Despite sour end in NCAA Tournament, Miami made progress this year

The men’s basketball team ended the 2014-15 season in a loss to Stanford in the NIT championship game. This season, not only did the Hurricanes want to prove that they were snubbed from the NCAA Tournament last year, but they also wanted to prove that they were even better this time around. The Canes did just that.

Miami was unranked by both the AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches polls to start the season, but the team dominated in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, getting wins against then-ranked No. 16 Utah and then-ranked No. 22 Butler.

After a 5-0 start, the Canes finally cracked the top 25 in both polls in week three. They never looked back, ending the season with a school-record 17 straight weeks ranked in the top 25.

Throughout the season the team proved doubters wrong, especially with wins over ranked opponents Virginia, Duke and Louisville in a very tough ACC. Miami also defeated Notre Dame twice and Syracuse once, two teams that reached the Elite Eight.

Miami established something that is key to almost every successful basketball team: a dominant home-court advantage. The Canes finished the season 15-1 at home, with the only loss coming on a buzzer-beater to Northeastern in November.

After starting the season unranked, the Canes finished the year 27-8 overall and 13-5 in the ACC and reached the Sweet 16. Although Miami fans believe that the Canes had the talent to go further in the tournament, the team still considers this season a success.

“Oh, this was a great success. We battled right to the last day of the regular season for the regular-season title. We were ranked in the top 10 for a good portion of the season,” Miami Head Coach Jim Larrañaga said. “We had a phenomenal year.”

Miami had one Sweet 16 appearance in the program’s history before Larrañaga took over in 2011. The Canes have reached the Sweet 16 twice in the last four years. Although crucial seniors are leaving the team, the Canes will have a talented group come next season.

The team has many key players returning, including guard Ja’Quan Newton, guard Davon Reed and forward Kamari Murphy. Forward Anthony Lawrence Jr. and guard James Palmer will both be back as well. The Canes also have a top-10 recruiting class for 2016, headlined by five-star forward Dewan Huell and four-star guard Bruce Brown.