Notes and observations on Miami’s debut in the NCAA Tournament with a first-round matchup Thursday against Buffalo (6:50 p.m. ET, TNT):
—This is 11th-ranked Miami’s eighth appearance in the tourney, the second in the last four years, and the seventh in the last 18 seasons. The Hurricanes went from their first appearance in 1960, losing to Western Kentucky in the first round, before making their second in 1998, losing to UCLA in the first round. The Hurricanes are 6-7 all-time in the tourney and have never won more than two games in any one appearance.
—There is a caveat to that long tournament drought. The Hurricanes discontinued their program after the 1970-71 season and didn’t resume it until the 1985-86 campaign.
—The Hurricanes are 2-1 in NCAA tourney games under coach Jim Larranaga with all three games in 2013. They beat Pacific and Illinois but lost to Marquette in a regional semifinal.
—Speaking of Larranaga, if you believe in omens, perhaps as a Hurricanes’ fan you are encouraged by the fact this is the 10th anniversary of his George Mason team’s Cinderella run to the NCAA’s Final Four in 2006.
In his pre-tourney press conference Wednesday, the coach noted several changes to the game since then, including reduction of the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30, an expanded “no charge” area under the basket, and the elimination of the five-second count on the dribble, which he called a “waste of time.”
—This also is old home week for Larranaga with his team being sent to Providence for the first two rounds. Larranaga was a four-year player at Providence College from 1967-71 and served as team captain his senior year.
Larranaga was asked about his impressions of the campus and Alumni Hall, where he played his home games as a collegian.
“I didn’t recognize it,” he said, according to the transcript. “There’s so much construction that has taken place since I was there. The place looks great.
“I wish some of that stuff was in place when I was playing. In fact, I really wish I had a chance to play in the Dunkin’ Donuts arena. That was something I missed out on.”
Dunkin’ Donuts Center is the site for Thursday’s game.
—Larranaga said he was looking forward to having an “Awful, Awful” shake during his stay, a specialty at Newport Creamery, where he ate a lot of meals during his college days trying to put on weight. The “Awful, Awful” tag comes from “awful think, awful good,” he said.
—Larranaga sees the prospect for a high-scoring game when Miami plays Buffalo. The 20-14 Bulls are averaging 77.6 points per game while giving up 75.1. The 25-7 Hurricanes are scoring at a 75.6 clip but holding foes to 66.8 per game.
Miami has a big advantage in field goal shooting with its 47.7 overall shooting percentage and 36.3 on 3-pointers to Buffalo’s 43.8/33.7.
“I think the University of Buffalo is similar to us in that they utilize ball screens a lot, and the team in our league that does that a lot is Virginia Tech,” Larranaga said. “But I also think their tempo is very, very fast, similar to a team in our league Wake Forest, who runs a lot. Danny Manning is their head coach, and they play an up-tempo game.
“I think the game we’ll be played at a pretty fast pace, and our guys have got to use their speed and quickness to be sure we’re not giving up a lot of easy baskets to Buffalo.”
Miami beat Virginia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference tourney and split two regular-season meetings. The Hurricanes beat Wake Forest in the only meeting between the two.
—If you’re rooting for Miami and a fan of statistics, you have to like the numbers for Miami against Buffalo, and not just because the Hurricanes are a No. 3 seed and the Bulls a No. 14. According to Pomeroy Basketball Ratings, probably the most complete statistical analysis of trends in college basketball around, Miami ranks No. 13 overall and Buffalo is way down at No. 130.
But the outlook is not as favorable for the Hurricanes for a potential second-round game, though the threat doesn’t come from sixth-seeded Arizona. The Pac-10 team is No. 16 in the rankings, closer but still behind Miami.
Ahead of both the Hurricanes and Wildcats is Wichita State, an 11 seed that had to beat Vanderbilt Tuesday night in a “First Four” game to get to Providence. The Shockers, who play Arizona in the nightcap Thursday, are No. 9 overall and No. 1 in defensive efficiency, according to the Pomeroy report.
Second-round games are Saturday.