Prior to the season, if you told Miami fans that the Hurricanes would finish third in the ACC during the regular season, most fans would say the team met expectations as they were projected fourth in the preseason standings.
If you told Miami fans two weeks ago that the Hurricanes would finish third in the ACC during the regular season, they would have laughed in your face as they had lost three straight.
Well, after winning four straight games to end the regular season, and a little help from teams in front of them losing, the Canes enter the ACC tournament in Brooklyn, NY as the third seed, and having the luxury of a double-bye.
The journey to the three-seed has been bumpy, and the Canes, by no means, are a finished product as Bruce Brown remains out with a foot injury, but nonetheless, have yet again outdone themselves in the ACC.
The tournament tips Tuesday, but thanks to the double bye, the Canes won’t play until Thursday night in the late game session around 9:30 PM.
In the quarterfinals, the Canes will face the winner of North Carolina vs Syracuse/Wake Forest. Syracuse (11th seed) and Wake Forest (14th seed) play on Tuesday night, the winner advancing to face the sixth-seeded Tar Heels on Wednesday night.
Most would assume the Canes will have a rematch with the Tar Heels (where this happened), but Syracuse, assuming they beat Wake Forest, is the team to watch that could disrupt that. The Orange, like last year entering the tournament, are currently on the outside looking in of the NCAA tournament and a win over North Carolina could vault them in the field of 68. With a home crowd and their season on the line, the Orange could upset the Tar Heels, who only beat them by four over two weeks ago.
For resume sake, Miami will want to play North Carolina again, where a win will continue to boost their seeding and a loss wouldn’t impact their seeding. Miami could drop a seed line in the NCAA tournament if they were to Syracuse for a second time this season.
If Miami advances to the semi-finals on Friday night, they would face one of four opponents: Pittsburgh (covering all grounds here), Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, or Duke. Virginia Tech and Duke are likely cemented in the NCAA tournament, but Notre Dame is in a unique situation.
The Fighting Irish were a top five team in the nation this year after winning the Maui Invitational, but lost Preseason All-American forward Bonzie Colson for an extended period of time due to the same foot injury as Miami’s Bruce Brown is currently recovering from. Colson returned this past week where the Fighting Irish demolished Pittsburgh and lost by five at Virginia, the ACC regular season champion. In the Virginia game, Colson returned in mid-season form, playing 37 minutes while scoring 24 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. The Irish currently sit outside of the field of 68 like Syracuse, but many analysts believe with Colson back that if they win two games in the ACC tournament and have a good showing versus Duke, that they will be on the bubble and could hear their name called on Selection Sunday.
Assuming they beat Pittsburgh again, the Notre Dame vs Virginia Tech game will be one to watch as the Hokies defeated the Irish by five in their only meeting this season without Colson. The winner, as previously mentioned, will play Duke in the quarterfinals on Thursday in the game before Miami’s in the night session. Duke split the season series with Virginia Tech and manhandled Notre Dame in their only meeting.
If Miami were to face-off with Duke in the semi-finals, Miami would be looking for revenge as they squandered a second-half lead at the Watsco Center in their only meeting this season. Miami swept the season series versus Virginia Tech in two close games, and escaped with a win at Notre Dame in February.
On the top half of the bracket, Virginia is the clear favorite to advance to the championship game. Clemson and NC State are the other threats to the Cavaliers, as the bottom half of the bracket is absolutely loaded. Virginia, Clemson, and NC State are locked into the field of 68, whereas the loser of Louisville/Florida State could be on the outside looking in. Louisville is currently a 12-seed in Lunardi’s bracket and Florida State is a 10-seed. The winner of that game will play Virginia in the quarterfinals.
Below is the bracket with game dates and times: