That tip from Marcus Georges-Hunt did a lot more than just hand Miami their first home loss in ACC play — 71-69 to Georgia Tech, if you couldn’t tell — and drop them one game closer to sharing their ACC title with Duke.
It may have cost the Hurricanes a shot at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Miami now has lost to Florida-Gulf Coast, Indiana State, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. I don’t care how many players were injured for how many games. A No. 1 seed in a season where there are a dozen teams with a shot at getting a No. 1 seed cannot have four losses to teams that won’t be getting a sniff when it comes to at-large consideration.
It’s really that simple.
But the concerns about the Hurricanes appear to run a bit deeper now. Losses in three of their last four games is an issue. The fact that one of those losses was by 15 points at Wake Forest and another one came at home — on the same floor where, in the span of two weeks, they beat Duke and North Carolina by a combined 53 points — to Georgia Tech.
Even before the losses started piling up, Miami was starting to look a bit ragged. They struggled at Florida State and they needed a last-minute three from Kenny Kadji to win at Clemson. After Shane Larkin bailed the Hurricanes out at home, taking advantage of a defensive breakdown by Virginia, Miami lost at Wake and then struggled to put away Virginia Tech on their home court.
Ironically enough, the best game that the Hurricanes have played since drubbing North Carolina? Their loss to Duke at Cameron.
A lot of people are going to point fingers at Reggie Johnson, and it’s true, he’s been a complete non-factor of late — the past two games, he has two points on 1-9 shooting and just six rebounds in 32 minutes. But only twice since returning from his broken thumb has Johnson broken double-figures. His disappearance is being overstated.
The bigger issue is on the defensive end of the floor. Miami isn’t getting stops.
“This loss definitely hurts,” Julian Gamble said. “Hopefully it hurts us enough for us to realize we need to get back to defending.”
In February, the Hurricanes were No. 3 in Kenpom’s defensive efficiency rating. They’ve fallen to tenth, and that’s before the 71 points they allowed the Yellow Jackets on roughly 64 possessions gets factored in. Duke lit them up for 1.14 PPP. Wake Forest scored 1.16 PPP on them.
As good as Shane Larkin has been this season, Miami’s bread-and-butter has been their ability to defend. They’re bigger and older and stronger than anyone they are going to face this year, and they have a point guard that they can rely on to create in half court, final possession situations.
They need to get back to getting stops consistently.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.