around, like he did with the Patriots. In his 14 years with the school he had only one losing season, his inaugural year at the school. He was also able to defy the odds by taking his bracket busting Patriots to the final four in 2006.
In his first year with the Canes, Larranaga lead his team to a 20-13 record, including 9-7 in conference play, good enough for sixth place in the conference. While the school missed the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year, they improved from their ninth place conference finish in 2010-11. The team finished in a tie for 95th in the country for scoring offense, putting up 71.2 points per game. The Cans gave up only 66.1 points per game last year, which ranked them tied for 133rd in the country.
In this second season with the school, the team has played some of their best basketball ever. Currently sitting at 18-3, including a 9-0 conference record, the Canes are poised to challenge to win their first ACC basketball title ever. The team currently has the 118th ranked offense in the country, scoring 69.6 points per game, while giving up just 58.9, good enough for 30th in the country.
After an early loss to Florida Gulf Coast, the Canes turned things around and won their next seven before back-to-back losses to Arizona and Indiana State. Since their loss to the Sycamores, the Canes have not lost a game. Of the ten wins in a row, five have come by double digits, including a 27 point drubbing of the Duke Blue Devils in Miami.
According to ESPN.com’s RPI rankings the Canes have the number two RPI in the country, just behind the Blue Devils. To go along with their second ranked RPI, the team has the highest strength of schedule and non-conference strength of schedule. Miami currently sports a 5-2 record against teams in the top 50 in RPI, and an 11-2 record against teams in the top 100.
Miami’s balanced offensive attack - five players average 9.6 points or more- is one thing that helps them own the 29th best offensive efficiency in the country. While they play a relatively slow offensive game, taking only 55 shots per game, they make 25 per game, a 45 percent make rate.
The Canes are led by senior guard Durand Scott, who averages 13.8 points per game. Fellow back court mate Shane Larkin, a sophomore, has seen his numbers increase across the board. Larkin is shooting 11 points higher from the field and nine points higher from three this season, while averaging 5.4 more points and 1.6 more assists per game.
After transferring to the school after two years at the University of Florida, big man Kenny Kadji brings the post presence to compliment the two aforementioned guards outside play. Kadji is currently putting up career highs of 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, while converting on 48.8 percent of his shots from the field. Kadji has scored double digit points in all but two games this season, to go along with four double-doubles.
Half way through their conference play, the Canes are poised to make a run at their first ACC Title. Of their remaining nine regular season conference games, four come on the road, including a trip to arch rival Florida State and a rematch against Duke at the historic Cameron Indoor. Four of their games also come against teams in the RPI top 100, including their weekend tilt with the Tar Heels in Miami.