NCAA Tournament – The U is not just football

Jim Larranaga and Katie Meier have each been in Miami for over a decade, the clear, recognizable faces of programs that always find a way to delight and surprise, and yes, establish the Hurricanes as a school of basketball- ball.

They provided not only stability, but also a clear identity to their respective teams, born of the same mindset and mentality: tenacity, courage and relentless determination, whatever the odds.

While their teams’ runs to the Elite Eight may seem unlikely given where they’ve been seeded in the tournament (men at No. 5, women at No. 9), Larranaga and Meier worked hard to earn this moment at a school that doesn’t get the same attention as others within the ACC.

Larranaga has been here before, of course, taking the men to the Elite Eight a season ago – a first in the program’s history. This year, Meier led the women to their first Elite Eight in program history. The fact that they are here together is worth celebrating and embracing, despite being approximately 900 miles apart at their respective tournament sites in Greenville, South Carolina, and Kansas City, South Carolina. Missouri.

The men’s team saw the women beat Villanova on Friday to advance to the Elite Eight, hours before the start of their own game against Houston. Then the Miami women watched as the men knocked out the top-seeded Cougars to join them in the next round.

“I think it’s really, really important,” Meier said Saturday. “The two programs have a lot in common. We’re very competitive, like big brother/little sister or big sister/little brother, depending on who won that week. We get along like that, and I love it. Every time you have the opportunity to have someone pushing you, whether you’re on the practice table next to someone, a player next to the other player saying, “Why did you Missed that shot?” They’re just there competing with each other in a very loving way. I think that elevated both of our programs.

ACC commissioner Jim Phillips noted how Miami represented itself despite perhaps not having the tradition of some of the blue blood brands like Duke and North Carolina that define how ACC basketball is viewed. Miami has only been in the ACC since 2004, but it’s done more than hold its own waving the conference flag.

“The university’s commitment to athletics has manifested itself in many ways,” Phillips told ESPN.

“What’s been great for the conference is that we have a variety of programs that maybe have a long history in college basketball and maybe some don’t have as much as others. , but at any time, these programs can rise to the top and stay there.”

“I’ve heard people describe schools as football schools, basketball schools, whatever. I don’t see it that way. Our football team has won five national championships. Our baseball team won four. I think we have a great sporting department and great leadership in the administration.”

Jim Larranaga, Miami Men’s Coach

Indeed, both teams have become mainstays of the NCAA Tournament. During his 18 years in Miami, Meier appeared in the NCAA Tournament 10 times. In his 12 seasons, Larranaga led Miami to the tournament six times – including those two Elite Eights and two other Sweet 16 runs.

This year, not only did they both make the Elite Eight, but they both beat a No. 1 seed. Larranaga specifically mentioned the women beating No. 1 seed Indiana, on the road to the second round, during his post-match comments on Friday.

But he also mocked the characterization that Miami is a school of basketball. But the truth is, the Hurricanes’ basketball programs have had more postseason success in recent years than football — the most nationally identifiable sports program. Miami has won five national football championships, most recently in 2001, but has never won an ACC championship.

The men and women have each won ACC regular season basketball titles, including the men as co-champions this season.

“I’ve heard people describe schools as football schools, basketball schools, whatever,” Larranaga said. “I don’t see it that way. Our football team has won five national championships. Our baseball team has won four. I think we have a great athletic department and great leadership in the administration. They do great job of providing us with the resources to be competitive. I’m so proud of Katie Meier and her team because they did an amazing job. So hats off to the men’s and women’s basketball programs.

Miami athletic director Dan Radakovich was there to watch both games on Friday – taking a private jet from Greenville after the Hurricanes’ 70-65 win over Villanova to fly to Kansas City to watch the 89-75 win over Houston .

“It’s been a remarkable run to the Elite Eight for our men’s and women’s basketball teams,” Radakovich told ESPN. β€œIt was thrilling to watch and energized our college community and our alumni base from coast to coast. joy, which is a tribute to Jim and Katie.

