That’s the sign that will greet fans when they walk up seeking to buy tickets for the University of Miami basketball Hurricanes at the team’s BankUnited Center on-campus home in Coral Gables.
Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga made the announcement Wednesday at his weekly press briefing that all 5,600 season tickets for the 2015-16 season had been sold. Another 1,500 are set aside for students.
“We are totally sold out for the season,” Larranaga said, his voice rising in pitch with every syllable. “We weren’t before I got started” — referring to the opening minutes of his press conference — “but we are now totally sold out for the season!”
It’s not hard to figure out why. Miami always has been a big event sports town (Super Bowls, championship auto races, golf and tennis tournaments, etc.), and home games with Duke and Florida fit that category. Also, optimism was running high on the Hurricanes before the season began. With four starters back from a team that was runner-up in last season’s NIT, the Hurricanes were picked to finish fifth in the always tough 15-team Atlantic Coast Conference.
They have since validated those predictions by winning their first five games, a stretch that last week had them beating No. 16 Utah and No. 22 Butler by double digits on their way to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament title. In fact, all their wins have been by double digits.
“It’s the greatest feeling for a coach to inherit a program whose history and tradition is at a level where people are telling you there’s not much interest in your program and that you’re not going to draw great crowds,” Larranaga said. “To now be in a position to say every game this season is a sellout, that if you walk up the day of the game to buy a ticket at the ticket window there will not be any available.
“There might be some that you can buy from a scalper — I don’t know how that works — but that’s very, very different than the program that we inherited. That’s very exciting, quite an accomplishment, and it’s not only the first time in the basketball program’s history but the first time in the athletic department’s history that any sports team here at the U has been sold out for the entire season.”
Not even the Miami football program can make that claim, and it has five national championships to its credit since 1983. The basketball team, on the other hand, has never advanced past the NCAA tourney’s regional semifinals. Ever.
But now comes a critical time.
Since debuting this week in the Associated Press poll at the No. 15 spot, the Hurricanes next play host to Northeastern on Friday at 4 p.m. at the BUC. This is exactly the kind of game the Hurricanes lost a year ago after moving into the top 25 rankings in early December, starting at No. 17 and working their way up to No. 15 before losing at home to Green Bay.
They were still at No. 18 after that loss when they were thumped by 28 points at home by Eastern Kentucky.
It’s a lesson the current players, most of whom were around a year ago, are taking to heart. Even in the midst of celebrating their Tip-Off title in San Juan, sophomore guard Ja’Quan Newton took a moment to remind his teammates of what happened last December.
“Last year it was the same thing,” Newton said. “We went to Charleston and won the championship and came back home undefeated, and we didn’t take care of business at home when we came back home.
“I just wanted everybody to know that we’re not done. We’re celebrating right now, but we’re not done. We still have work to do. It happened last year, so it can happen again. So don’t let it happen again.”
Northeastern should provide an interesting test. The Huskies are 4-1 and have a 20-point scorer in guard David Walker (20.8 ppg) and a double-digit scorer in forward/guard Quincy Ford (14.2).
“I don’t think it’s a surprise to any of the coaches or any of the players as to how well we’re playing,” Larranaga said. “The challenge was never about just playing well. The challenge is to play consistently well, because we played well sporadically all last season.
“Our challenge now is to get ready for a very fine Northeastern team, a team that reminds our coach staff of Butler. They’re very similar to the team we just played in the championship of the Puerto Rico shootout, a highly skilled team.”
The Huskies won at Florida State last season and pushed Notre Dame to the final minute before losing by four points in the NCAA tournament.