Two-time NCAA Tournament champion Rick Pitino and the No. 9 Louisville Cardinals visit Coral Gables 8 p.m. on Tuesday to play the suddenly slumping Miami Hurricanes at the BankUnited Center. Last week, the Hurricanes lost to Georgia Tech, who was winless in ACC play, and rival Florida State. As a result, the Hurricanes (14-7, 4-4 ACC) fell out of the AP Top 25.
“We have a huge opportunity at home,” said team captain Angel Rodriguez. “Louisville is a top ten team, and one of the best teams in the ACC. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
The ninth-ranked Cardinals (18-3, 6-2 ACC) are led by NBA prospects Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier. Harrell, a junior forward, and Rozier, a sophomore guard, are projected first round picks in the upcoming NBA draft.
Head coach Jim Larrañaga still does not know what to expect from his team. This season, the Hurricanes have defeated reputable programs in Florida, Duke and Syracuse, yet they have also lost to an assortment of unimpressive opponents and mid-major teams. Perhaps causing this inconsistency is the inexperienced roster.
“We can be very good in spurts,” Larrañaga said. “Our challenge is that we have [a majority]of players who have not been here and been through these ACC wars.”
The Hurricanes feature four transfer players – Sheldon McClellan, Angel Rodriguez, Joe Thomas and Ivan Cruz Uceda — who have never played ACC basketball before this season. The Hurricanes also play three freshmen: James Palmer, Omar Sherman and Ja’Quan Newton.
Time may be running out for Larrañaga and his team to hit their rhythm. Only a month remains in the ACC schedule before postseason tournament play starts.