NCAA berths weren’t always so automatic for Miami, even in Rick Barry’s golden age


If you’re a Miami basketball fan and disappointed to see the 20-9 Hurricanes rating only about a No. 7 or 8 seed in most of the Bracketology projections out there, just settle down and let it all play out.

There’s a game at Florida State on Saturday night and then the ACC tournament to reset the picture. Remember that Syracuse made it all the way to the Final Four last year as one of the last of eight ACC teams to get into the NCAA field, and the Orange started out with a No. 10 seed.

Jim Larranaga has built quite a reputation on a couple of Sweet 16 appearances at Miami and a shocking Final Four run with George Mason. He’ll get the benefit of every doubt from the bracket-builders based on that history, and on wins over Duke, Virginia and North Carolina this year.

Long-time Miami followers will remember when it was lot tougher than this to get a little national boost.

Rick Barry. File photo: Feb. 1964. RB
Rick Barry, February, 1964. Miami News photo.

The Hurricanes went 23-5 in the 1962-63 season and didn’t even make the NCAA tournament. There were only 25 teams in the field back then and Miami, an independent, didn’t rate one of those spots. Never mind that the Hurricanes upset Duke 71-69 at the Miami Beach Convention Center in December. It just wasn’t happening.

What Miami got instead was an invitation to the NIT, and that’s where the program got its first-ever postseason victory. Miami beat St. Francis 71-70 at Madison Square Garden in New York but lost the next night to Providence, the eventual tournament champion.

It was even tougher to take what happened in 1965. Rick Barry led the nation in scoring with an average of 37.4 points per game and the Hurricanes went 22-4 but they weren’t eligible for the NCAA tournament because of NCAA recruiting violations.

Barry scored 50 or more points six times in that senior season and also averaged 18.3 rebounds per game. That put him at the top of a sensational consensus All-America lineup that also included bill Bradley, Gail Goodrich, Cazzie Russell and a high-scoring big man from Davidson named Fred Hetzel. Barry, Bradley and Goodrich went on to be inducted in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, and Hetzel was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1965 draft by the San Francisco Warriors.

As a strong competitor in the ACC, Miami won’t get overlooked like that again.

Overall, it was a long road to achieving the level of recognition that our top state schools have now in basketball, and the Hurricanes got there first.

Miami’s initial appearance in the NCAA tournament was in 1960, followed by FSU in 1968, Jacksonville in 1970, Florida in 1987, South Florida in 1990, Florida Gulf Coast in 2013 and North Florida in 2015.



FSU leads the nation in comprehensive competitiveness

Congratulations to Florida State for nearing a tipping point of achievement that rarely gets noted around here.

The Seminoles are ranked nearly as high in basketball (No. 10 in the latest AP poll) as the FSU football team was in 2016’s final poll (No. 8).

This is fairly amazing stuff, and there’s an opportunity for Leonard Hamilton’s hoops team to climb even higher with No. 15 Notre Dame and No. 12 Louisville coming to Tallahassee this week.

Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

For two-sport domination, no other school comes close at the moment. FSU is the only program with top-10 teams in football and basketball according to the most current polls.

The other contenders are well back.

Louisville is No. 12 in basketball and finished No. 21 in football.

Wisconsin pairs a No. 17 basketball ranking with a No. 9 football finish.

Florida is up to No. 19 in hoops. A little bit more and they’ll catch the Gator football team at No. 14. This has happened before, of course, with back-to-back national titles in basketball during Billy Donovan’s great years, but in a football-crazy state like this one, Mike White deserves more headlines for even coming close.

Miami has the most climbing to do. Unranked in basketball, the Hurricanes finished No. 20 in Mark Richt’s first season as football coach. Jim Larranaga just picked up his 600th career victory, however, and he’s gotten the Hurricanes to the Sweet 16 a couple of times so it’s obvious the school is in good shape across the board.

Here’s another burst of fireworks for FSU. The Seminoles also are No. 7 in the AP poll for women’s basketball. Miami’s women also rank highly at No. 14.

We’ll check back as the hoops season goes on, unless all you want to talk about by then is college football recruiting, which would mean that everything is back to normal no matter what three pretty competitive basketball programs have to say about it.


[Steve Shepherd, Dave Lewter enter Florida Boxing Hall of Fame]

[Bob D’Angio was king of close calls during great run at Forest Hill]

[Lane Kiffin revival tent comes to Florida Atlantic]


Miami picked to flop in NCAA tournament? Have a heart, Mr. Computer

Superstar statistician Nate Silver is pretty good at reading numerical trends and making predictions. At the age of 31 he was named to Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World list, based in part on his showstopping ability to nail 49 of the 50 state outcomes in the 2008 presidential election.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 11: Angel Rodriguez #13 of the Miami (Fl) Hurricanes has a shot blocked by Malcolm Brogdon #15 of the Virginia Cavaliers during the second half in the semifinals of the 2016 ACC Basketball Tournament at Verizon Center on March 11, 2016 in Washington, DC. The Virginia Cavaliers won, 73-68.(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC – Angel Rodriguez of the Miami Hurricanes has a shot blocked by Malcolm Brogdon of the Virginia Cavaliers during the semifinals of the 2016 ACC Basketball Tournament at Verizon Center on March 11, 2016. Virginia won 73-68.(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Well now Silver is a scholarly 38, which means he probably is even smarter, but you may not like what his FiveThirtyEight website is serving up as the NCAA tournament goes into full swing today.

According to Silver’s busy staff of data drones, the 25-7 Miami Hurricanes have a 1 percent chance of winning the national championship. In fact, they’re only being given a 14 percent chance of getting past the Sweet 16.

Since the Hurricanes have never advanced beyond the Sweet 16 and they believe this might just be the year, this crunching of numbers also crunches the soul just a bit.

Playing the entire bracket out, one analytical showdown at a time, the Silver machine has Villanova knocking Miami off in the Sweet 16 round and Kansas winning it all. Probably, speaking in probabilities, that is.

If it makes Miami fans feel any better, Florida and FSU aren’t even in the tournament field. That means the Hurricanes’ 1 percent chance of winning the NCAA title is infinitely better than the zero percent I can confidently hang on the Gators and Seminoles.

Would you be mad if I said my prediction is that Miami will get to the Elite Eight and no farther? Sorry I asked.

[Simplest measure to tell if Dolphins hired the right coach]

[Dolphins never really took the wrapper off Lamar Miller]

[Mario Williams is better than Olivier Vernon, period]

Hey, it’s foolishness thinking that any man or computer or combination thereof could really see what’s coming in March Madness. That’s why we all love it, and why we’re so upset when the upsets end.

For the record, I’ll take Maryland to knock off Kansas in the Elite Eight round and Oklahoma to win the title.

Also for the record, my guesses have never been good enough to win a routine office pool, much less to take the shine off Silver.