The University of Miami is officially set to play in the big dance.
The Hurricanes have been selected as an eight seed for the NCAA Tournament and will face off against the nine-seed Michigan State Spartans on Friday in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“I’m just absolutely happy to be back in the tournament,” senior captain Davon Reed said. “Great feeling to hear your name called. It really wasn’t a guessing game today, which we were grateful for. We pretty much knew we were a lock.”
Miami (21-11) is coming off a regular season in which many believed it overachieved, considering its lack of senior experience and just nine scholarship athletes playing. After a slow start that had people wondering whether they would even make the tournament, the Canes closed the season strong, getting signature wins against North Carolina, Virginia and Duke.
“I still don’t even think we have played our best basketball yet, that’s the best part about it,” Reed said. “We can start to get the ball rolling right now.”
Michigan State (19-14) is coming off an up-and-down year for its standards. The Spartans started the season ranked No. 12, but dropped out of the rankings after losses to Arizona, Kentucky and Baylor.
“Tom Izzo is a very good leader for college basketball and has done a great job in creating a national contender every year,” UM Coach Jim Larrañaga said of Michigan State’s coach. “We are looking forward to playing them.”
Hundreds gathered inside the Rathskeller bar on UM’s campus awaiting one decision: where would the committee place the Hurricanes for March Madness?
Students, local fans, donors, members of the Miami athletic department, 560 WQAM Sports Radio and, of course, the Hurricanes basketball players and coaches came together inside the pub to see where the team would land on Selection Sunday. The announcement of the selection was met with cheers from the crowd and smiles across faces.
“I can’t wait, I’m really excited,” said freshman guard Bruce Brown, who experienced his first NCAA Tournament selection. “I’m used to watching it on TV, and now I’m playing in it. At first, I was really nervous [about the selection], but when we came on the screen, it was great to see us up there.”
When speaking about his predictions for the Midwest Region on television, CBS Analyst Seth Davis talked about a Michigan State versus Kansas matchup in the round of 32 – seemingly skipping over Miami as a threat to win in the first round.
On the first commercial break after the announcement, Larrañaga stood up and disputed the prediction in front of the crowd, encouraging fans that Miami will be the team playing Kansas in the second round.
“It gives me some ammunition to talk with my team about,” Larrañaga said. “We need to get the respect of the national media.”
Tip-off will be at 9:20 p.m. in the Bank of Oklahoma Center and can also be seen on TNT.