The top 10 moments that led to Miami's first Final Four
With a 29-7 record and the first Final Four appearance in program history set for Saturday against favored UConn, there have been many great moments for the Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball team this season.
As such, some great moments were left off the top-10 list below.
Such as: a win over 6th-ranked Virginia, a wild 107-105 victory over Cornell that showed what Miami’s offense could be, a win over 20th-ranked Clemson and a win over Florida State, which is always a good day for Hurricanes fans.
Instead, this list is heavy on NCAA Tournament wins and some key personnel moves, which were helped by NIL money. That’s a major part of big-time college sports these days, and at least it’s out in the open as opposed to the mystery-envelope days of years gone by …
Here, then, are the 10 biggest Hurricanes moments that led to their first Final Four appearance:
10. Surviving Pitt
Pitt’s brilliant shooter, Blake Hinson, missed a 3-pointer on the last play of the game, leading to a 78-76 Hurricanes win. Miami clinched a share of the ACC title, and the Hurricanes stormed the court. It was Miami’s final home game of the season, and it served as a nice send-off for what was about to happen.
9. Wong returns
On June 1, 2022, Isaiah Wong – after flirting with throwing his name into eligibility for the NBA Draft — announced he would return for another Miami season. This was huge news because Wong had averaged 15.3 points last season, earning third-team All-ACC honors. It turned out to be a wise decision for Wong, who went on to become the ACC Player of the Year.
8. The first key portal pick-up
On April 23, Nijel Pack announced he signed with Miami. This was huge news because Pack had made first-team All-Big 12 in 2022, averaging 17.4 points and shooting 43.6 percent on 3-pointers for Kansas State. He had a slow start for the Hurricanes, but he eventually became who he is – a guy who opens the court for his teammates because of his deep range on 3-pointers. He routinely hits shots from the logo, and his fake-and-drive game has improved immensely throughout the season. He is averaging 13.8 points and is shooting 40.% from distance.
7. The second key portal pick-up
On April 26, Norchad Omier signed with Miami after a brilliant 2-year run at Arkansas State. In fact, in 2022, he had been named the Sun Belt Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 17.9 points and 12. 2 rebounds.
Omier’s signing was 1 of the 3 key personnel decisions by players who have led Miami to glory, with the others detailed above in Pack and Wong. And while Pack and Wong received more notoriety at the time, Omier went on to become Miami’s Most Valuable Player. Initially, there was media doubt that Omier could put up big numbers in the ACC. Some thought the step up in league class would crush Omier. But that has not been the case. Instead, there is just no replacing what he does for the Hurricanes.
6. Wong delivers the dagger
With 3:46 left in Miami’s 2nd-round NCAA Tournament win over Indiana, Wong hit a 3-pointer, giving the Hurricanes a 72-60 lead.
Miami, the underdog in this game, went on to win, 85-69, and Wong’s 3-ball was the final nail.
5. Down goes No. 1
Miami’s Sweet 16 win over Houston was great because the Cougars were ranked No. 1 in the nation and heavy favorites. However, this doesn’t rank higher on this list because the final score wasn’t close at 89-75. Pack was immense in this game, scoring 25 points. He made an incredible 7-of-10 3-pointers. The “moment” chosen here was Pack’s final 3-pointer with 12:12 left, giving Miami a 62-53 lead.
4. Mr. Perfect takes down Texas
With 17 seconds left in the Elite 8 win over Texas, Miami’s Jordan Miller made 2 free throws in to give Miami an 86-81 lead. Miami went on to win 88-81. The significance of Miller’s free throws is that it capped his perfect night: 13-for-13 from the foul line and 7-for-7 from the field.
Miller, who should have made first-team All-ACC instead of second team and also could have made a strong case for league Player of the Year over Wong, is a uniquely versatile weapon on the roster.
He joined Duke legend Christian Laettner as the only players since 1960 to not miss with at least 20 combined attempts from the foul line and the floor in an NCAA Tournament game.
3. Omier returns
One of the biggest moments of the season happened just before tip-off on March 17 as Miami was about to open its NCAA Tournament run against Drake. That’s when Omier – who had missed the final 38 minutes of Miami’s ACC Tournament loss to Duke on March 10 after suffering a gruesome-looking sprained ankle – walked onto the court to officially mark his return. As stated previously, none of this happens without Omier.
2. 16-1 run to down Drake
Drake was a tough first-round matchup for Miami. Drake had experience, great shooting and size, which was stated in this space prior to that game. Sure enough, Drake led by 8 points with 5:40 remaining. Fortunately for Miami, the Hurricanes ended that game on a 16-1 run, holding Drake scoreless for the final 3:24.
Drake missed its final 7 shots. The biggest moment of that game, and No. 2 on this list, was Pack’s go-ahead jumper with 63 seconds left as Miami ended the game on a 10-0 run.
1. The overturned foul call in Elite 8
With exactly 1 minute left and the score tied 79-79 in Saturday’s Elite 8 game against Texas, Omier was charged with an over-the-back foul — his 5th. He had fouled out. … Except, one referee over-ruled the other – the call was reversed, and it was justified.
Texas’ Brock Cunningham backpedaled several steps into Omier, causing significant and dangerous contact to Omier, who was leaping for the rebound. After the call was reversed, Omier made both free throws, and Miami never trailed or was tied again. It was yet another great comeback for the Canes, who had trailed by as many as 13 points in a second half that for a moment had appeared hopeless. And – a recurring theme here – losing Omier would have been crushing.
Instead, the Hurricanes persevered.
“We have all bought into staying together, keeping that hope alive,” Miller said. “It really shows the poise of our squad.”