Not a lot of people would have bet that Miami would end up in the NCAA tournament in 2013, but to do it while winning both the regular season and conference tournament title in the ACC is even more shocking, as Shane Larkin finished the job this team began earlier this season in demolition the competition in the conference.
We want more. After we clinched the outright regular-season title at home and we cut down the nets, we were like, ‘Wasn’t that the funnest thing you’ve ever done?’ We wanted to go to Greensboro and do it again.
Shane Larkin, the star of this surprising Hurricanes team and the only meaningful member who might be staying for the next season, led the way with 28 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists, as Miami beat North Carolina 87-77, chosen as the tournament’s MVP after finishing as runner-up for league player of the year.
Trey McKinney Jones helped with 20 points, as Miami shot 50.8% from the field and 54.5% from beyond the arc, countering the Tar Heel’s difficult to predict four-guard lineup with some excellent shooting, and proving that their excellent season has been more than just dominating quality opponents on their home court. It wasn’t enough to earn them a number one seed as some thought the deserved, eventually ranked 2nd in the East regional.
I don’t know about the other guys on the team, but I do a lot of research online, seeing what people are saying about us individual players on our team, and I just kept seeing that everywhere: ‘They peaked too early, they’re not going to do anything, they’re finished. And that just motivated me to go out there and play as hard as I could.
For Miami, this was the end of a tremendous 15-3 season in the ACC under second-year head coach Jim Larranaga, who led the team to their best ever ACC record last season (9-7), only to blow that accomplishment out of the water with a 15-3 year in 2013, winning the team’s first titles as an ACC team, with their previous regular season title coming in 2000 when they were playing in the Big East.
Miami beat North Carolina twice during the regular season – a 68-59 win at Chapel Hill, and then a crushing blow in South Beach, beating UNC 87-61 on February 9, three weeks after delivering a similar blow to Duke.
From day one, these guys have embraced our approach. That doesn’t mean that every day was great. It means we went through a transition of learning. Once they did learn, they felt good about it. And they kept trying to get better.
There are plenty who think that North Carolina got their final place in the tournament, after a 12-6 season in the ACC, which includes losing twice to Duke and twice to Miami, thanks to their name, and not their ability. Beating Maryland and Florida State in the tournament eventually helped propel them to a #8 seed against a team, Villanova, that might be better than them.
In the loss to Miami, sophomore P.J. Hairston led the way with 28 points, aided by Marcus Paige with 18. As always, North Carolina are mostly about offense, but without great days from at least three players, their lack of size in this “special” lineup of four guards will eventually get killed against the bigger teams, who have no problem dominating the paint while keeping up with the kind of pace the Tar Heels push for.