Though the University of Miami missed an opportunity to enhance its resume for the NCAA basketball tournament when guard Angel Rodriguez’ 3-point jumper came up short in the closing seconds of Saturday’s 55-53 loss at Louisville, the Hurricanes still are not 100 percent out of the race for an at-large berth in the 68-team field.
“We have two home games and two road games,” coach Jim Larranaga said at his weekly Monday afternoon media briefing, “and I feel good that we have been very, very close without playing our best.
“And I still think our best basketball is ahead of us. If we can play at our best, I think we can compete and win any game we’re in. The only thing is, the opponent also is very, very good. So there are no guarantees.”
The Hurricanes fell to 17-10 overall and 7-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference with the loss to the Cardinals in a game in which they led by 10 points at halftime.
Their next two games are at home, Wednesday night against Florida State (9 p.m. ET tipoff, RSN) and Saturday afternoon against North Carolina (2 p.m. ET, CBS). They are on the road for their last two — at Pittsburgh on March 4 and at Virginia Tech on March 7.
With the loss at Louisville, the Hurricanes probably will need at least a 3-1 finish to the regular season, preferably one that would include a victory over the 15th-ranked Tar Heels. Failing that, beating Pittsburgh, another NCAA “bubble team” in the ACC, would be a positive for their credentials.
Getting to 10-8 in the ACC also could give them a fairly favorable seed in the ACC tourney where a couple of wins could ensure an at-large bid, though as Larranaga is fond of pointing out, “in the ACC, every team you play is a good team.”
But a 9-9 finish in the regular season likely would require a run deep into the ACC affair to get into the national tourney, and even that might not be enough.
Eventually, the Selection Committee, after weighing favorably Miami’s victories over Duke, Illinois, Syracuse, and North Carolina State, is going to get around to checking out those ugly, double-digit losses to Eastern Kentucky (28 points), Georgia Tech (30), and Green Bay (13), all at home.
If it weren’t for those three drubbings, Miami would have a strong case going down the stretch.
“If you look at some of our ACC games, with one more point against Virginia in the overtime, we have a win against a top two team in the country,” Larranaga said. “With one more 3-pointer against Wake Forest, we have another great road win. With a 3-pointer against Louisville, which we had — we were shooting a 3 for the win, we’d have another great road win against a top 15 team in the country.
“We’ve played well enough to win the games, but we’ve won some of those and have lost some. We won a double-overtime game against Boston College, so were 1-and-1 in double-overtime games.”
Left out of Larranaga’s summary was a one-point loss at Florida State in the teams’ first meeting on Feb. 1 at Tallahassee when a shot at the buzzer went awry.
“I think our team right now should feel good about themselves with only two weeks left in the regular season we are very much in the hunt and we have to play our best,” Larranaga said. “That’s it. And every player should want to play his best”