Somewhat lost in the excitement of football coach Mark Richt’s hiring and the bustle of the holiday season is a significant development in University of Miami athletics: Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are ranked in the Top 25.
The men are ranked 15th heading into Saturday’s 2 p.m. home game against College of Charleston. The women are 10-0 and ranked 23rd as they prepare to play No. 4 Baylor, which is 11-0, on Saturday night in Winter Park at the Florida Sunshine Classic.
UM is one of 10 schools in Division I with its men’s and women’s teams in The Associated Press Top 25. Both teams started the season unranked but have impressed voters with their non-conference performances.
“Everyone talks about football and its importance here, and I agree, but this shows our basketball teams are also relevant,’’ UM men’s coach Jim Larrañaga said. “Katie [Meier, UM women’s coach] had already built a foundation, and I’m very pleased we’ve been able to catch up on the men’s side.’’
Meier said her team, which has had a two-week layoff, is itching to play again and is eager to test itself against one of the nation’s premier teams. The Bears were 33-4 last season and reached the Sweet 16 for the seventh consecutive year. They won the national title in 2005 and 2012, and the 2012 team went 40-0.
“Playing Baylor is basically like playing an ACC game a little early,’’ Meier said. “We have a tremendous amount of respect for them. It should be a good one.’’
Meier said the “story of the game’’ will be how UM overcomes Baylor’s height. The Bears’ roster includes seven players who are 6-2 or taller, including 6-7 freshman Kalani Brown, 6-5 Kristina Higgins and 6-4 freshman Beatrice Mompremier of Miami High, who leads the team with 16 blocks. She is averaging 7.7 points and 5.7 rebounds.
UM’s tallest player is 6-3 freshman Emese Hof, and two other players are 6-2. The Canes have six players under six feet.
“I don’t think we’ve ever faced this much size in my entire career at Miami,” Meier said. “That’s going to be the curiosity of the game. Their size definitely alters your shots, and we have to focus on keeping them off the glass as much as we can. We’ve been scrimmaging a lot, but that was against normal-sized people.’’
The men’s team hasn’t played since Dec. 8 and must contain Charleston guard Canyon Barry, the youngest son of UM legend Rick Barry.
He has scored 20-plus points in five games this season, can shoot the three and is an 87 percent free-throw shooter. Yes, he shoots them underhanded, like his father did.
Larrañaga recruited Barry three years ago but felt he needed a redshirt year to develop and chose to use the scholarship on Melvin Johnson, who wound up not coming to UM.
Last Dec. 19, the Canes — coming off a 10-day layoff — were ranked 18th and got humiliated 72-44 at home by Eastern Kentucky. It was UM’s worst loss under Larrañaga.
The Canes say this time will be different.
“I was very, very concerned [with the layoff] because we were not very sharp last Dec. 19 against Eastern Kentucky, but I think we’re in a good place and ready,’’ Larrañaga said.
“We’re in a good rhythm and excited to play,” UM guard Sheldon McClellan said. “It feels like we haven’t played in forever.’’
No. 15 UM men vs. Charleston
When, where: 2 p.m. Saturday; BankUnited Center.
Records: UM 8-1; Charleston 7-2.
TV, radio: Sun Sports; WQAM (560), WVUM (90.5 FM).
Scouting report: The Hurricanes beat the Cougars 67-40 last December. … Former UM great Rick Barry is expected to be in attendance to watch his youngest son, Canyon, a 6-6 junior guard with Charleston. Canyon Barry led the team in scoring last season and has scored 20-plus points in five games this season.
No. 23 UM women vs. No. 4 Baylor
What: Florida Sunshine Classic.
When, where: 7 p.m. Saturday; Warden Arena, Winter Park.
Records: UM 10-0; Baylor 11-0.
TV, radio: WVUM (90.5 FM).
Scouting report: Entering Friday, the Hurricanes and Bears were two of 14 remaining undefeated Division I teams. … Baylor senior guard Niya Johnson leads the nation with 10 assists per game. … The Bears went 33-4 last season and reached the Sweet 16 for the seventh year in a row.