The Miami Hurricanes get set to take on the Michigan State Spartans on Friday night in Tulsa as part of the Midwest region of the NCAA Tournament. For Miami basketball, this is the second straight NCAA appearance. Last year’s team lost to eventual national champion Villanova in the Sweet 16. The basketball program has been a serious contender in the ACC ever since they hired Jim Larranaga in 2011.
Canes basketball which similar to the football program had struggled to gain much footing in the ACC ever since joining the conference. When Larranaga in the 2011-12 season took the Canes to 9-7 in conference, it marked the first time the school ever had a winning record since joining the ACC. The following season, Miami would win the ACC regular season title and the ACC Tournament title. It would include a brutal victory over then #1 Duke 90-63, the first win over for Miami over a #1 team and the largest margin of victory every over a #1 team in the country.
After that Duke win, it was obvious that hiring of Coach L was the right move. The past two season, the Miami basketball program became the only program in school history to record sell out of all home games. Larranaga has brought a culture of excitement to the basketball program that hasn’t been seen since Leonard Hamilton roamed the sidelines in the 90s. That version of Hurricane basketball however didn’t have an on campus arena.
When the football program hired Mark Richt, it became clear that the athletic department was committed to winning. Richt in his first season went 9-4, which included a five game winning streak and their first bowl win in a decade. After a top 15 2017 recruiting class, it looks like the Miami football program is aiming to finally compete for real for an ACC title. The 2018 class thus far is ranked #1 in the country.
The Miami hoops program is expected to have their strongest recruiting class ever in 2017. Right now it’s ranked 7th nationally. Including Lonnie Walker, Chris Lyke and Deng Gak. If you include Sam Waardenburg the New Zealander who is already on campus and is considered a four star talent, Miami hoops is solidifying itself as a national powerhouse.
Their opponent Michigan State on Friday is also a school with recent success in both football and basketball. Sometimes things synthesize in ways that helps build great sports programs. In Coral Gables, Coach L brought great optimism, enthusiasm and most importantly winning to Miami’s campus. Mark Richt seems to be moving in the right direction as well. Hurricane fans finally have something to cheer about. And it’s really thanks to having meaningful games in March, that will get us excited for the Fall on the gridiron. But what’s really the key is having great coaching. Coach L for hoops is a hall of fame coach, no question. Mark Richt could be one as well for football if the trajectory maintains.