What does a prominent analyst think of the Hurricanes’ NCAA Tournament potential as conference tournament week kicks off?
“I think they can play in the second weekend,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said on a conference call Monday. “A lot depends on their draw.
“But they’re very capable. Do I favor them to be a Final Four team? I do not. But do I think they play in the second weekend? I do. I think with a good draw, they certainly can.”
As of Monday, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had Miami as an NCAA 8-seed, facing 9-seed Michigan in Buffalo. CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm had the Hurricanes as a 7-seed, facing 10-seed Providence in Sacramento.
First comes the ACC Tournament, which Miami (20-10, 10-8 ACC) enters as the ninth seed. The Hurricanes will face eight-seeded Syracuse (18-13, 10-8) at noon Wednesday (ESPN) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Should they advance, they will face a team they beat at home on Jan. 28. Top-seeded North Carolina, which was ranked No. 9 nationally when UM scored a 77-62 victory thanks to Bruce Brown’s 30 points, awaits the winner of Miami-Syracuse at noon Thursday.
A win there would no doubt help UM’s resume, which includes one week spent in the top 25 (last week, during which UM went 0-2), a 3-6 record against the RPI top 25, a poor non-conference strength of schedule (267th, according to ESPN) and no particularly bad losses. The Hurricanes are 38th in NCAA RPI and 31st in KenPom.
“They’re kind of young in spots,” Bilas said. “They’ve got some, obviously, returning players — Davon Reed’s a senior and an outstanding player, but they’re not as experienced as they’ve been. It’s hard to tell them apart, if you look at their resume, it’s hard to tell them apart from Virginia. They’re not as good defensively as Virginia, but they’re good.
“I like their team. Bruce Brown’s gotten a lot better and he’s a big-time scorer. They defend pretty well. They run a lot of ball screens. They’ve got good big guys, but they don’t score from the post all that well.”
On Wednesday, UM meets the same Orange it lost to 70-55 on the road Jan. 4. In that game Syracuse, which opened the year 8-6, shot 57 percent and had 16 assists on 25 made baskets. Miami shot 39 percent against Cuse’ 2-3 zone, with freshman D.J. Vasiljevic scoring 18 points by going 6-of-12 from 3-point range. UM’s top scorers, Reed and Ja’Quan Newton, were 5-of-23 from the floor.
The tournament will be a homecoming for senior forward Kamari Murphy, who played at Lincoln High on the south end of Brooklyn. Coach Jim Larranaga grew up in The Bronx and played high school ball in Queens, at Archbishop Molloy. Assistant coach Chris Caputo, an Elmhurst, Queens native, also played at Molloy. Freshman center Rodney Miller is also from Queens (Laurelton), but played at powerhouse Oak Hill (Va.) Academy.
2017 ACC TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
Noon – No. 12 Clemson vs. No. 13 North Carolina State (ESPN2)
2 p.m. – No. 10 Wake Forest vs. No. 15 Boston College (ESPN2)
7 p.m. – No. 11 Georgia Tech vs. No. 14 Pittsburgh (ESPNU)
Noon – No. 8 Syracuse vs. No. 9 Miami (ESPN)
2 p.m. – No. 5 Duke vs. Tuesday noon winner (ESPN)
7 p.m. – No. 7 Virginia Tech vs. Tuesday 2 p.m. winner (ESPN2)
9 p.m. – No. 6 Virginia vs. Tuesday 7 p.m. winner (ESPN2)
Noon – No. 1 North Carolina vs. Wednesday noon winner (ESPN)
2 p.m. – No. 4 Louisville vs. Wednesday 2 p.m. winner (ESPN)
7 p.m. – No. 2 Florida State vs. Wednesday 7 p.m. winner (ESPN)
9 p.m. – No. 3 Notre Dame vs. Wednesday 9 p.m. winner (ESPN)
7 p.m. – Thursday afternoon winners (ESPN or ESPN2)
9 p.m. – Thursday evening winners (ESPN or ESPN2)
9 p.m. – Friday evening winners (ESPN)