Miami Basketball: Sweeping Duke Would Make 'Canes Team to Beat in Tournament

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IMarch 2, 2013

Feb 27, 2013; Coral Gables, FL, USA;  Miami Hurricanes head coach Jim Larranaga in the first half of a game against the Virginia Tech Hokies at the BankUnited Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes have a chance to sweep the season series against their ACC rival, the Duke Blue Devils, tonight, and doing so would make them strong contenders in the upcoming NCAA tournament. In fact, the 'Canes would be the team to beat following a win tonight.

Miami already defeated Duke once this season, back on Jan. 23, when the Blue Devils were ranked No. 1 and the Hurricanes were No. 25. That game turned into a 90-63 blowout fueled by 25 points from Durand Scott, leaving Duke fans stunned.

The tables have turned since then. Duke has dropped to No. 3, while Miami is now at No. 5. Miami is now at something of a disadvantage, as Round 2 is set to be played at Cameron Indoor Stadium. For all we know, the Cameron Crazies could be a bit much for Miami to handle.

Just the same, there is one key piece of information we have to remember. This is a Hurricanes team coached by Jim Larranaga, the man who turned once-unheard-of George Mason University into a respectable program and led them to the Final Four in 2006 as a No. 11 seed.

The man has a knack for getting the best out of his players and turning programs around, and his brief tenure with Miami shows it. Employing his strong defensive philosophy, Larranaga has turned the Hurricanes from what was an NIT team last season to one that could win it all this year.

If Miami manages to beat Duke tonight and take the season series, then fans and experts alike will have no choice but to consider them the team to beat once the big dance rolls around. This is a team that has defied all odds and expectations to practically run the table in the ACC, going 14-1 in conference play and 23-4 overall.

Moreover, the fact that they managed to beat a team just barely three years removed from a championship at home could count for a lot.

All in all, the facts are simple. After over a decade of being practically irrelevant during March Madness season, Miami is in a prime position to be the team to beat with a potential season sweep of ever-dangerous Duke.

Should that become a reality, everyone should fill that bracket out accordingly.