Getting to know ... Miami
Five things to know about Miami, which takes on Illinois in Sunday's Round of 32 game at Austin, Texas:
1 JIM LARRANAGA can coach. The 63-year-old from the Bronx has compiled a 48-19 record in his first two seasons with the Hurricanes. He became the first coach in school history to win 20 games in his first season after Miami finished 20-13 last year and made the second round of the NIT. He gained national notoriety by taking George Mason to the 2006 Final Four when the Patriots were a No. 11 seed. He hit the 500-career win plateau earlier this season when Miami beat Georgia Tech on Jan. 5 and has a 518-353 record entering today’s game.
2 Senior leadership is not lacking for Larranga’s squad. Almost half of Miami’s roster (six of 13) will end their careers sometime in the next two weeks. Four start — DURAND SCOTT (21 points against Pacific on 5 of 8 shooting from three-point range), KENNY KADJI (former piano player is originally from Cameroon), JULIAN GAMBLE (in sixth season after red-shirting his freshman season and suffering a torn ACL prior to last season; he’ll turn 24 in September) and TREY MCKINNEY JONES (started at Missouri-Kansas City before transferring prior to 2010-11 season) — while REGGIE JOHNSON (he weighs in at 292 pounds but has lost 40 since arriving on campus) comes off the bench but has started 71 games in his time at Miami. The other senior, GARRIUS ADAMS, hasn’t played all season because of a knee injury.
3 Expect to see BARRY LARKIN get plenty of love from the cameras on Sunday. The Hall of Fame shortstop’s son is SHANE LARKIN, the point guard who was the ACC Player of the Year as voted on by the league’s coaches. All the sophomore — whose full name is DeShane — has done this season is average a team-best 14.4 points, hand out a team-high 4.6 assists and shoot 40 percent (64 of 158) from three-point range, tops for the Hurricanes.
4 Miami and Illinois share three common opponents: Hawaii, Michigan State and Georgia Tech. Miami beat Hawaii 73-58 on Dec. 23 in the quarterfinals of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu behind 20 points from Scott while Illinois beat Hawaii 78-77 in overtime on Nov. 16 in Honolulu by a buzzer-beating three-pointer from D.J. Richardson. The Hurricanes beat Michigan State 67-59 on Nov. 28 in Coral Gables, with McKinney Jones dropping in 18 points. Illinois lost 80-75 at Michigan State on Jan. 31 despite 16 points and six assists from TRACY ABRAMS. Miami beat Georgia Tech split its two games with the Yellow Jackets (62-49 win on Jan. 5 in Atlanta and a 71-69 loss on March 6 at home) while Illinois beat Georgia Tech 75-62 on Nov. 28 at the Assembly Hall as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
5 A win Sunday and Miami will advance to only its second Sweet 16 in program history. The first and only trip came in 2000. LEONARD HAMILTON coached the Hurricanes to a 75-62 win against Ohio State in the second round to set up, ironically, a visit to the Frank Erwin Center in Austin for a South Regional semifinal matchup against a young BILL SELF and his Tulsa squad. Tulsa won 80-71, the last victory for Self with the Golden Hurricane before he accepted the Illinois job nearly three months later. Miami is 5-6 all-time in seven NCAA tournament appearances.