‘We’re going to go in as one of the hotter teams’: Miami prepared for start of ACC Tournament

Graduate forward Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi defends a Tiger during the second quarter of Miami’s game versus Clemson in The Watsco Center on Feb. 27, 2022.
Graduate forward Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi defends a Tiger during the second quarter of Miami’s game versus Clemson in The Watsco Center on Feb. 27, 2022. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

Miami women’s basketball has wrapped up another regular season, but its overall season is far from over as the real fun of college hoops begins.

Miami took down the Clemson Tigers in a blowout win on Sunday. The team enters the ACC Tournament as the No. 7 seed and is scheduled to play its first game Thursday at 6 p.m., with a first-round bye.

“[We did a] great job paying attention to the game plan by our team. Our energy was through the roof,” Miami coach Katie Meier said. “We shot so well in that first half. We are hard to beat when we can play like that.”

With the victory over Clemson, Miami (17-11, 10-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) finished the season winners of five of their last six games, only losing to No. 23 Virginia Tech during that stretch.

Graduate forward Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi defends a Tiger during the second quarter of Miami’s game versus Clemson in The Watsco Center on Feb. 27, 2022.
Graduate forward Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi defends a Tiger during the second quarter of Miami’s game versus Clemson in The Watsco Center on Feb. 27, 2022. Photo credit: Sam Peene

“I don’t think there is another team in the country that has improved as much as us and put the parts together and finally playing hard and clicking,” Meier said.

Individually, a couple of Miami players received awards for their efforts this season. Freshman guard Ja’Leah Williams was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team. Williams finished the season averaging 7.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and totaled 61 assists.

Graduate guard Kelsey Marshall, who leads the team in scoring with 14.1 points per night, was named an All-ACC honorable mention. Marshall will not play another season in Coral Gables and will walk away from a storied career in Miami as currently the all-time leader in 3-pointers made with 313.

Graduate guard Kelsey Marshall drives towards the basket during the second quarter of Miami’s game versus Clemson in The Watsco Center on Feb. 27, 2022.
Graduate guard Kelsey Marshall drives towards the basket during the second quarter of Miami’s game versus Clemson in The Watsco Center on Feb. 27, 2022. Photo credit: Sam Peene

Marshall is not the only senior to be walking away, as the careers of Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi, Mykea Gray and Naomi Mbandu will only continue as long as Miami’s season does.

The Hurricanes have projections from multiple sources to be in the NCAA Tournament without winning the conference tournament. Miami would be an 11th-seeded team in the Greensboro, North Carolina, region as of Tuesday, according to ESPN’s latest Bracketology projections.

A projection by Autumn Johnson on NCAA.com has Miami matched up with Missouri State in the first round as an 11-seed in the Bridgeport, Connecticut, region.

Should the Hurricanes win the ACC Tournament, they would receive an automatic invite to the NCAA Tournament. That would keep them stress-free come Selection Sunday on March 13.

With the ACC Tournament having kicked off Wednesday at 1 p.m., Miami will await an opponent for its second-round matchup. That opponent will be the winner of the game between the Duke and Pittsburgh.

Miami holds an even record against those two teams as it beat Pittsburgh by 10 Feb. 17 but lost to a then-top-25 Duke team 58-49 Jan. 18.

Senior forward Naomi Mbandu shoots a jump shot during the first quarter of Miami’s game versus Clemson in The Watsco Center on Feb. 27, 2022.
Senior forward Naomi Mbandu shoots a jump shot during the first quarter of Miami’s game versus Clemson in The Watsco Center on Feb. 27, 2022. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

“We are going to go in as one of the hotter teams,” Meier said. “We are going to have to have some quick turnarounds and be ready to beat whoever we need to beat.”

Should they advance on Thursday, the Hurricanes will have a date with the second-seeded Louisville Cardinals, ranked fourth nationally, on Friday in the quarterfinals.