The Miami Hurricanes flew to Puerto Rico this weekend for ESPN's Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament as an unranked team pegged to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack of the ACC. They returned as not only tourney champs but as the most buzzed-about team in college basketball. After upsetting two ranked teams on their way to winning the tourney, the Canes are now ranked 15th in the AP poll for their troubles.
To put that ranking into perspective, it's the highest the team has ever been ranked in the poll in November. It's also a particularly rare feat.
MORE: Miami becomes the sixth men's hoops program in the last decade to have a team that went from unranked one week to Top 15 the next.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) November 23, 2015
Under coach Jim Larrañaga, the team made easy work of two lesser programs in UT-Rio Grande Valley and Louisiana Lafayette to kick off the season, but the Canes didn't face real competition until they arrived in San Juan. Many observers predicted that the finale would come down to then-16th-ranked Utah and 22nd Butler, but Miami blew through both teams to steal the show.
The Canes devastated Mississippi State in the opening round in a 105-79 display of dominance. Utah certainly didn't seem like it deserved to be the highest-ranked team in the tourney when the Hurricanes handed them a solid defeat, 90-66. The final game against Butler was the closet Miami played all weekend, but UM still came out on top by ten points.
Senior guards Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez basically combined to form a two-man scoring machine and together were responsible for 65 points during the two games against ranked competition.
As a side note, UM is now the first two-time champion in the history of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The team also won the inaugural 2007 tournament.
The wins makes the Hurricanes look like possible ACC contenders, especially considering the league's two standard bearers, North Carolina and Duke, have already suffered embarrassing defeats this season. The Canes are also now the only team in the league to notch wins against ranked competition, and the tip-off tourney win should be a solid resumé point when it comes time for NCAA tournament selection.
The press is certainly impressed.
Sports Illustrated declared UM "one of November’s best teams and an ACC contender."
"Three emphatic wins in Puerto Rico suggest that Miami may have been one of the nation's most underrated teams entering the new season," Yahoo! Sports said.
Andy Katz at ESPN named the Canes the team of the week.
Twitter took notice as well.
The Miami Hurricanes basketball team makes the Hurricanes football season not hurt too bad. #top10— Chad Wagler (@cwag33) November 23, 2015
How do you win a basketball tourney?? Shoot over 50% from the field & win both rebounding & turnover margin Great basketball from Miami!!— Jamie Shaw (@JamieShaw5) November 23, 2015
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The wins certainly help the "Miami is now a basketball town" argument to gain traction. Hurricanes football and the Dolphins are both suffering through more seasons of mediocrity after firing their coaches mid-season. The Panthers and Marlins are somehow allowed to both continue to exist and to compete on the pro level.
The Miami Heat meanwhile sit at second in the Eastern Conference behind only LeBron James' Cavalier. The Miami Hurricanes women's basketball team is also undefeated.
The University of Miami is a combined 9-0 so far in men's and women's basketball, the first school in America to do that this season.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) November 23, 2015
Jim Larrañaga, meanwhile, is continuing to ensure the basketball team will be a solid force in the future. Before hopping onto that plane to Puerto Rico, he secured commitments from two top 50 recruits. The team's 2016 recruiting class is now ranked in the top ten by all major recruiting sites.