North Carolina hasn’t forgotten its last encounter with Miami.
A buzzer-beating Tyler Zeller layup was all that prevented an early UNC exit from the ACC tournament at the hands of a team that has perennially occupied the conference’s bottom tier.
This season, though, Miami returns with a new coach, last season’s leading scorers and a fresh attitude.
Yet the Miami basketball program still remains under the radar.
The fans that flock to see the Hurricanes compete on the gridiron have always been largely absent from the school’s basketball arena. Last season, the average home game attracted slightly more than half the bodies required to fill the school’s 8,000 arena.
To make matters worse, allegations have surfaced that former coach Frank Haith knew about a $10,000 donation from a booster to help recruit DeQuan Jones.
Haith left the Hurricanes last spring after the team’s NIT quarterfinal loss to Alabama to coach at the University of Missouri. His seven seasons at Miami included just one trip to the NCAA tournament and a middling 43-69 record in the ACC.
Now, former George Mason coach Jim Larranaga leads Miami, having proven himself capable of leading a small-time program to big-time success. Under Larranaga, George Mason earned five NCAA berths and one trip to the Final Four in 2006.
“Coach Larranaga is the leader,” junior guard Durand Scott said. “If you follow the leader, how can you go wrong if he’s been where you want to go?”