The Hurricanes Men’s Basketball team (22-9, 14-6 ACC) finished the regular season on Saturday with a thrilling 75-72 come-from-behind win at Syracuse. The win was critical for the Canes in their bid to earn their first invitation to the NCAA Tournament since the 2017-2018 season. Heading into the game, Miami had already secured a 4 seed in the ACC Tournament, although a season finale win coupled with a UNC loss to Duke would have elevated the Canes to the 3 seed. However, UNC managed to spoil Coach Krzyzewski’s final home game for Duke on Saturday night. So, the Canes finished the regular season fourth in the ACC standings.
Both CBS Sports and ESPN currently have the Canes on the right side of the bubble as a projected 10 seed. Coach Jim Larrañaga has to feel good that his squad will earn an at-large NCAA tournament bid regardless what happens in the ACC Tournament. Still, the Canes have an opportunity this week to cement the invite and improve their seeding.
Heading into the ACC Tournament, Duke is the only team that can truly be certain they’ve already earned an NCAA at-large bid. Miami is joined by UNC, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech as the ACC’s other possible representatives. All are on the bubble to varying degrees. Other teams, like FSU and Virginia, could also make a surprise run at the ACC’s automatic bid.
Here’s our preview of who the Canes could face this week at the ACC Tournament taking place at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, NY:
Quarterfinals - Thursday, March 10 at 2:30pm est (ESPN2)
Likely Opponent: Wake Forest (23-8, 13-7 ACC), No. 5 Seed
Other Possible Opponents: Pittsburgh (11-20, 6-14 ACC), No. 12 Seed; or Boston College (11-19, 6-14 ACC), No. 13 Seed
While it’s possible Pitt or BC could pull off an upset (like Miami did last year when they made a run to the ACC quarterfinals as a 13 seed), in all likelihood Miami’s first game will be against a Wake Forest team squarely on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. Both CBS and ESPN project Wake as one of the “Last 4 In.”
Miami swept the Demon Deacons in two close contests this season, winning 92-84 on New Years Day in Coral Gables and 76-72 on February 12th in Winston-Salem when Wake Forest was ranked 25th.
Alondes Williams (G, Sr.) is the heart and soul of Wake Forest and leads the ACC with 5.3 assists per game. But the Canes largely kept him in check during their two meetings. In their first matchup, Williams was held to 15 points on 6-14 shooting. Williams did better getting buckets in their second matchup, leading all scorers with 25 points, but the Canes forced him into seven turnovers and held him to just four assists. Keeping Williams in check again will be the key to a Hurricanes win.
Semifinals - Friday, March 11 at 7pm est (ESPN/ESPN2)
Likely Opponent: Duke (26-5, 16-4 ACC), No. 1 Seed
Other Possible Opponents: Florida State (17-13, 10-10 ACC), No. 8 Seed; or Syracuse (15-16, 9-11 ACC), No. 9 Seed
Duke, Florida State, and Syracuse would all be a tough matchup for Miami, but the overwhelming favorite to be opposite the Canes in the semifinals is Duke. The Blue Devils have to be motivated to end Coach K’s final season on a championship note, especially since UNC just ruined his final home game.
Of course, Miami’s signature win this season came on January 8th in a 76-74 win over the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Miami won that game in great part because they forced Duke into 19 turnovers while only committing 5 themselves. This helped offset a poor shooting day by the Canes, who only hit 4-of-16 beyond the arc. If Miami can again win the turnover battle and shoot just a hair better from the field, it’s perfectly reasonable that they could find themselves playing for an ACC Championship.
If Duke is upset in the Quarterfinals, Florida State could pose the biggest problem for UM. The Canes were swept by their in-state rival this season, losing both games by a single point. Unfortunately for FSU, after starting the season 7-1 in ACC play (including wins against Miami and Duke) the Seminoles went on to lose their next 9 of 10 ACC contests to play themselves out of an at-large NCAA bid. Still, FSU won its last 3 games of the season and is probably the most dangerous dark-horse team of the tournament.
Finals - Saturday, March 12 at 830pm est (ESPN)
Likely Opponents: Notre Dame (22-9, 15-5 ACC), No. 2 Seed; or North Carolina (23-8, 15-5 ACC), No. 3 Seed
Other Possible Opponents: Virginia (18-12, 12-8 ACC), No. 6 Seed; or Virginia Tech (19-12, 11-9 ACC), No. 7 Seed
Should the Canes make it to the Finals of the ACC Tournament (matching the Women’s Basketball team this past weekend), they most likely will find themselves facing either UNC or Notre Dame. Most pundits feel that UNC played their way into the NCAA tournament with their win at Duke - ESPN has them earning an 8 seed while CBS has them as an 11 seed. As for Notre Dame, both ESPN and CBS have them as a 10 seed.
The Canes faced each team only once this season. Miami blew out UNC 85-57 on January 18 in Coral Gables, and were dealt a hard-fought 64-68 loss against Notre Dame also in Coral Gables.
Outside UNC and Notre Dame, Virginia and Virginia Tech are the next most likely teams to come out of the other side of the bracket. Both are probably on the outside looking in for an NCAA tournament bid, but either could move onto the right side of the bubble with a deep run this week.
Bottom Line: the Canes have a real shot of winning their second conference ACC championship this week. They’ve shown they can compete against and beat every team they have to face. Let us know how deep a run you think the Canes will make below!
How Far Will the Canes Go in the ACC Tournament?
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