A tough road ahead for men’s basketball

The men’s basketball team is making a march towards the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. Yet, if the Hurricanes plan to book a ticket to March Madness, they will need to come up with some big wins in their final six games.

After one of the biggest wins of the season last Saturday against Maryland, the ‘Canes are now sitting at 14-7 and 5-5 in the ACC and are currently tied for fourth place in the conference with three other teams.

With an RPI in the mid-50s, the Hurricanes are on what is known as the “bubble,” which is where teams are found that aren’t quite sure where they stand. Either way, Miami is now postseason eligible after getting its 14th win of the season, which means if its doesn’t become one of the 64 teams in the NCAA tournament, it will most likely be chosen for the NIT. This would be quite a turnaround for a team who only won 14 games a season ago.

The Hurricanes have been led by sophomore Guillermo Diaz, who’s averaged almost 23 points a game in ACC play, and Robert Hite, who has poured in 15 points a game since conference play began.

As of right now, it looks like the Hurricanes are going to need to grab three wins out of their final six games. This is no easy task, as four of them come on the road and the two home games are against No. 6 Wake Forest and Georgia Tech.

It all begins Saturday when Miami will travel to Clemson to take on the Tigers, who have been the worst team in the ACC this season with an 11-11 record, 2-8 in the conference. Miami came away with a 69-65 win Jan. 26 when the two teams met at the Convocation Center. If the ‘Canes want to keep their hopes alive of having their names called in a few weeks during the selection show, this is a game that they need to win.

Wake Forest will come to Coral Gables Tuesday night for a rematch after Miami gave the Demon Deacons a run for their money on Jan. 29 when Wake held on to win 94-82.

The road won’t get much easier for the Hurricanes after that, with trips to surprising ACC newcomer Virginia Tech and Florida State, a place where even the best teams in the league tend to fall.

The season ends with a home game against what should be a rejuvenated Georgia Tech team after getting back its best player, B.J. Elder, recently, and then a trip to always-tough Cameron Indoor Stadium and the Duke Blue Devils. The team’s first ever trip to the ACC tournament will follow, and if they can get on any sort of run and win a couple of games there, the NCAA tournament will almost be a lock.

Any combination of three wins can propel this squad into the tournament, and with this stretch of games coming up it would truly be well deserved. Either way, the Hurricanes will ride the coattails of Diaz and Hite as far as they are able to go.

Douglas C. Kroll can be contacted at d.kroll@umiami.edu.