Sure, a few wins this week in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament would boost the University of Miami basketball team’s chances of reaching the NCAA Tournament.
But UM coach Jim Larrañaga and point guard Angel Rodriguez both insist the Hurricanes (20-11, 10-8 ACC) have already done enough to warrant an at-large bid.
“I don’t get a vote, but I believe we’re a quality team deserving of a bid,” Larrañaga said. “My criteria might be different than theirs. We have some tough losses, but it’s balanced by some impressive wins.”
Added Rodriguez, who is questionable with an injured wrist for Wednesday’s 9 p.m. ACC tournament opener against Virginia Tech, which beat Wake Forest on Tuesday: “If it was up to me, and I’m not being biased or anything, we’re in. Yes, I understand we’ve had a couple bad losses, but at the same time, we’ve had tremendous wins on the road and not to mention the fact that at the end of the day, with everything bad that happened, we finished sixth in the ACC. To me, that’s really good.”
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As of Tuesday, the nation’s best-known bracketologists — Joe Lunardi of ESPN and Jerry Palm of CBS SportsLine — have the Hurricanes listed among the “First Four Out.’’ They are on the outside edge of the bubble with BYU, Tulsa and Temple. The last four in on most mock brackets are Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois (which Miami beat early in the season) and Texas A&M.
The Canes finished sixth in the regular-season ACC standings and reached 20 wins for the third time in four years, but their résumé is hurt by a Ratings Percentage Index of 63 and Strength of Schedule of 68. North Carolina State, which finished 19-12 in the ACC and a spot behind UM, has an RPI of 45 and the nation’s sixth-ranked Strength of Schedule with victories over Duke, North Carolina and Louisville.
UM is 1-6 against current Top 25 teams, 1-0 against teams ranked 26 to 50 and 5-1 against teams ranked 51 to 100.
The Hurricanes took No. 2 Virginia to double overtime, but they had two bad home losses, a 28-point loss to Eastern Kentucky and a 20-point loss to Georgia Tech. They also lost at Florida State. All are rated below 100 in the RPI, and Eastern Kentucky is No. 157
Nevertheless, Larrañaga has spent the past week playing lawyer, building a numerical case for the Canes to be included in the NCAA Tournament.
He is hanging his argument on the fact that the Canes have a 10-5 record away from home, including victories at Duke (the Blue Devils’ only home loss this season), Syracuse (in front of a record 31,000 fans), Florida (when the Gators were No. 8), Boston College, Pitt, Virginia Tech and at the Charleston Classic.
“I look at things a little differently than most people,” Larrañaga said. “The RPI is one way of looking at it.”
He then took out his smartphone, put on his reading glasses, and started rattling off the road records of 11 Power 8 Conference teams that are considered locks or bubble teams. Among them, Ohio State (4-7 road, neutral) and UCLA (RPI 51, 35 SOS), with a 16-2 home record but a 3-10 record away from home.
“Of those teams, which one would you say should really be a lock to get in … 10-5? That’s Miami,’’ he said. “This tournament is not played on your home court, so if your record is more glorified because you’ve played 15 or 16 home games and went 12-2 at home, that doesn’t mean you’re qualified for the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Tournament is played at neutral sites. How have you played away from home? On the road? And on neutral sites?’’
He pointed out that if Miami doesn’t get in, it would likely be the only one of the 11 power teams with 10 road wins to be snubbed.
Of course, a couple of victories in Greensboro could clinch the ticket for UM.
“We beat a lot of quality teams, but it doesn’t mean we’re happy with that,” Rodriguez said. “We’re going to go to the ACC tournament and try to take that trophy back home.’’
Wednesday: UM men vs. Virginia Tech
When/where: 9 p.m.; Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum.
TV/radio: ESPN2; WQAM 560 AM.
Records: UM 20-11, 10-8 ACC; Virginia Tech 11-21, 2-16.
Noteworthy: UM is the sixth seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. … Angel Rodriguez (wrist) is questionable, Tonye Jekiri (10.9 rebounds per game) has been battling the flu and played only 16 minutes in Saturday’s 82-61 win at Virginia Tech. … The winner of Wednesday’s game plays No. 3 seed Notre Dame in the 9 p.m. quarterfinal Thursday.