MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The University of Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball team may have come up short in its Sweet 16 matchup with the Marquette Golden Eagles, but the school still hopes fans will show up at the BankUnited Center Friday at 12:30 p.m. to welcome the team back to Miami.
The Canes couldn’t buy a bucket in a 71-61 loss to Marquette. The final score was closer than the game actually was as Marquette started out hot from the field and maintained a large lead over the Canes throughout the game.
Still, it’s nothing short of amazing where the team full of seniors took the program in four years in Coral Gables.
In 2009, coach Frank Haith led the current senior class as freshman and took them to a 20-13 record, but the 16-1 non-conference record masked a 4-12 Atlantic Coast Conference performance that saw UM finish dead last in the conference.
The next season, the Canes once again finished with at least 20 victories, but again finished in the bottom quarter of the ACC with a 6-10 record. UM made it to the postseason and got to the quarterfinals of the NIT Tournament before being eliminated.
Then Haith left for the University of Missouri and Miami made a solid hire with current coach Jim Larranaga. The new coach had recently led George Mason to the Final Four, but was not at the top of many coaching lists and UM was not considered a school that even liked basketball.
Larranaga instilled more confidence and took the squad to a 20-13 record in his first season including a winning record in ACC play. The Canes finished sixth in the conference, but were bounced from the NIT in the second round of the tournament.
Larranaga’s Canes were not expected to be a contender this season, but the coach rallied the troops and had something exceedingly rare in college basketball, a senior-laden team.
The senior leadership bought into Larranaga’s game plans and after struggling at the start of the season with losses to Florida Gulf Coast and Indiana State, UM hit the gas on January 1 and never looked back until Thursday.
The Canes ripped off a 13-0 mark to start ACC play before finishing 15-3 in the regular season, claiming the regular season conference title. Then, Miami, ranked the top seed in the ACC Tournament, mowed down everyone in their path to claim the tournament championship as well.
UM pounded Pacific in the first round and got by Illinois in the second round of the NCAA Tournament before running into Marquette Thursday night.
While the Canes’ season ended, the foundation the seniors laid down with Coach Larranaga could go a long way towards building a program that has desperately needed an influx of talent and hope for many years.