CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami) – It’s been quite the season for the Miami Hurricanes, who were once viewed as a rebuilding team with lots of youth.
Needless to say, not many people had Miami reaching the NCAA Tournament when the season started.
With that being the case, it makes sense the team feels like they’re playing with house money as they take off for Tulsa and the first round of the big dance.
Coach Larranaga rolled up to the Watsco Center calm as ever, joking with media members asking if they’d put their cameras down and help him unload his car.
His Hurricanes are getting an early jump on their travel plans as they get set for Friday’s opening round game against Michigan State.
Despite a strong finish in ACC play, Miami isn’t getting a lot of love nationally.
But as the buses pulled out of Coral Gables, Larranaga says they don’t necessarily have a chip on their shoulder but they’re out to prove they belong in tournament, vying for a national title.
“The message I send my players all the time is that there are 68 really good teams,” Larranaga said. “Some teams you think don’t have a great chance of advancing to the Final Four but if you come out of the ACC you’ve competed against North Carolina and Duke and Florida State you’re ready to compete for a national championship.”
The players are well aware of what was said about them prior to the season and they’re more than aware of what’s being said now.
“Everyone wrote us off at the start of the season saying we’re too young and inexperienced but everyone has played at different levels, especially me I’m an international player so I’ve got a bit of experience there,” said Hurricanes guard DJ Vasiljevic. “We’ve proven people wrong and we’re just gonna continue to prove them wrong from here.”
The Lady Canes head into the Women’s NCAA Tournament with higher expectations after an impressive 23-8 season.
“We are a proven program,” said Miami women’s coach Katie Meier. “We’re one of the most consistent programs in the country. I mean we don’t lose to anyone if they’re not ranked. We haven’t done that in a couple of years.”
Meier is carrying that Miami swag into Saturday’s contest with Florida Gulf Coast while the seniors carry the pressure of extending their college careers.
“We’re just focusing on playing as many games as we possibly can,” said guard Adrienne Motley. Every practice, every rep, just everything we do right now we’re just focusing on not being our last game of the season.”
Their season actually continues in Coral Gables while Larranaga and the boys are boarding the buses and heading off to Tulsa.
Since Larranaga took over in 2011 he’s taken two Miami teams to the Sweet 16.
To get there again the Hurricanes will likely face top-ranked Kansas in the second round if they get passed the Spartans.