“But both of them will tell you that the job is not finished yet.”

This Miami run was unexpected and, quite frankly, unlikely. The Hurricanes were in the bubble heading into selection Sunday after going 19-12 in the regular season, including a disappointing 68-42 loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament.

After earning a No. 9 seed, they were sent on the road to Bloomington, Indiana to face Oklahoma State in the first round. At halftime in that very first game, Miami trailed 37-20. It might have looked gloomy for those watching at home, but the Hurricanes entered halftime determined not to let their season end.

“They humbled us very quickly, and we thank them for that,” said goalkeeper Destiny Harden. “If we hadn’t had such a tough game from the start, we probably wouldn’t be as far as we are now.”

Miami rallied to win 62-61, tying the fifth-greatest comeback in tournament history. If that game turned out to be wild, what was to come next against the No. 1 seed Indiana turned out to be even wilder. Playing in front of a raucous hometown Indiana crowd, Miami never trailed in the game, determined to set the tone early on after what happened in the first round.

Harden won the game with a lane shot with 3.5 seconds left, lifting Miami to a 70-68 victory and a berth in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1992. But Meier refused to call it the biggest victory of his career. . Because there would be more in advance.

Once again Miami was the underdog against No. 4 seed Villanova in their Sweet 16 game, but once again the Hurricanes dictated the tone with their fearlessness in the paint – opening a 21-point lead at the start of the second half. But Villanova came back all the way, briefly taking the lead, before Jasmyne Roberts’ three-point play put Miami firmly ahead in a 70-65 victory.

Miami won its three games by a combined eight points, the smallest margin of victory in the first three games in NCAA Tournament history.

“We did everything, we fell, we climbed, we got tied up,” guard Ja’Leah Williams said. “It’s been ups and downs, but we’re still successful no matter what, as long as we’re together and supporting each other.”

After his team’s win over first-seeded Houston, Norchad Omier said he heard about the Cougars’ physicality and strength. These traits led Miami to enter this Sweet 16 game as a 7.5-point underdog.

But Omier said he always thought Miami could match the toughness of the Cougars. He was right.

“You have to give them credit because they are a very physical team, but I think we have to worry about them but they also have to worry about us,” Omier said after the win. “I don’t know if they thought in Miami, that we’re not physical, but I think I’m quite physical. I like physicality, and I think my teammates like it.”

The lingering concern all season for Miami was its defensive shortcomings. The Hurricanes entered Friday’s game outside the top 100 in adjusted defensive efficiency. Despite the ACC victory, Miami’s imbalance – great offensive team (top 10 in adjusted offensive efficiency), poor defensive team – made it easier to pick against Larranaga’s team.

They proved in the NCAA Tournament, however, that they still had the athletes to put together a respectable defensive effort.

But they’re back in the Elite Eight for the second year in a row because ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong is creating game problems as a 6-foot-4 all-around winger. Nijel Pack, the Kansas State transfer who has made 41% of his 3-point attempts this season, is both a point guard and a playmaker who also creates defensive challenges for opponents.

The team also plays a more modern style with a small-ball lineup that includes a “frontcourt” with Wooga Poplar (6-5), Jordan Miller (6-7) and Omier (6-7). While that may present defensive hurdles against bigger teams, Miami’s ability to score in transition and run on the ground has been the catalyst for its run at this point.

Since Jan. 28, the ACC co-champions have amassed a 12-2 record and connected on 40% of their 3-point attempts. Those shots were the catalysts for another run to the Elite Eight, where Miami silenced any doubters of their ability to win a national title.

“We focused on moving the ball and finding the open man, and the guys did a fantastic job from start to finish,” Larranaga said after Friday’s game. “We only had six turnovers. So that’s the name of the game. And we matched them on the rebound. Great performance from our guys.” –Myron Medcalf


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