Right now, South Florida is the axis on which the sports world turns.
In both basketball and hockey, squads from the Miami area and beyond have been punching well above their weight. Upsets are the rule rather than the exception, Cinderella runs go way past midnight, and in general no team with a (1) next to its name wants to play anyone from a South Florida team right now.
Here’s a quick look back at the improbable run of Florida dominance.
Men’s NCAA tournament: Miami and Florida Atlantic
The Miami Hurricanes and Florida Atlantic Owls were fifth and ninth seeds, respectively, going into the NCAA tournament. They certainly didn’t play like it. Miami knocked off the 4-seed Indiana Hoosiers, 1-seed Houston Cougars and 2-seed Texas Longhorns to make their first Final Four in tournament history. Meanwhile, the Owls defeated the 8-seed Memphis Tigers, stopped the 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson Knights and beat the 4-seed Tennessee Volunteers and 3-seed Kansas State Wildcats, becoming only the second ever 9-seed to make the Final Four. While both lost in the Final Four, FAU came achingly close to upsetting the 5-seed San Diego State Aztecs and continuing their improbable run.
Women’s NCAA tournament: Miami
Another big run for the Miami Hurricanes. Miami beat the 8-seed Oklahoma State Cowgirls, 1-seed Indiana Hoosiers and 4-seed Villanova Wildcats, losing only to the eventual champion LSU Tigers in the Elite Eight.
The Boston Bruins had one of the greatest regular seasons in NHL history, setting records for wins (65) and points (135) on their way to a first-round matchup against the Florida Panthers, who had 42 wins and only 92 points — respectable for sure, but nowhere near historic. When the Bruins took a 3-1 lead in the series, it looked like things were over for the Panthers … but they roared back, winning three games in a row and stunning the Bruins. Then they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in five games, and now they are up 2-0 on the Carolina Hurricanes. Two more wins and they make the Stanley Cup Final.
Though Miami’s playoff run started off inauspiciously with a loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the play-in, the Heat defeated the Chicago Bulls to advance to the next round against the 1-seed Milwaukee Bucks … whom they promptly dispatched in five games, including a 56-point outburst by Butler in Game 4. They beat the New York Knicks in six games to face off against the Boston Celtics, and they’re dominating that series. In case anyone doubted the legend of playoff Jimmy Butler, well, it looks like he’s absolutely for real.
He’s not a team, per se, but Koepka is a West Palm Beach native. He hadn’t won a major tournament since 2019 and was ranked 44th going into the 2023 PGA Championship, which he then won Sunday by 2 strokes. The year of South Florida continues unabated.