Miami Hurricanes Make ACC History, Sweep ChampionshipsPosted by mpatton on March 17th, 2013
Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report from the ACC Tournament championship game between North Carolina and Miami in Greensboro this afternoon.
An ACC school from outside the state of North Carolina has only won the regular season title outright eight times since 1954 (most recently, Maryland won it in 2002). An ACC school from outside the state of North Carolina has only won the ACC Tournament 10 times since 1954 (most recently, Florida State won it last year). Miami is the first team to ever do both in the same year. An unbalanced conference schedule has cheapened the regular season title in recent years, but that’s shouldn’t throw any shade on what the Hurricanes accomplished this year. The Miami win along with Florida State’s ACC Championship last season marks the second time in the league’s history that consecutive ACC Tournaments were won by schools outside of North Carolina (the 1984 and 1985 tournaments were won by Maryland and Georgia Tech, respectively).
And the Hurricanes won their final two games in front of very hostile crowds. They won because of tremendous coaching from Jim Larranaga – whose lineup changes proved instrumental in games against North Carolina and Boston College. They won because Shane Larkin was the best player in an ACC Tournament full of outstanding performances (Olivier Hanlan, Durand Scott and Dez Wells all went for over 30 points in a game). They won because experience doesn’t get rattled. In short, they won because they were the best team on the floor.
Against North Carolina, Miami found itself in a different position than usual. The Tar Heels and their new and improved smaller lineup came out firing. With just over 10 minutes to go in the first half, North Carolina led, 18-13. Miami proceeded to score on its next nine possessions and 13 of 16 of the final possessions of the half (over that time they missed three shots). North Carolina only scored on eight of 15 possessions, but PJ Hairston hit four threes and Marcus Paige added another to keep the game within a possession at the half. It was the best overall 10-minute offensive stretch I’ve seen this year. Both teams moved the ball to find open shots and both teams knocked down nearly every shot available. At one point the lead changed hands on eight straight possessions.
Miami, a team known for its outstanding defense, outgunned the red-hot Tar Heels, where a lineup switch sparked Miami’s run. To that point Miami’s lineup looked like it had all season: two rotating bigs, two wings and Larkin running the point. With 10:15 left in the first half, Larranaga moved to match North Carolina’s small lineup, pulling Tonye Jekiri and Reggie Johnson in favor of Kenny Kadji and Erik Swoope. For the rest of the half, Miami never had two bigs on the floor at the same time. The first 13+ minutes of the second half continued the back-and-forth play, albeit with a reduced combined shooting percentage. Then, on a three from Trey McKinney-Jones with 6:27 left, Miami took the lead and never looked back. Miami only failed to score on three of its possessions from that point forward, never giving North Carolina the chance it needed to mount a comeback.
Miami was the best team that showed up to Greensboro. Despite facing the paradox of recent doubters and high expectations, they took on three teams — all trending upward — and came away with three double-digit wins. The games were all close until the last five minutes when the experienced Hurricanes took advantage of their mistakes. Jim Larranaga’s team showed the versatility to play big or small, the experience to weather unconscious shooting efforts, and the floor general to cut down the nets one more time.