MINNEAPOLIS -- In the first three weeks of the season, the ACC has established its dominance.
Marvin Bagley III, currently college basketball’s most imposing and dominant player, and Duke outplayed Texas and Florida in the PK80 tournament in Portland, Oregon. The Blue Devils secured every first-place vote (65) in this week’s Associated Press top 25 poll.
Undefeated Virginia held Wisconsin to 37 points in Monday’s win over the Badgers in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Notre Dame beat Wichita State in the Maui Invitational title game last week, and the No. 5 Fighting Irish could climb higher if they can capture a road victory over third-ranked Michigan State on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN/Watch ESPN) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
North Carolina and Louisville clearly need time to grow, but they’re both teams with legit NCAA tournament aspirations, which recent losses to Michigan State and Purdue, respectively, proved.
Even middle-of-the-pack ACC squads like Syracuse and Florida State are undefeated thus far.
But No. 10 Miami faced its first real test of the season against No. 12 Minnesota on Wednesday, a game the Hurricanes won 86-81.
It was Miami's first true road environment of the season, part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Its first meaningful game against an elite opponent this season.
Its first opportunity to announce its place in the ACC.
Yes, the Hurricanes won.
But football coach Mark Richt can keep the turnover chain.
These inconsistent Hurricanes haven’t earned any jewelry yet.
OK, maybe a bracelet. But not a chain.
They are, however, the ACC’s and maybe America’s most intriguing crew. They’re ranked among the top 10 in defensive efficiency on KenPom.com. Bruce Brown Jr. (16 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists) is a pro. Dewan Huell scored 23 points against Reggie Lynch, one of America’s top shot-blockers.
Ja'Quan Newton (12 points, 9 assists) is the perfect veteran for this group.
Overall, the Hurricanes made 40 percent of their 3-point attempts (10-for-25) on Wednesday.
They also forced 12 turnovers after entering the game doing so on nearly one-fourth of their opponents’ possessions.
Proof of their potential? They lost a double-digit lead late but held on to win in front of a sold-out crowd at Williams Arena.
The Hurricanes (6-0) are rough but compelling.
They’d entered Wednesday’s game as one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country. They couldn’t buy a 3-pointer, either.
Lonnie Walker IV, a projected first-round pick in next summer’s NBA draft entering the season, hadn’t found a rhythm yet. They had no chemistry.
On Wednesday, however, they clicked and brought their best in their toughest moment of the season.
And they left Minneapolis with a win that will help them in March.
This season, the NCAA tournament selection committee will increase its emphasis on the value of true road wins. Few teams in America, at this juncture, boast a true road victory as valuable as the win Miami acquired Wednesday.
With Dupree McBrayer sidelined by a leg injury, Minnesota coach Richard Pitino turned to YouTube star Isaiah "Jelly Fam" Washington, who started at point guard. He also started 1-for-10 from the field and had three turnovers with 10 minutes to play in the game.
But he collected a couple of late baskets that cut Miami’s double-digit edge -- the Hurricanes led by 12 midway through the half -- to just four with 3:09 to play.
Miami played a scattered game until a burst in the second half. Brown and Anthony Lawrence II both began the game with a 3-for-4 start from the field. But their teammates missed 10 of their first 11 shots in a grimy first half.
Miami entered the final eight minutes having hit 10 of 21 from the 3-point line. And then, the Hurricanes' first true road environment began to swallow them. Lawrence fouled out during a Gophers comeback that cut Miami’s lead to single digits.
But the Hurricanes never surrendered.
They’re not polished yet. They finished just 6-for-11 from the free throw line, extending their ongoing struggles there.
Yet, they’re stacked with elite talent in their backcourt and enough poise to beat a potential Big Ten champ on the road.
Let’s see how Miami evolves as ACC play approaches.
You never know.
In the end, the basketball team might deserve a chain, too.