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Numbers say Miami Hurricanes men deserve more respect

If computers voted in The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll, the University of Miami surely would be ranked by now.

According to three of the most popular computerized Ratings Percentage Indexes, the Hurricanes (12-3, 3-0 ACC) are ranked No. 5 in the nation, and their strength of schedule is No. 1 or No. 2.

But it is members of the media who vote in the AP poll and coaches who vote in the USA Today poll and, apparently, they are not quite impressed enough because they left the Canes off the Top 25 poll this week despite road wins over Georgia Tech and North Carolina, a home win over Maryland, and earlier wins over Michigan State, Detroit and UMass.

UM received nine votes in the AP poll, putting it in 33rd place. The final three teams in the rankings — Illinois (14-4), UCLA (14-3) and Marquette (12-3) — have RPI ratings of 14, 31 and 22, respectively. UCLA’s strength of schedule is No. 65, and Marquette is No. 30.

But the Hurricanes are a veteran team with veteran coach Jim Larranaga, and they know better than to obsess over numbers or pay attention to pollsters. They head into Wednesday night’s game at Boston College focusing on only one thing — beating the Eagles.

“It’s not a situation where we’re trying to impress voters every night,” said UM senior center Julian Gamble, who has played relentless defense and provided inside scoring in the absence of injured 6-10 center Reggie Johnson. “Our RPI and strength of schedule are high, but the only number that really matters to us is wins. As long as the wins keep coming, they won’t be able to deny us in the rankings much longer.”

The Hurricanes are coming off a physical game against Maryland, which they won 54-47. Kenny Kadji led UM with 14 points. Gamble and Trey McKinney Jones came up big down the stretch, and UM is off to its best league start since the Canes went 5-0 in the Big East in 1997-98.

Boston College is 9-7 and has lost two of its three conference games, but those losses were by a combined eight points. It lost 75-72 to Wake Forest and 78-73 to No. 20 N.C. State.

“They’ve won six of eight, and their ACC losses were really close and could have gone either way, so we know this will be a tough game,” Gamble said. “Their two freshmen are playing really well, and they spread people out and make it hard to guard them.”

Eagles freshman Olivier Hanlan, a native of Quebec, averaged 17.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, four assists and 3.5 steals in the past two ACC games. He leads ACC freshmen in scoring with 13.4 points per game. Sophomore Lonnie Jackson scored a career-high 23 points against Wake Forest.

Boston College coach Steve Donahue lauded UM’s size and defense. Even with Johnson out, the Hurricanes have 6-11 Kadji, who can play inside and on the perimeter, 6-10 and 250-pound Gamble, who is a handful around the rim, and big backups in 6-10 Raphael Akpejiori and 7-foot freshman Tonye Jekiri.

“The thing about Miami is they have great size and they are so physical on the defensive end,” Donahue.

After the Boston College trip, UM will have a week to prepare for the Jan. 23 home game against No.3 Duke, which is expected to be a sellout.

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