Don’t know if the Miami basketball team will win the ACC tournament next week but it has happened before, which still blows my mind just a little bit.
The only thing wilder when it comes to famous football schools collecting basketball trophies instead is Florida winning back-to-back national hoop titles in 2006-07.
The Hurricanes haven’t gotten there yet. Matter of fact, you have to go back to Duke in 1991-92 to find anyone other than UCLA stringing together national titles in the last 50 years.
Miami isn’t shying away from any goal, however, and as a potential No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, there is no reason that the Hurricanes should.
That is the Jim Larranaga effect. He was the national coach of the year in 2013, his second season at Miami. That’s when the Hurricanes won both the ACC regular-season and tournament championships, and that’s when everything turned upside-down in the relationship between the school and the regal basketball conference it joined in 2004.
Miami football was supposed to compete for the ACC title every year, but it hasn’t even once.
Miami basketball was supposed to set up shop at the bottom of the ACC standings and stay there, but that hasn’t come true either.
At the moment the Hurricanes are No. 7 in the AP basketball poll. You’d have to go back to the middle of the 2013 season to find a Miami football team ranked that high, and it didn’t last long then.
Has anything this amazing ever happened to a relatively new ACC school hustling to gain a foothold in America’s most storied basketball conference? The answer is yes, and we’re talking about another supposed football school, Florida State.
FSU joined ACC basketball play in the 1991-92 season. The Seminoles hadn’t made it out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament in 20 years at that point. It was a football-first move that brought FSU into the ACC, just as it later was with Miami.
Still, FSU surprised everybody by finishing second in the ACC regular-season standings right away, and again the following year. Even more eye-opening, the Seminoles advanced to the NCAA’s Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds, respectively, in 1992 and 1993.
The coach at the time was Pat Kennedy, and he made the mistake, after going 202-131 in 11 total seasons at FSU, that he could be better appreciated and more comfortably situated somewhere else. What helped convince him of that was having to claw his way to an 82-78 record in ACC play during six years in that league, and the somewhere else wound up being DePaul.
Kennedy, 64, is no longer a head coach, having failed to get anything going at DePaul and in later years at Montana, Towson and Division II Pace University.
Larranaga, 66, is just hitting his stride at Miami and shouldn’t be looking to get out. Playing and winning in the ACC seems to him the perfect springboard to natural NCAA tournament prestige, not to mention the best way to maintain a stream of top recruits for years to come.
This Miami basketball thing doesn’t have to be a fad. If the Hurricanes make it to the Elite Eight this month, as ACC tournament champions or not, it doesn’t have to be anything but a great program in a great league, and the most fascinating story on campus.
Sure, that blows my mind a little bit, too, but Miami fans surely are getting used to it. Whether or not the Hurricanes football players find that to be upside-down or just right has ceased to matter.