As Hurricanes basketball continues rise in rankings, Larranaga asks: ‘How good can we get?’

Alie Skowronski/

Jim Larranaga knows what the rankings say about his Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball team.

The Hurricanes checked in at No. 12 in the latest AP poll, the team’s highest ranking since they were No. 6 overall in December 2017. Miami is 13-1 on the season and a perfect 4-0 so far in Atlantic Coast Conference play.

But Larranaga’s focus is on the future, on what’s left on the schedule, on what his team still needs to accomplish.

“I’ve never worried about how other people evaluate us,” Larranaga said Tuesday. “We as a coaching staff concentrate on ‘How good can we get?’ How do we improve each and every day, each and every week? The rankings are nice things for fans to talk about, but as far as we’re concerned, it’s more about performance on the court against a specific opponent.”

That specific opponent this week is Georgia Tech. The Hurricanes face the Yellow Jackets (7-6, 0-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion on Wednesday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

It’s the first of five road conference games Miami will play this month, with the Hurricanes only playing at home twice in January.

“The regular season is a marathon,” Larranaga said. “You want to be prepared for each and every game. On the road, the home team normally plays its best games. They have the crowd behind them. They feel energized. I know Georgia Tech is going to be very ready to play and our guys have got to be ready for the challenge.”

The Hurricanes have been up for just about every challenge they have faced so far this season as they build on their run to the Elite Eight last season.

Miami’s only loss so far this season was an 88-70 defeat to Maryland on Nov. 20 at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in Connecticut. Since then, the Hurricanes have gone 9-0, outscoring opponents by an average of 10.7 points per game in that span. This includes a 66-64 win over then-No. 6 Virginia on Dec. 20 and most recently a 76-65 win over Notre Dame on Friday.

Kenpom rankings have the Hurricanes as the No. 12 offense nationally, averaging 114.4 points per 100 possessions.

Miami has four players averaging double-digit points per game in Isaiah Wong (17.1), Jordan Miller (14.6), Norchad Omier (13.8) and Nijel Pack (11.9).

“We have several guys scoring the basketball in different ways,” said associate head coach Bill Courtney, who oversees the Hurricanes’ offense. “What’s really been key for our offense is we’ve done a great job of sharing the basketball. ... They’ve come into this team willing to share the ball right from the beginning, right from the summer. Those guys developed the chemistry and it really helps when you don’t have guys that are selfish and looking out for their own statistics but are willing to do whatever it takes for the team to function well together.”

While the offense has been a bright spot, the team still has work to do defensively. Miami ranks 104th in Kenpom’s adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing 98.5 points per 100 possessions. The Hurricanes are 10th in the ACC in rebounds per game (34.7).

“Our defense at times has been very good,” Laranaga said. “We’ve been getting back and setting our defense better and better. Our offense is very much helped by our defense. When we play good defense, it creates opportunities in the open court. They go hand in hand. There’s got to be a great balance.”