Miami Hurricanes earn No. 6 seed in NCAA Tournament, will play Loyola-Chicago in first round

Selection Sunday
Dewan Huell (Middle), Bruce Brown Jr. (Right) and coach Jim Larrañaga (Back) celebrate following the announcement that the Hurricanes earned a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They will play Loyola-Chicago March 15 in Dallas, Texas. Photo credit: Josh White

The Miami Hurricanes are officially headed to the Big Dance. It was announced on Selection Sunday March 11 that Miami will be a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will face off against Loyola University Chicago in round one on Thursday, March 15, in Dallas, Texas.

The Canes will play in the South region – the same bracket as No. 1 Virginia. This is the third-straight year UM has been invited to March Madness and the 10th time in program history.

“There were some anxiety – my stomach was turning and my heart was pounding out of my chest because this is one of those dreams you dream about your entire life as a young basketball player,” said freshman Lonnie Walker IV, who led Miami in scoring this season averaging 11.5 points a night and 13.7 points in conference play. I’m beyond grateful and beyond happy at the fact that we’re in march madness and now its time to focus on this team and get ready for thursday.

“What I’m most proud of is that when we started out the season, the potential was there, but this very young team lacked experience and an understanding of how we were going to have to play at both ends of the court,” coach Jim Larrañaga said. “Throughout the year, we made progress.”

Loyola-Chicago won the Missouri Valley Conference championship in a 65-49 victory over Illinois State to earn an NCAA berth. The Ramblers hold a 28-5 record on the season that includes a win over Florida in Gainesville, and they have won 17 of their last 18 games – including 10 straight.

“They made March Madness just like us, so that is pretty self-explanatory,” Walker said. “Especially when you’re playing in March Madness, everyone is good. The defensive intensity and the competitive edge is going to be like no other.”

The No. 3-seeded Canes fell in a rematch to the No. 6-seeded Tar Heels 82-65 in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals March 8. This was after Miami earned a double-bye going into the tournament.

“There were several things that happened in the ACC Tournament that caused us to lose,” Larrañaga said. “Our two top priorities were getting back defensively and not giving them the five-second layup … We didn’t do either one. The message today leading up to practice was we’ve got to do both of those things no matter who we play.”

The Hurricanes ended the regular season with four-straight wins by a combined eight points, including a 91-88 upset win over then No. 9 North Carolina thanks to a halfcourt buzzer beater by senior Ja’Quan Newton.

Sophomore Dewan Huell doubled his averages from his first year at UM, scoring 11.4 points per game and 6.6 rebounds. Freshman Chris Lykes averaged 9.6 points a game but 11.9 points in conference play.

“This is every kid’s dream,” Lykes said about playing in the NCAA Tournament. “Coach [Larrañaga] said we played a little too anxious against North Carolina. I don’t think that was our best effort. It humbled us, and now we are just hungry. We can’t take anybody lightly.”

After the announcement, Larrañaga said sophomore standout Bruce Brown Jr., who helped lead Miami to a No. 8-seed in the NCAA Tournament last year, will not play in the tournament because of a foot injury sustained at the end of January. Brown had surgery Feb. 1 and has missed the last 11 games, in which Miami has recorded a 7-4 record.

Miami will tip off against Loyola-Chicago at 3:10 p.m. March 15 in the first ever matchup between the two schools. The Canes hold an 8-9 all-time record in the NCAA Tournament and a 4-3 record under Larrañaga.

“We just have to keep bringing that Miami level of intensity,” Walker said.