University of Miami men’s basketball team climbs 11 spots to No. 14 in AP poll

On the strength of blowout victories against No. 1 Duke and Florida State last week, the Hurricanes climbed 11 spots in the Associated Press Top 25 poll released Monday and are now ranked No. 14. That’s UM’s highest ranking since it was No. 13 on February 11, 2002.

Since 1989, only four teams have experienced greater jumps in the AP Top 25 than Miami. Arizona owns the record, moving up 15 spots in November 1995.

UM (15-3, 6-0 ACC) also shot its way into the USA Today coaches poll, going from unranked last week to No. 15 on Monday. It’s the first time since December 2008 that Miami earned a spot in the USA Today poll.

“It is wonderful that the pollsters have selected us in the top 15 schools in the country at this point in our season,” said coach Jim Larranaga. “Our players have worked very hard to achieve certain goals, and being ranked was one of them. However, it is still very early in the conference race with 12 games still remaining. Our goal is really to be at our best at the end of February and throughout March.”

The Hurricanes have won seven straight games, including six consecutive wins in the ACC. That’s provided UM with a 1 1/2-game lead over second-place North Carolina State in the conference standings.

Miami was rolling along somewhat anonymously until catching national attention with its 90-63 beatdown of top-ranked Duke at the BankUnited Center on Wednesday. The Hurricanes followed that signature win with an impressive 71-47 victory against Florida State on Sunday at the BankUnited Center. Both games were played before capacity crowds of 7,972.

“It was great to win those two games,” said Larranaga, whose veteran team is 9-0 at home this season. “Now we’re ready to go on the road, and we have to bring the same energy and enthusiasm we had in front of the hometown crowd. We have to play with a certain amount of conviction.”

UM faces Virginia Tech (11-8, 2-4) on Wednesday in Blacksburg, Va., before traveling to Raleigh, N.C., to play No. 19 N.C. State (16-4, 5-2) on Saturday in a nationally televised game to be shown by CBS.

While there is still a long way to go, the Hurricanes are building a strong resume for the NCAA tournament. UM’s strength of schedule is first nationally and its RPI (Rating Percentage Index) is No. 3, behind Duke and Kansas.

CBSSports.com bracketologist Jerry Palm has Miami as a No. 2 seed in his latest NCAA tournament projections. The Hurricanes haven’t played in the NCAA tournament since 2007-08.

Despite its success, UM didn’t move into the AP poll until last week. The Hurricanes’ highest ranking ever was No. 8 on March 1, 1960. Since the rebirth of the basketball program in 1985, their highest ranking is No. 9 on March 1, 1999.

“This is a top team in America, a hot team,” said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton after his team’s blowout loss to UM on Sunday. “They could do great things.”

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