Don’t pick us.
This was the motto that the ‘Canes had going into the 2023 NCAA tournament. Even after making its first-ever Elite Eight in 2022 with a legendary head coach who collected his 700th NCAA win this past season, Miami was still doubted.
When people think about Hurricanes basketball, they often think about Miami’s big guns — an all-star starting five that led the fifth-seeded ‘Canes to their first Final Four appearance in school history.
Miami held a pretty stable lineup throughout the course of the year, keeping a constant rotation and not changing the starters very often. All five of Miami’s starters showed out and were crucial on the Hurricanes’ road to Houston. Every single one came through with a clutch performance to keep the ‘Canes dancing.
In the Round of 64 against Drake, Miami was on the ropes early. Guards Jordan Miller and Isaiah Wong were not having great games on offense. With a strong second-half push and a great performance from forward Norchad Omier, Miami was able to squeak out a win.
Omier showed his immense value to the team by setting the school rebounding record in an NCAA tournament game against Drake with 14 boards, along with 12 points. Guards Wooga Poplar and Nijel Pack added 15 and 21 points, respectively.
Without the contributions from its big man, Miami would have been watching the Final Four from a couch in Coral Gables.
The Norchad Omier game.
In the Round of 32, Miami faced an opponent with an elite big man in Indiana. Trayce Jackson-Davis is not exactly an ideal matchup for Norchad Omier, but no matter. Omier casually set the rebound record again with 17, and he held Jackson-Davis in check.
That was not the only highlight of the game. Wong, the ACC Player of the Year, decided that he was not going to have a quiet night for two games in a row. Wong exploded for a game-high 27 points, shooting 4-of-6 from deep for a double-digit win by the ‘Canes.
The Isaiah Wong game.
Rolling into the Sweet 16, Miami had the daunting task of taking on the second-best overall team in the entire tournament. The top-seeded Houston Cougars lay in wait, trying to punch their ticket back home for the Final Four.
Miami hung with the Cougars early and even had the lead going into the half. After the break, Houston nipped at Miami’s heels while the ‘Canes only held a two-point lead.
Then Nijel Pack decided the game was a little too close for his liking. In the span of just over two minutes, he drained three triples and put Miami squarely in the driver’s seat. Pack went 7 of 10 from beyond the arc, Wong added another 20 points and the ‘Canes closed out the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, moving on to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive year.
The Nijel Pack game.
Now, a trip to the Final Four was on the line. Texas, with a transfer point guard of its own in Marcus Carr, stood in the way of the ‘Canes and their first taste of immortality. The No. 2 seed from Austin came to play as the ‘Canes struggled out of the gate. Down nine at the half, the second frame did not treat Miami nicely.
Down as much as 13, Poplar got the energy going for the ‘Canes as his creative play on an inbound sparked a Hurricane rally. Poplar threw it off the back of an oblivious Longhorn player and proceeded to scoop up the ball and slam it down with authority. Poplar, along with all five of Miami’s starters, scored in double figures.
That lit a fire for the ‘Canes and the comeback was on. Tough defense and good free throw shooting brought Miami all the way back to take the lead and eventually win the game.
Miller iced it with four straight free throws to send Miami to Houston. Miller was not just perfect at that moment. He was perfect all game. Miller did not miss from the charity stripe or from the field. Miller had a game-high 27 points on 7-of-7 shooting, making all 13 of his free throws.
The Jordan Miller game.
Every member of the Miami starting five had a signature moment during Miami’s miracle run. There’s a reason they were rarely split up.
Miami finished the year at No. 3 in the polls, the highest ranking it has ever achieved. The first Final Four, back-to-back Elite Eights, the greatest year in ‘Canes men’s basketball history, simply from a group of five that believed in each other and did not want to hear anything else. They asked for it.
Don’t pick them.