Point guard Kevin Norris of Miami majors in business, not ancient history, so he’s a bit fuzzy on the topic of the Hurricanes’ 1959-60 team.
“Rick Barry played then, right?” Norris said.
No, Barry was still in high school. That’s how long it’s been since the Hurricanes were nationally ranked.
“Whooooooeeeee,” Norris said, grinning at the thought that Miami’s 37-year exile from the rankings may be about to end. The Hurricanes strengthened their case for a spot in the Top 25 Tuesday by ending No. 8 Connecticut’s nine-game winning streak, 76-67.
At 12-1, Miami is 11 games over .500 for the first time since 1965, Barry’s senior season. The Hurricanes are 5-0 in the Big East Conference, their best start since joining the league.
This is heady stuff at a football school. As the football dynasty crumbles, the basketball program is emerging from obscurity in Leonard Hamilton’s eighth season as coach.
“If we start celebrating now, we won’t be where we want to be at the end of the season,” Hamilton said, his caution befitting a coach whose career record is 35 games below .500.
“But we now have an opportunity to get a little more exposure, and maybe people will recognize us a little more and give us a little more credibility.”
It’s been hard-earned. Miami dropped basketball in 1971, and when the program was resurrected in 1985, a lack of tradition made it difficult to win over fans or recruits.
But the Hurricanes recovered from an 0-18 Big East season in 1994, earning a National Invitation Tournament berth two of the past three years. Now they appear on the verge of taking the next step. Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun endorsed the Hurricanes, predicting they’ll contend for the Big East title and make the NCAA tournament.