Miami ready for No. 1 Kansas in first ever Elite Eight game

Senior Kameron McGusty drive to the basket against Iowa State on Friday, March 25 at the United Center in Chicago.
Senior Kameron McGusty drive to the basket against Iowa State on Friday, March 25 at the United Center in Chicago. Photo credit: Josh Halper

In their first Elite Eight appearance in program history, the Miami Hurricanes face a tall opponent: the only No. 1 seed left in the tournament, the Kansas Jayhawks.

Kansas (31-6) defeated Creighton by seven points in the round of 32 and took down Providence 66-61 in the Sweet 16.

“They play extremely aggressively at both ends of the floor and try to score on you by attacking the rim at the first five seconds of the possession,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said Saturday. “We don’t match up great with teams because of our lack of size. Kansas plays a very simple brand of basketball. Those guys are just so great at what they do and they’re so fundamentally sound.”

The Jayhawks have a rich history in the NCAA tournament. The last Elite Eight game they won was in 2018 when they beat Duke. In 2016 and 2017, they lost in the Elite Eight. Kansas has not won an NCAA title since 2008. The last two tournaments – 2021 and 2019 – the Jayhawks did not make it past the second round of the tournament.

With the win over Providence, Kansas became the all-time winningest program in NCAA men’s basketball history with 2,354 wins. This is the program’s 25th Elite Eight.

This game will be Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga’s second appearance in an Elite Eight game. In 2006, he brought No. 11 George Mason to the Final Four. Larrañaga is the first head coach in NCAA tournament history to lead two different programs to the Elite Eight as a double-digit seed.

“For our players it’s a great opportunity to compete against the best,” Larrañaga said. “To consider yourself among the best, you’ve got to beat really good teams. I think we’ve done that so far, and we’re looking forward to the contest Sunday.”

Kansas has the only remaining All-American left in the tournament in guard Ochai Agbaji. The senior is averaging 18.9 points per game, shooting .467% from field goal range and .393% from 3-point range.

Agbaji played with UM point guard Charlie Moore when he was a freshman. Moore was a member of the Jayhawks from 2017-2019.

“Playing with Charlie, he was a great teammate,” Jayhawks senior guard Ochai Agbaji said Saturday. “He was there my freshman year. So, I was only there with him for one year until he transferred out. But, he was a great teammate, a really good passer, really aggressive and he can also score. And just his IQ for the game, his feel for the game, I think is something that’s kind of unheralded, but he’s a really good all-around player.”

Against Providence, the Friars held Agbaji to five points, his lowest scoring output since December of 2020. But in his absence, fifth year senior guard Remy Martin scored 23 points and redshirt sophomore forward Jalen Wilson scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

Larrañaga described Martin as “lightning fast and has incredible scoring ability,” Larrañaga said. “When you play Kansas, you have to try to get your defense back because if you don’t, they’re going to score on you fast and often.”

Self said Saturday that his biggest concern against the Hurricanes is the live-ball turnovers that can lead to scoring opportunities for Miami. The Canes are forcing an average of 14 turnovers per game and tallying 8.9 steals per game. They forced Iowa State into committing 18 turnovers, 16.3 in the tournament so far.

This is the first meeting between the two teams since 1991 and just the third since 1987. The last time Miami played against a team coached by Bill Self it was in the Sweet 16 in 2000 when Self was at Tulsa. It was the first Sweet 16 appearance for Miami and Self.

Kansas is favored by 5.5 points as of Sunday morning. The game tips off at 2:20 p.m. ET from the United Center in Chicago. The game will be broadcast on CBS.