It’s February 24th, and that means next month is March. Yes, the Madness will be right on schedule, but before we get there, we have to clear the air on this 2012-13 season. And by all means, it hasn’t been pretty. The talent level in college basketball has waned somewhat in the past 5 years or so, but not all will view this as a negative. Some years we have teams that are clearly better than the rest, and we’re forced to drag our feet through January and February, waiting for a conclusion we all saw coming. If you can predict how the last month of this season is going to unfold, well, you’re a very special boy.
While conference play still has a few weeks left, experts have already begun to speculate which teams will top each bracket. As of right now, Joe Lunardi’s four number one seeds are Indiana, Duke, Florida, and Gonzaga. That’s right, Gonzaga.
But my problem isn’t with Gonzaga. Well, it kind of is. My problem is that the only true top seed on that list is Indiana.
When the entire nation is as wide open as it is right now, it clouds the radar pretty effectively. Teams play well, then play bad, we can’t get a true measure of a team’s potential.
Would this be a bad time to mention the Miami Hurricanes? This is where I’m going with this one. This Hurricanes team can take the floor against any roster in the nation. Truthfully, yesterday would have been better to be so brash, before they lost by 15 at Wake Forest. But this is still a dangerous team, and despite the loss Saturday, still deserving of a number one seed.
Miami was by no means undefeated coming into yesterday’s upset (we’ll get to that later). But it was their first loss in ACC play, which I consider to be far more meaningful. My one problem with RPI, and measuring a team’s season, is that it doesn’t taken into account a season’s worth of growth. Teams get stronger as the season progresses, and a ranking system that reflects that would certainly help. Gonzaga’s top 3 RPI wins (Oklahoma, Kansas St, OK St.) all came in 2012. Do they really help a team in March? Miami has 5 ACC road wins thus far in 2013, including at UNC and ranked NC State. If they go into Duke next Saturday and silence the Cameron Crazies, Miami can officially win anywhere.
When I look for net-cutting candidates, I look at the close games in hostile environments like those Miami has played in. Tourney games always play close, and the experience of this team is one of their strengths. Speaking of experience, did I mention there were 6 seniors on this team? Duke has 4; Gonzaga, Indiana and Florida all have 3. Does this really matter? I’d like to think so. But it’s these particular seniors on this particular Miami team that I like. Let me direct your attention to this story.
TL;DR: Chris Bosh was at Miami playing with some of the players. Canes coach Larranaga asked Bosh how they were, and he said they didn’t work hard enough. Larranaga then took Bosh to the players where he spoke to them and called out their work ethic.
This was in summer 2011, right after Bosh and the Heat lost in the Finals to Dallas. There are 6 seniors on this team who remember that talk, and who know that Saturday’s performance was not good enough.
It’s still too early to predict the top seeds, and so much can change between now and Selection Sunday. Do the Canes still have a shot despite their loss? Is Gonzaga a legitimate contender? Send me your thoughts @TheOrangeWedge.