University of Miami

UM basketball team finds out Sunday if NCAA tourney bubble has burst

UM coach Jim Larrañaga, shown with guard Ja’Quan Newton, said of the NCAA Tournament selection committee: “If we get an at-large bid, I think we’ll prove them right.”
UM coach Jim Larrañaga, shown with guard Ja’Quan Newton, said of the NCAA Tournament selection committee: “If we get an at-large bid, I think we’ll prove them right.” AP

Selection Sunday is upon us, which means there are no more chances for the University of Miami men’s basketball team to improve its résumé. The Hurricanes can keep lobbying and stating their case in the media, but their résumé is what it is, for better or worse.

All they can do now is wait and see on which side of the bubble they land. They will gather for a team dinner and watch the Selection Show (6 p.m., CBS) together.

The Canes (21-12) have been on the tournament bubble for weeks, and ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has UM listed among the “First Four Out,” along with UCLA, Tulsa and Old Dominion. His “Last Four In” are LSU, Boise State, Mississippi and Indiana.

Miami had a golden opportunity Thursday night to get a late signature win and switch to the right side of the bubble in the ACC quarterfinals against No.11 Notre Dame. The Canes rallied from 20 points down and briefly took the lead, but wound up losing 70-63.

Will that hurt their chances? No. It was a hard-fought loss to a quality team that knocked off Duke the next night. But it won’t help either.

Their résumé after the ACC tournament is about the same as it was before: Sixth place in the ACC standings at 10-8 behind five tournament locks, a huge road win against Duke (the Blue Devils’ only home loss), impressive road wins against Syracuse and Florida, a double-overtime loss to Virginia, an 11-6 record in road and neutral-site games, but four bad losses (including 72-44 at home to Eastern Kentucky), a mediocre RPI of 65 and a strength of schedule ranking of 77.

Asked if he thinks UM will get an at-large bid to the 68-team tournament, coach Jim Larrañaga said: “I think there are so many quality teams. The NCAA selection committee does a lot of research. If they feel we are qualified and they invite us, if we get an at-large bid, I think we’ll prove them right. If they choose other teams over us, hopefully we’ll get an invite to the NIT and have a chance to win that tournament.”

A comparison of the bubble teams indicates that there are many similar to UM, and some with a slight edge.

North Carolina State (20-13) finished a spot behind UM in the ACC, in seventh place, but the Wolfpack’s RPI is 40, and they have a top-15 strength of schedule in most every index. Ole Miss (20-12) had an RPI of 53 and a 41st-ranked strength of schedule.

Indiana (20-13) is 21st in strength of schedule with an RPI of 57, though the Hoosiers have a 5-9 record on the road and neutral sites. Boise State is 25-8 with an RPI of 42, but its strength of schedule is 127 and a loss to Wyoming in the conference tournament doesn’t help.

Old Dominion is 24-7 with a 46 RPI. Tulsa, under former UM coach Frank Haith, is 22-10 with a 14-4 conference record and an RPI of 41, but its strength of schedule is 105. Then there’s UCLA (20-13), with an RPI of 49 and strength of schedule of 28, and LSU (22-10, RPI 54, SOS 96).

And those aren’t the only teams with legitimate cases for inclusion.

Temple is 23-10 overall, 13-5 in conference, with an RPI of 32 and a SOS of 71. Texas is 20-13 with an 8-10 conference record, a 43 RPI and an impressive 14th-ranked strength of schedule. Colorado State has the most wins of the bubble teams at 27-6 and its RPI is 28, but its schedule is ranked 116 and its star center J.J. Avila just got injured. BYU also has a case at 25-9 with a 36 RPI and 74 SOS.

UM point guard Angel Rodriguez remains hopeful

“It’s not over,” he said after the Notre Dame loss. “We’re going to play somewhere; hopefully, in the NCAA. I compare the numbers, and I think we’ve done enough to be in the tournament compared to a couple of teams, but we can’t control that stuff. We just have to wait and see. It’s not up to us. Maybe they don’t respect what we’ve done. If they do, we’re going to show we deserve to be there.”

Poetry in motion

Greg Cote’s Random Evidence blog is gearing up for its annual March Madness Haiku Challenge, so get your 17-syllable, NCAA Tournament-related poems ready. Visit the Random Evidence blog Sunday at MiamiHerald.com for details and rules. The contest begins Monday.

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