It’s becoming common, sure. But does it ever get old?
Miami scored another upset win over Duke on Saturday, by a 55-50 score. Students stormed the court and jumped around afterward. Bruce Brown and Jim Larranaga were interviewed on CBS. Mike Krzyzewski was talking about better times ahead.
Meanwhile, for Hurricanes basketball, these are the good old days.
This team, picked to finish ninth in the ACC, just locked up both an NCAA Tournament berth and a 20-win season with last week’s double-play. Monday’s win at No. 18 Virginia and Saturday’s against No. 10 Duke means the Canes should have a poll position for the first time this season heading into this week’s games at Virginia Tech and No. 19 Florida State.
Rebuilding year? Larranaga doesn’t do rebuilding years. He just figures it out.
“Back-to-back wins over ranked teams,” senior guard Davon Reed said. “I feel like we’re going up from here.”
This win gives Miami (20-8, 10-6 ACC) another high-RPI knockout, but if we’re talking résumés, let’s appreciate Larranaga’s, which stands alone in UM hoops history.
He is 138-65 and owns the best winning percentage (.680) of any Canes coach on the job more than two years. Next month marks his third NCAA Tournament appearance, tying Leonard Hamilton for most in team history. He has two of Miami’s three Sweet 16 runs.
For ACC teams, there are no measuring sticks like Duke and North Carolina. Larranaga is 10-6 combined against them and beat both this year. Between 1985-86, when the program rose from a 14-year hiatus, and Larranaga’s arrival in 2011-12, it had lost 15 of 18 games.
It helps when he attracts players like Brown, who scored 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting with one of his typically bloated stat lines: four boards, four assists, two steals and two blocks in 36 minutes. A killer finisher at 6-foot-5, he hit Duke with a spin move, a lightning-quick cut to the basket and a couple of vicious dunks. He scored the game’s first seven points, capped by a stone-cold 3 early in the game, with a hand in his face.
He was the best player on the floor, no small feat against a team playing seven McDonald’s All-Americans and boasting boatloads of NBA potential. Yet another clutch performance for the Boston native, who shot down UVa last week, put up 30 against UNC, 17 against Florida State and had a triple-double in early December.
Two bedrock seniors for Miami, the ever-dependable Reed and energetic forward Kamari Murphy, played their final home game. Don’t be surprised if Brown did, too.
But even if he departs for the pros — becoming UM’s first one-and-done player — Larranaga welcomes a recruiting class led by 6-4 guard Lonnie Walker, a top-20 recruit from Pennsylvania.
Maybe he, like Brown, will be worth the price of admission every night. Miami needs that, because despite its remarkable gains, games at the Watsco Center still rarely feel like big-time college basketball unless a Tobacco Road blueblood, or Florida State, comes to town.
Saturday was reminiscent of the Heat’s Big Three days, when you could see LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — along with visiting NBA stars like Kobe Bryant — in the mix at these games. On Saturday, Bosh was there, along with Ray Allen, baseball great Alex Rodriguez, former Presidential candidate Jeb Bush and 15 pro scouts.
Larranaga loves when the heavyweights come out, and that Miami has sold out season tickets for the last two years running — another program first — but his main focus is getting the student section, which numbers about 1,000 on good nights, to provide a regular home-court advantage.
“We are not the perennial powerhouse like Duke or Carolina. We don’t have the fan base yet. But the operative word is ‘yet,’ ” he said. “The students have shown up for all the big games. Now we need them to show up for all the games. If we truly want to compete for a national championship, our students need to understand that this is their team, their program. They can lift us up on their shoulders and take us to the promised land.”
That’s really all Miami lacks. Larranaga has made everything else possible.