For much of the season, the Miami Hurricanes were playing as if they were a team determined to win the ACC regular season championship and propel themselves to a top seed in the NCAA tournament. After Wednesday’s loss against Georgia Tech, the Hurricanes need to refocus themselves and start gearing up for securing a top three regional seed instead of a top three overall seed for the NCAA tournament.
Being able to reach a number one seed in the tournament would have been a long shot at best for the Hurricanes anyway, but last night’s loss really set the team back in terms of solidifying a top seed in their region. The Hurricanes have seemed to be losing their edge and composure that garnered them a top five ranking earlier this season in the national polls.
Losses to top teams like Duke are understandable; but when you lose to teams in the bottom tier of the conference, there is cause for concern. A senior-laden team should understand that each game brings them one step closer to having their careers’ be complete. The composure and lack of focus—at times—during these games are hallmarks of a young and inexperienced team, not a senior led team. What made the Hurricanes so difficult and tough throughout the year was their toughness, focus and attention to detail, but it seems as if the rankings that they achieved earlier this season have clouded their vision.
The game at Duke demonstrated—even in a loss—that the Hurricanes can compete with the nation’s best on any given night, but the game against Georgia Tech also demonstrated this team can lose to any team on any given night. That type of helter-skelter basketball team is tough to have faith in when heading into the ACC and NCAA tournaments.
When the team should be hitting its stride, it seems as if the Hurricanes are losing theirs. I am not sure if the Georgia Tech loss had something to do with a hangover from the Duke game; but whatever the reason was, it was unacceptable to lose to a team they should beat. It’s fair to note that once the Hurricanes reached a top five ranking in the national polls, the way in which everyone prepared for them changed. When you achieve a ranking as high as that—in any given season—you draw attention to yourself and you are likely to get each team’s best game every night out because of the huge target you now have on your back.
The same scenario applies to the NCAA tournament and that is why a lot of top seeds get upset every single year because they simply cannot handle the hype, reputation, extra preparation and attention to detail that comes with being a top seeded team. Just because talent got you to a high ranking, doesn’t mean it is going to keep you there. Once you achieve success, your effort and preparation must become greater and more focused than ever before because there is always going to be someone who is willing to outwork and outperform you to take over your spot.
Some teams are destined to be hunters, while others are comfortable being the hunted. The Hurricanes seem like a confused team wondering which classification they fall under: the hunted or the hunters. Maybe this team isn’t ready for the spotlight or maybe they do not have the mental toughness to handle the adversity that has been bestowed upon them with their recent losses. Whatever the case may be, this team still has a chance to win themselves a regular season conference championship which is a fine accomplishment no matter what way you look at it.
If the Hurricanes can use that momentum and ride it into the ACC tournament and refocus and perform well there, a deep run in the NCAA tournament is not out of the question. Yet, you cannot base your optimism or criticisms on “ifs and “buts” because if “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas. The game of basketball isn’t that simple, but the Hurricanes must figure themselves out if they are to reach their goals this season.