That hot seat's been doused.
Streaking Miami has won four straight, including upsets over Duke and Maryland, to put itself squarely in the NCAA tournament picture. The Hurricanes (19-7, 6-6 ACC) are tied for fifth in the league standings with four games to play.
"We're coming off a really good week," coach Frank Haith said. "If you're able to win tight ballgames, you've got something to hang your hat on."
Haith guided his troops to a 12-0 record before Winthrop came to town and gave them their first loss. Then the 'Canes began the conference slate 2-6, causing some grumbling about Haith's thus-far three-year streak of losing ACC records.
Never miss a local story.
But with a renewed confidence in forward Dwayne Collins' game and the usual scoring from machine Jack McClinton, Miami rebounded to beat Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech before the Blue Devils and Terrapins came calling. Duke gave up a season-high 96 points to the Hurricanes and Miami beat Maryland by 15.
Another large factor -- Miami's swished 79 of 100 free throws during the four wins, three of which came by three points or fewer.
Haith said he believes the Hurricanes' record, if they keep hovering around the .500 mark in the league, should be a shoo-in for the NCAAs, which would be his first tournament appearance as a head coach. Miami's 24th in the latest RPI and its strength of schedule is 36.
"We have no bad losses, have a good RPI, good strength of schedule." Haith said. "There isn't anything in terms of our resume you could point to that could hurt us."
Miami will get an immediate test against another team seeking to strengthen its NCAA resume. The Hurricanes play at Clemson on Wednesday, the Tigers (19-7, 7-5) coming off a restful week and hoping to avenge a 75-72 loss at Miami on Jan. 27.
"We're not exactly playing them at a great time," Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. "We're playing maybe the hottest team in the league."
• DEMONS DUNKED?: Wake Forest's three-game winning streak crashed after an 89-73 whipping at North Carolina over the weekend, but the Deacons (16-9, 6-6) are still alive. Their tournament hopes could be looking a lot brighter, but there's still time to pad the resume.
"We're 6-6 with four to play," coach Dino Gaudio said. "It's in our hands right now. We have a chance to go the NCAA tournament. That's all we can ask for."
Getting an NCAA bid would be huge for Gaudio, who has never posted a winning record as a head coach or been to the tournament. The Deacons have missed the NCAAs for the past two years.
Wake handed Duke (23-3, 10-2) its first ACC loss as part of its winning streak but was undone by the Tar Heels (26-2, 11-2) over the weekend. No surprise -- ACC leading scorer/rebounder Tyler Hansbrough led the way with 29 points and five boards.
"What I just witnessed when we preceded him at practice," Gaudio began, "he's the first guy on the court, he's got a muscle milk in his hand ... he gets it. A lot of kids don't get it. That's why he's as good as he is."
Wake hosts Maryland (17-11, 7-6) on Wednesday and ends the regular season playing the two Techs and N.C. State.
• REFLECTING: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski recalled his days in the U.S. Army on Monday, discussing how his experiences as a West Point cadet and later on as an Army captain prepared him for coaching. Two of the biggest things he learned, he said, were how to lead and how to handle failure.
"There were so many moments for me in the Army and West Point that were defining moments," Krzyzewski said. "You have to figure out how to get better."
His Blue Devils, after a two-game losing streak that knocked them out of the ACC lead, figured out something over the weekend. They blistered St. John's by 30 to at least make themselves feel a little bit better, heading into their last four games with a chance to get back on top.
Duke hosts Georgia Tech on Wednesday and then takes a two-game road trip to N.C. State and Virginia. Assuming the Tar Heels don't trip and Duke can win out, the second installment of perhaps the best hoops rivalry in the country will be a winner-take-all matchup for the ACC regular-season crown and the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament.
The Tar Heels play at Duke on March 8. Duke won the first game 89-78 on Jan. 6.
"We just have to try to keep getting better," said Krzyzewski, who will claim his 800th career win with two more victories.
• SHELL-SHOCKED: After shooting into third place in the league, Maryland has lost two straight to fall into a tie for fourth with Virginia Tech (16-11, 7-6). The Terrapins have a chance to get back into third, hosting third-place Clemson on March 2, but first they have to get past Wake Forest on Thursday.
"This is a big test for our team to maintain a very positive attitude," coach Gary Williams said. "We've had a couple of tough games."
It's not hard to find the reason for the defeats -- senior James Gist hasn't been his usual dominant self. Usually good for 15 points per game, Gist only had 17 over the two losses.
Gist has been icy from the field, hitting just 6-of-19 field goals during the stretch. He's still been handling his board work with 16 rebounds, but with no scoring, guard Grievis Vasquez has had to take up more of the slack while trying to fight through double-teams.
• HE SAID IT: "That's why I have two artificial hips." -- Krzyzewski, when asked if it was true he used to be a great charge-taker as the coach at West Point.