For just the fourth time in program history, the Hurricanes Men’s Basketball team has reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. This year’s squad could make school history as the Hurricanes have never reached the Elite 8. This scrappy and undersized team is the lowest seeded Canes team to make the Sweet 16. Here’s a look back at Miami’s previous Sweet 16 teams.
NCAA Tournament Seed: 6
Tournament Result: W, 75-71 v. No. 11 Arkansas; W, 75-62 v. No. 3 Ohio State; L, 71-80 v. No. 7 Tulsa
Head Coach: Leonard Hamilton
Key Players: John Salmons (G, So); Johnny Hemsley (G/F, Sr.); Mario Bland (F, Sr.); Vernon Jennings (G/F, Sr.); James Jones (G, Fr)
Although this team included John Salmons and James Jones, two future NBA stars and UM Sports Hall of Famers, both were underclassmen playing supporting roles to seniors Hemsley, Bland, and Jennings. This was also coach Leonard Hamilton’s final year with the Hurricanes, after which he’d join Florida State where he is the head coach to this day.
The ‘99-’00 squad entered the season with high expectations after the ‘98-’99 team, which was led by departing senior Tim James, earned a 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament but lost in the 2nd round.
The ‘99-00’ team opened the season ranked No. 23 but found itself stumbling against bigger competition. But come tournament time, the Canes stepped it up beating a top ten Ohio State team in the second round led by future NBA All Star Michael Redd. Unfortunately, the team’s run ended in the Sweet 16 against No. 18 Tulsa, who was coached by future Kansas head coach Bill Self (and Billy Gillispie was also on the Tulsa bench).
NCAA Tournament Seed: 2
Tournament Results: W 78-49, v. No. 15 Pacific; W 63-59, v. No. 7 Illinois; L 61-71, v. No. 3 Marquette
Head Coach: Jim Larrañaga
Key Players: Shane Larkin (G, So.); Kenny Kadji (F, Sr.); Durand Scott (G, Sr.); Trey-McKinney Jones (G, Sr.); Reggie Johnson (C, Sr.)
Jim Larrañaga’s second season was one for the ages. The Hurricanes won what is still their only ACC regular season and tournament championship, and tied their highest NCAA Tournament seeding. Future NBA lottery pick Shane Larkin lead a veteran group of future professional ballers.
The ‘12-’13 team started the year rough with an early loss to Florida Gulf Coast (although FGCU would shock the world that year with their own Sweet 16 run as a 15 seed), but quickly took form as the Canes faced bigger competition. Yours truly was in attendance when the students stormed the floor after Miami beat No. 13 Michigan State in the ACC/Big Ten challenge. A few weeks later, one of the all time great plays in Miami basketball history came as the Canes blew out North Carolina.
And then, Duke came to town...
The Canes absolutely crushed the Blue Devils for the program’s first victory over a top ranked team. In the clip above, you can hear Warren Sapp scream out “slap the floor,” a nod to Duke’s signature display of tight defense. The Canes obliged.
Miami’s season ended earlier than fans had hoped when they dropped a tight game to No. 3 seed Marquette in the Sweet 16.
NCAA Tournament Seed: 3
Tournament Results: W 79-72, v. No. 14 Buffalo; W 65-57, v. No. 11 Wichita State; L 69-92, v. No. 2 Villanova
Head Coach: Jim Larrañaga
Key Players: Angel Rodríguez (G, Sr.); Tonye Jekiri (C, Sr.); Sheldon McClellan (G, Sr.); Ja’Quon Newton (G, So.); Davon Reed (G, Jr.)
Miami’s most recent Sweet 16 team was lead by Angel Rodríguez, who had transferred from Kansas State to be closer to his Puerto Rican family, and future pros Tonye Jekiri and Sheldon McClellan. The ‘15-’16 team started unranked but quickly entered the polls after beating ranked Butler and Utah teams on their way to winning the Puerto Rican Tip Off tournament. From there, they’d finish tied for second in the ACC standings.
In the NCAA Tournament, Miami took care of double digit seeds Buffalo and Wichita State before running into a buzzsaw in Villanova, who would go on to win the national championship that year.