University of Miami

UM men’s basketball team debuts at No. 15 in AP poll

Men’s basketball coach Jim Larranaga has led the University of Miami to a No. 15 ranking in the latest AP men’s basketball poll.
Men’s basketball coach Jim Larranaga has led the University of Miami to a No. 15 ranking in the latest AP men’s basketball poll. AP

The rest of America now knows what University of Miami men’s basketball coach Jim Larrañaga suspected: He has a pretty darn good team.

The Hurricanes burst into the Associated Press Top 25 at No. 15 on Monday after back-to-back double-digit victories over preseason Top 25 teams at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament.

Miami, which had been unranked, won the tournament title and improved to 5-0 after beating No. 22 Butler 85-75 in Sunday’s championship game. The Canes had crushed Mississippi St. 105-79 in the opener and then cruised past No. 16 Utah 90-66 on Friday. The games were on ESPN2, so UM raised its national profile and caught the attention of pollsters.

CBSSports ranked the Hurricanes No. 9 in Monday’s poll. The USA Today Coaches Poll has Miami at No. 19.

Kentucky took the No. 1 spot from North Carolina after the Tar Heels lost to Northern Iowa. Maryland is ranked No. 2, followed by Michigan State, Iowa State, Kansas, Duke, Oklahoma, Villanova, North Carolina and Gonzaga.

ESPN college hoops guru Andy Katz said during the UM-Butler broadcast: “If they hold on here, they’re not just going to be in the Top 25, they could be in the top 10. Right now, it’s how you look, and they look great.”

Katz called UM one of the biggest surprises thus far this season.

Miami went on a 20-4 run in the first half against Butler and survived a second-half rally from the Bulldogs. UM senior point guard Angel Rodriguez was named Tournament MVP, the first native Puerto Rican to win the award. He averaged 13.7 points over the three games and led UM with 19 in the final. Senior guard Sheldon McClellan also made the all-tournament team after averaging 17.7 points and 60 percent shooting from the field.

Senior center Tonye Jekiri was also an honoree with double-doubles in all games. He averaged 13.3 points and 11.3 rebounds. He was also named Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Week on Monday.

ESPN commentator LaPhonso Ellis, who was working the game, said: “I think they’re a top 10 team. I’ve seen almost all the top 10 teams in action, and Miami is deeper and more balanced and has so many scoring threats. How many teams can go to their bench and not have any drop-off?”

Six Hurricanes are scoring in double figures through five games — McClellan (17.4), Rodriguez (12.8), Ja’Quan Newton (11.8), Davon Reed (10.8), Jekiri (10.2) and Ivan Cruz Uceda (10.0). Larrañaga said before the season that his goal was 25 points from his bench. So far they are exceeding his wishes, combining for 34 points per game.

“I’m very pleased with how we’re playing offense right now,” Larrañaga said. “We’re playing fast, faster than how we’re practicing. I like when we get out in the open court, because we have so many weapons. We just did some terrific things. We played very hard from start to finish.”

Rodriguez added: “To come back home with such a great team and such a great group of guys and coaches, and to win the tournament, it’s been unbelievable. I’m going to go back [to Miami] very, very happy.’’

The Hurricanes’ next game is at 4 p.m. Friday at home against Northeastern.

AP Men’s Basketball Top 25 poll

Team

Record

Points

Previous

1. Kentucky (59)

4-0

1,619

2

2. Maryland (6)

3-0

1,518

3

3. Michigan State

3-0

1,448

13

4. Iowa State

2-0

1,297

7

5. Kansas

1-1

1,243

4

6. Duke

4-1

1,238

5

7. Oklahoma

2-0

1,210

8

8. Villanova

4-0

1,153

11

9. North Carolina

3-1

1,141

1

10. Gonzaga

2-0

1,138

10

11. Arizona

4-0

970

12

12. Virginia

4-1

872

6

13. Indiana

3-0

846

14

14. California

3-0

746

15

15. Miami (Fla.)

5-0

724

Unranked

16. Purdue

5-0

550

21

17. Notre Dame

3-0

480

18

18. Connecticut

3-0

432

19

19. Vanderbilt

3-0

431

17

20. Wichita State

2-1

423

9

21. Oregon

4-0

369

25

22. LSU

3-0

285

23

23. Xavier

3-0

143

Unranked

24. Cincinnati

4-0

110

Unranked

25. (tie) SMU

3-0

100

Unranked

25. (tie) Texas A&M

4-0

100

Unranked

Note: First-place votes in parentheses.

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