For the second year in a row, the University of Miami men’s basketball team will wrap up its regular season on the road against Virginia Tech. But this year, circumstances are completely different.
Last year, the Hurricanes were seeking their 20th victory of the season, unsure if they had a résumé worthy of an NCAA Tournament bid. This year, they are ranked seventh, have a 24-5 record that includes several signature wins and are tied with North Carolina for first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The only thing up in the air for UM is its seeding in the ACC tournament, which begins Tuesday in Washington.
The Hurricanes will be the No. 1 seed if they win and No. 8 North Carolina loses at No. 17 Duke on Saturday. They will be the No. 2 seed with a win and a North Carolina victory.
They would also be the No. 2 seed if they lose and No. 4 Virginia loses at home to No. 11 Louisville. UM would drop to the No. 3 seed with a loss and a Virginia victory.
Coach Jim Larrañaga said his team is extremely motivated, even though the Canes are a lock for the NCAA Tournament.
“They know where we are in the standings and they know how close we are to finishing the regular season on a very high note,” he said.
Miami is playing its best basketball of the season, coming off an impressive stretch in which it won three consecutive games over Virginia, Louisville and Notre Dame.
The Canes led wire-to-wire in their 68-50 road victory over the Fighting Irish on Wednesday night. They held Notre Dame to a season-low 34 percent shooting and outrebounded the Irish 39-16.
Angel Rodriguez led UM with 19 points and Sheldon McClellan added 17. It was Miami’s eighth win in its past nine games and the 17th in a row in which McClellan reached double figures.
After the game, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said of the Hurricanes: “They may win the national championship. They’re really good. They’re really old. Their men were playing against our boys most of the night. Every time we showed a little bit of oomph, the men said: ‘Uh-uh, not today.’ ”
The Hurricanes face a Hokies team that is feeling confident after four consecutive victories. But UM did beat Virginia Tech 65-49 a few weeks ago and held Zach LeDay and Seth Allen to 3-of-15 shooting and 11 points.
Miami will be without Ja’Quan Newton, who is sitting out the third game of his three-game suspension for a violation of team rules.
“I was shocked by how easily [UM] won [against Notre Dame], and now they’ve got to close it up with Virginia Tech,” ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said by phone.
No. 7 UM men at Virginia Tech
When: Saturday, 4 p.m.
Where: Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va.
Records: UM (24-5, 13-4 ACC), VaTech (17-13, 9-8 ACC)
TV/Radio: WQAM-560 AM
Scouting report: For the first time in five years, the Hokies have a winning season. Their nine ACC wins is more than double what they managed the past two seasons combined, when they finished 2-16 in league play. Virginia Tech has won four games in a row, but UM beat the Hokies 65-49 when they played Feb. 17 in Coral Gables.