In a sense, the 2016-17 Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball season shows just how far the program has come.
Yes, the Canes finished 21-12, got to the ACC Tournament quarterfinals, and earned an NCAA Tournament berth in head coach Jim Larrañaga’s sixth season in Coral Gables. But the season as a whole felt just okay. It was the first time the Hurricanes reached the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons since the 97-98 and 98-99 seasons. But a 20-point loss to Michigan State in the first round of the tourney tilted the season from really good to simply nice.
That’s not to say there weren’t big-time highlights last season. Miami opened the season with four straight wins and went 10-2 in non-conference play, the two losses coming to Iowa State and Florida. The biggest non-conference win was arguably a 67-53 victory over Stanford in the opening round of the Advocare Invitational.
Unsurprisingly, the start of conference play was a different beast for Miami. The ACC sent nine teams to the NCAA tournament and the depth of the conference showed during the regular season. After beating North Carolina State in the conference-opener, Miami went on to lose four out of its next five games. But the Canes would rebound to win four out its next five after that. In that stretch included what could be argued was Miami’s best win of last season, a 77-62 beatdown of North Carolina.
But inconsistency defined the Hurricanes last season. After handling UNC, they lost to rival Florida State, beat North Carolina State and Virginia Tech, and then lost a close game to Louisville.
The end of the regular season saw Miami win four of its last six. The four wins all came consecutively, including wins over ranked Virginia and Duke teams. At this point, the Hurricanes were flirting with the bubble of the NCAA Tournament, but those wins just about cemented them in the dance.
Dropping the last two games of the regular season put the Canes back on the bubble a bit, but it was widely felt that at least one win in the ACC Tournament would definitely get them in the NCAA Tournament. They got that with a 62-57 win over Syracuse that was also on the bubble in the second round of the ACC Tournament.
The U was sent to the Midwest for the NCAA Tournament as a ninth-seed and had a opening-round matchup with eighth-seed Michigan State. The Hurricanes exploded out to a 17-5 lead against Sparty, but Michigan State regrouped in a major way and dominated the rest of the game en route to a 78-58 victory.
Graduating seniors Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy led the Hurricanes in scoring (14.9 points per game) and rebounding (7.3 rebounds per game) respectively.