Rayno's college basketball insider: It's Hurricanes' season in the ACC

  • Updated: February 9, 2013 - 8:30 AM

  With a senior-laden lineup, Miami has been perfect in ACC play so far, soaring to the No. 8 ranking and picking up fans.

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A fan takes a picture with Miami's Reggie Johnson after a 90-63 win against Duke.

Photo: Alan Diaz, Associated Press - Ap

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Miami (Fla.) coach Jim Larranaga knows no one expected this.

Before the season started, college basketball reporters and analysts fell all over themselves to predict how the three Triangle squads -- Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State -- would arrange themselves at the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Well, the surprise was on everyone else: Instead, it's Miami -- picked mostly to finish fourth or fifth in the league -- that leads the pack after a 9-0 conference start that featured victories over North Carolina and N.C. State. Oh, and over No. 4 Duke by 27 points.

The 63-year-old Larranaga, in his second year at Miami, has been here before. In 2006, he masterminded George Mason's Cinderella run to the Final Four. Now that he is heading another surprise team, he is authoring another strange bit of history, making the Hurricanes the first squad other than Duke or UNC to go 8-0 in the ACC since Virginia did it in 1981. One of the assistants on that Ralph Sampson-led Cavaliers team? Jim Larranaga.

With plenty of experience handling pressure, Larranaga is intent on keeping his team -- which has the No. 1 strength of schedule in the country and is the only major-conference program undefeated in league play -- concentrating on a cliché: one game at a time.

"Our focus level has to be at an all-time high," center Reggie Johnson told the Miami Herald. "Every team looks at us as a trap game, because we're undefeated. Coach L makes sure we take one game at a time. We will not look ahead. He won't let us."

The Hurricanes have proven capable of handling the new attention -- they are ranked No. 8, tying their highest AP ranking ever, even though no current player has been to the NCAA tournament -- while avoiding slips. A prime example: The way the Hurricanes have performed in the games after the big games, such as Tuesday's Boston College victory after a big win at N.C. State.

It helps that Larranaga's players, who were far off the college hoops radar after losing their second game of the year to Florida Gulf Coast, don't have their heads in the clouds. With all five starters returning from last season -- four of them seniors now -- it's a savvy and experienced group. The Hurricanes have two 22-year-olds, one 23-year-old and one 24-year old in the starting lineup, plus a pretty talented sophomore in Shane Larkin, the son of Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin.

At the same time, Larranaga tries to help players find balance between staying focused and enjoying the success that has come so rarely to Coral Gables. The Hurricanes, seldom a hot ticket, sold out their Duke and Florida State games and have already sold out Saturday's rematch with North Carolina. After the N.C. State game, students actually greeted the team bus as it pulled into the arena.

"I think that's very, very special," Larranaga said to Miami media. "My message to the team was just appreciate this and don't just go run by them and go into the locker room. Take pictures, shake hands, high-five them and thank them for coming out."

SHORT TAKES

• With the overall undefeated teams falling long ago, the teams that remain undefeated in conference play are getting all the attention. But in the spirit of this unpredictable season, nothing is what it's expected to be. Florida -- online analyst Ken Pomeroy's favorite to finish without a conference loss in the weak SEC -- got trounced by Arkansas on Tuesday. After losses this week by formerly perfect-in-conference-play Belmont and Southern Miss, the others remaining in a list compiled by CBS Sports: North Carolina Central (8-0 MEAC), Norfolk State (9-0 MEAC), Gonzaga (9-0 West Coast), Akron (9-0 MAC), Miami (Fla.) (9-0 ACC), Montana (13-0 Big Sky), Louisiana Tech (11-0 WAC) and Memphis (8-0 Conference USA).

• One Kansas state senator has taken it upon himself to instigate a new old-fashioned rivalry, whether the teams involved like it or not. Sen. Michael O'Donnell, R-Wichita, introduced a bill that would require Kansas and Wichita State to play each other in alternating games between the locations every other year. Initially, O'Donnell's proposal would have stripped the schools of state funding if they refused, an aspect on which he later softened -- stating he didn't want to seem "punitive" -- while adding Kansas State into the mix. "I think it would really benefit Wichita," he told the Wichita Eagle. "I could see thousands of people coming out. I think this is a win-win." So far, however, Kansas coach Bill Self is not on board.

• With all of the court-storming that has occurred in the past month -- more than a dozen, USA Today's Nicole Auerbach counts -- it's no wonder it's become a topic of conversation, especially with such strange rushings such as Wake Forest, after beating then-No. 19 North Carolina State. Some -- such as Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis -- have criticized the practice, saying it can shake a team's focus for the ensuing game or likening it to a mosh pit that has the potential to be dangerous. But others explain that showing such passion is often present is good for the sport and likely to continue so long as leagues don't implement rules (and fines) against the practice, as the SEC has.

BIG TEN POWER POLL

1. Michigan: This could be a back-and-forth battle with the Hoosiers all year.

2. Indiana: Until the final four minutes of Thursday's loss to the Illini, the Hoosiers were still doing everything right.

3. Michigan State: One thing we learned Wednesday in a victory over the Gophers: These Spartans are tough.

4. Ohio State: How much better is this offense looking since the start of the season? It's significant.

5. Wisconsin: The Badgers still haven't had a "bad" Big Ten loss, if you consider that playing at Iowa is tough.

6. Illinois: This is why this is a power poll and not a records poll. The Illini, 3-7 in conference play, showed enough fight on Thursday to warrant it.

7. Minnesota: After five losses in seven games, the Gophers are once again in need of a spark.

8. Iowa: I know the Boilermakers beat them, but the Hawkeyes have been so much more competitive in their losses. They are better than their 3-7 league mark indicates.

9. Purdue: Hard to believe the Boilermakers have the same record (5-5) as Minnesota in conference play.

10. Northwestern: The Wildcats have certainly had some interesting wins, anyway.

11. Nebraska: A six-point loss to Ohio State shows a hint of some real potential.

12. Penn State: It's about time to start looking ahead to next year.

 

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San Francisco 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Pittsburgh 0
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 0 2nd Prd 11:03
Buffalo 4
Carolina 1 2nd Prd 8:05
Columbus 1
Pittsburgh 0 2nd Prd
Detroit 0
Montreal 7:30 PM
Chicago
Arizona 8:00 PM
Edmonton
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pm30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 am
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

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