Miami's tourney hopes fading after loss

ATLANTA -- Chants of "We want Duke" started with a little more than a minute remaining in Friday night's ACC second-round finale.

But they weren't for Miami.

The chants of "N-I-T" from giddy Florida State fans just before the final two free throws of the game, however, were.

It was a harsh way to leave Philips Arena -- and Atlanta -- for the Hurricanes, who lost 82-71 to Florida State in the quarterfinals, but the verbal shots taken by the rival fan base could be heartbreaking clues to Miami's postseason fate.

Entering the ACC tournament, the Hurricanes, who sit at 19-12 on the season, needed to make some sort of run. Step 1 was completed Thursday with a 54-36 victory over Georgia Tech. It was a game that ended with Miami's offense clicking and led to thoughts of a classic second-round matchup with FSU.

However, at Miami's pregame meal three hours before tip-off, coach Jim Larranaga dropped a bombshell when he told his players that starting guard, and leading scorer, Durand Scott was out for the game. The school later said he was ruled ineligible for receiving impermissible benefits.

So Miami, which had dealt with its fair share of distractions and adversity all season, entered Friday night's contest down arguably its best player.

As much as the Canes fought, they didn't have enough. Missing Scott, there wasn't that consistent lane presence, that suffocating defender or that calming effect on the court. Freshman guard Shane Larkin said Miami tried to fill Scott's role by committee, but it just couldn't.

Because of that, Miami is once again on the outside looking in when it comes to the NCAA tournament.

"The selection committee does a great job of analyzing everybody's resume and their body of work throughout the entire season," Larranaga said. "I don't think it comes down to one game. We've played enough that if we do get selected, I think we can make a run in the tournament.

"That's out of our hands. Those are not things we can control."

What Miami did control was another off shooting night in the first half. The Canes shot under 30 percent in first frame in back-to-back games and couldn't get out of the hole they dug in the first 20 minutes.

Mistakes and miscues helped the poor shooting effort, and Larkin said it was hard to stomach just how close he thought his team had come to securing a tournament bid.

"We tried to fight through [adversity] again, like we have all year, but it just wasn't enough tonight," Larkin said.

"I still think we're a tournament team. You never want to leave that decision to the committee."

But Miami did, and now the question is if the NCAA will take a look at what the Canes have done considering their situation. They played without center Reggie Johnson until December because of a knee injury and were without senior guard/forward DeQuan Jones for the first 10 games because of an NCAA investigation into recruiting allegations.

Then Scott's situation arose and Miami failed to overcome its latest bout with misfortune.

Miami's loss could be other bubble teams' gains. Now, one of those other bubble teams could slip past the Canes in the pecking order.

Miami won't truly know anything until Sunday, and you can bet that the countdown to Selection Sunday will be torturous.

"You wish you could write a letter to the NCAA pleading your case," Larkin said. "There's nothing you can do now. You just sit here and wait and the agony of knowing that you had a chance to put yourself in there, like permanently without no doubt, it's tough."