One year after Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams graduated to the WNBA, the University of Miami women’s basketball team has met the expectations of Atlantic Coast Conference media and coaches, who predicted they would finish fifth and sixth, respectively, in the league.
That’s right about where the Canes (17-8, 8-6 ACC) are after they defeated visiting Boston College 79-54 on Sunday afternoon.
But with just four regular-season games remaining, the question posed to Canes coach Katie Meier on Sunday was simple: Is this an NCAA Tournament team?
“If you have a winning record in the ACC, there’s no question you are an NCAA [Tournament] team,” Meier said. “It’s great to be in a conference where you don’t have to worry about what’s happening in Wyoming or Idaho or whatever.”
The Canes did not have to worry about much of anything Sunday, when they held BC (10-14, 4-9) to 36.2 percent shooting.
Despite playing their first game in a week, the Canes were fairly sharp, getting double-figure scoring from all five starters.
The Canes were also plus-14 on rebounds and plus-seven on turnovers, resulting in extra possessions for their shooters.
The Canes improved to 54-3 in their past 57 home games, with all three losses coming against top-20 teams.
Forward Morgan Stroman, the reigning ACC Player of the Week, and center Pepper Wilson led the Canes with 17 points each.
That doesn’t mean, though, that Johnson, selected fifth in the 2012 WNBA Draft, and Williams, who made that league’s All-Rookie team last season, have been forgotten.
That duo led the Canes to two consecutive NCAA Tournaments and a national ranking as high as fifth last season.
Early this season, especially when the Canes beat Penn State (No. 5 in RPI), it appeared Miami would continue to roll.
But the Canes lost six games against top-20 teams: Tennessee, North Carolina, Duke, Maryland and Florida State (twice). Their other two losses were on the road to a pair of teams in the 50s in RPI — Rutgers (52) and Virginia (57).
Miami’s RPI rating, a key factor in determining how the NCAA selects teams for the tournament, is No. 49.
Last year, Michigan State made the tournament as at-large team with an RPI of 63. Two years ago, though, Purdue (48) was the lowest-ranked at-large team in the field.
That would put the Canes on the proverbial bubble, although ESPN projects them as a No. 11 seed.
Miami’s remaining regular-season games include three ACC road matchups against teams below the Canes in the standings.
The other game is against No. 5 Duke, which visits Coral Gables on Feb. 28. That will be followed by the ACC tournament, March 7-10 in Greensboro, N.C.
The Duke game is scheduled to be the last home game in the Canes careers of Stroman, Wilson, Stefanie Yderstrom, Shanel Williams and Jessica Capers. It also represents a great chance to impress the NCAA selection committee.
“We have our team, but the fans make a difference as well,” said Wilson, urging Canes supporters to show up for the Duke game. “It gives us that extra boost of energy that all teams need.”