With two weeks left the regular season, Miami has positioned itself right in the thick of the Atlantic Coast Conference race after moving into a tie for first place with the team the Hurricanes are tied with, North Carolina, next on the schedule.
“I was remarking to somebody our game on Saturday is for first place. Our game on Monday could be for first place, then the game on (next) Saturday could be for first place, and the game the next Wednesday could be for first place,” coach Jim Larranaga said Thursday at his usual press briefing. “But only if you win.
“You’ve got to win to compete for first place and in the this league everybody you are competing with at this time of year is battling for that same title. These are very challenging games, but ones you look forward to.”
To fill in the details, Miami’s next game is Saturday at North Carolina (1 p.m. ET, CBS). The Hurricanes and Tar Heels became deadlocked after Wednesday’s games with the ’Canes surging in the second half to a 65-49 victory over Virginia Tech and the Heels falling at home to Duke 74-73. That left them each with a 10-3 record in the ACC.
Just two days later (7 p.m. Monday), the Hurricanes are back home to take on Virginia, which is 10-4 after its win over North Carolina State earlier this week. The Cavaliers are off this weekend before traveling to Coral Gables.
On Feb. 27, the Hurricanes finish their home schedule by hosting Louisville, which at 9-4 is tied for fourth going into its game this Saturday against Duke.
And the team the Cardinals are tied with is Notre Dame, which Miami visits on March 2. The Irish play Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, and Florida State, all on the road, before hosting the Hurricanes.
This most challenging stretch of Miami’s regular season ends with a trip to Virginia Tech on March 5 before the 14 teams head for Washington, D.C., and the ACC tournament. (Louisville is sitting out the conference tourney in anticipation of NCAA sanctions.)
“There’s a lot of games left, a lot of tough games for us, a lot of tough games for everybody in the conference,” senior guard Angel Rodriguez said.
Throw in 9-4 Duke and there are six teams within a game of first place in the conference, and Clemson is just another half-game back at 9-5.
“Which tells you anything can happen,” Rodriguez said. “We can be in first place now but if we don’t focus and we don’t do what we’re supposed to do we can finish in fifth place, literally. It’s that close of a race.”