By halftime on Saturday at the BankUnited Center, while most of the sold-out crowd was twisting out their necks trying to get an eyeful of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade courtside, the national beat writers and TV analysts holed up in the media room were already tossing around the question: Are the Hurricanes a number-one team?
On Saturday, the senior-strong squad was definitely making the case. Running almost pitch-perfect on offense and jamming up the University of North Carolina's usually fleet attack, the Hurricanes ended up putting away the Tar Heels 87-61. The performance added another win to the team's 10-0 ACC record. With two losses hitting top five teams over the weekend, why the hell shouldn't Miami land in the top spot come Monday? ran the hopeful thinking.
Close, but not top seat, it turns out. Yesterday, the latest Associated Press coaches poll put the Hurricanes at number three. The USA Today ranking this week has the team at number four. But the clamoring for Miami in the top seat has actual momentum -- the school received 17 votes for number one in the poll.
There are a lot of reasons this is a big, giant windfall for the team. For one, it was unranked going into 2013, making the 'Canes one of only six teams to slingshot from off the rankings to the top five in four weeks or less since the poll started in the 1989-90 season, according to the school's research.
The school is also the only team to beat both Duke and UNC by more than 25 points in the same season. It's also the only squad in one of the six major conferences with a perfect record in league play.
But one of the more interesting fallouts from the new rankings is how little it seems to dent the team's general composure. Yesterday, after the rankings were announced, there were a lot of big grins backstage before practice, but the team all seemed focused and level-headed.
"These guys are hungry, and yet they remain very humble," Coach Jim Larranaga said at yesterday's news conference. "They understand that this may be -- and it really is -- a once-in-a-lifetime experience for this season. For our seniors, this is the last time they go through it. But next year, for a lot of the guys returning, even if this happened again, it happens differently because their roles would be different."