University of Miami basketball coach Jim Larrañaga lobbied for his team’s inclusion in the NCAA Tournament up until the eleventh hour. He was on ESPN Sunday morning, making a last-ditch case for the Canes, arguing that his team should be among the 68 invitees based on its 11-6 record away from home.
“We had the best road win in the country of any of the bubble teams,’’ he said. “We beat Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium. A lot of teams we are competing with, their record at home is good, but not nearly as good as ours on the road or neutral courts.’’
His plea fell on deaf ears.
The Hurricanes (21-12, 11-8 Atlantic Coast Conference, 65 RPI, 77 Strength of Schedule) were not invited to the NCAA Tournament, and had to settle for the National Invitation Tournament.
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They are a No. 2 seed in the NIT and host North Carolina Central (25-7) on 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Bank United Center. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
NC Central had a perfect 16-0 record in the MEAC, and won its second-straight regular season title.
“Our players were very hopeful that we would get into the NCAA Tournament, and I’m sure the players are disappointed that we did not, but I made it clear to them that if we were good enough and we won enough games we would have been in there,” said Larrañaga.
“We needed to win one or two more games to get into the field of 68. Now we are in the NIT and we play on Tuesday. We have very little time to prepare and very, very little time to feel sorry for ourselves. We have got to get ourselves emotionally ready to play a great game on Tuesday night.’’
UM was not even among the First Four Out of the NCAA bracket. That distinction went to Colorado State (27-6, RPI 28), Temple (23-10, RPI 32), Old Dominion (24-7, 46 RPI) and Richmond (19-13, 57 RPI).
The final four at-large teams included in the field were Ole Miss (20-12, 55 RPI), BYU (25-9, 36 RPI), Boise State (25-8, 41 RPI) and Dayton (25-7, 29 RPI).
Other bubble teams that got in were UCLA (RPI 48), Texas (RPI 42), and Indiana (RPI 37). There was much national belly-aching about UCLA getting in, as they were 2-8 against the top 50 and 4-10 away from home.
ESPN commentator Jay Bilas said: “I think Miami might be looking at UCLA in the field and saying, ‘what, excuse me?’”
Miami can boast that it is the only team that beat Duke at Cameron, and did it by 18 points. The Canes also had nice road victories at Syracuse in front of a crowd of 31,000 at the Carrier Dome, and at Florida when the Gators were ranked No.8.
They finished sixth in the ACC, with five high-seeded NCAA Tournament teams ahead of them – Duke, Virginia, Notre Dame, North Carolina and Louisville. They took Virginia to double-overtime, for what that’s worth.
But, N.C. State, which finished a spot behind UM in the conference standings, was chosen ahead of the Canes because they beat Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, and Boise State (an NCAA Tournament team). Their Strength of Schedule was No. 5 in the nation.
The Hurricanes’ resume was hurt by a 28-point home loss to Eastern Kentucky, a team with an RPI of 157. They also lost to Florida State (111), Wake Forest (150), and Georgia Tech (151). They had only two wins over NCAA Tournament teams — Duke and N.C. State.
Their non-conference strength of schedule was ranked below 200, which also didn’t help their cause.
“We were actually better on the road than we were at home,” added Larrañaga. “I told our guys we need to start dominating at home like a lot of the best teams in the country do.”