News Column

Miami, Florida, UCLA Headed to NCAAs

March 18, 2013

Kevin Lyttle, Austin American-Statesman

The Sunshine State is moving to the capital of Texas for a week.

Florida's two college basketball powers -- the Miami Hurricanes and the Gators -- were assigned early-round NCAA men's basketball tournament games at the Erwin Center.

Miami, the No. 2 seed in the East Regional, and Florida, No. 3 in the South, will be the anchors of the eight-team lineup for Austin's first taste of March Madness since 2005.

The Austin group also includes the brand name and star power of UCLA, which has won 11 national championships, and some Big Ten flavor with Illinois and Minnesota.

Miami is led by point guard Shane Larkin -- son of baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin -- and is enjoying its best basketball season. The Hurricanes (27-6), one of the most experienced teams in the country, will face Big West tournament champion Pacific (22-12) in one of four games Friday.

The Canes doubled up this year by winning their first ACC regular-season and tournament titles, beating North Carolina 87-77 Sunday in the ACC final. They are the first ACC team to win both titles and not earn a No. 1 seed.

Miami hasn't been to the NCAAs since 2008, when the Canes lost to Texas 75-72 in a second-round game.

Florida, the SEC regular-season champ, is a more familiar NCAA guest. The Gators (26-7), who play Southland tournament winner Northwestern State (23-8) on Friday, won back-to-back national championships in 2006-07.

Billy Donovan's Gators are extremely balanced, with five players averaging between 12.7 and 9.1 points. Erik Murphy, a 6-foot-10-inch senior forward, is the scoring leader, but this is a guard-driven team with Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario.

Florida's .484 shooting percentage ranks eighth in the NCAA.

The Gators were upset by Mississippi 66-63 in the SEC tourney final Sunday. It saddled them with an 0-6 record in games decided by six points or fewer.

"What happens is people sometimes try to create drama around a situation that's not necessarily true," Donovan told The Associated Press.

Florida beat UCLA 73-56 in the 2006 national championship game, and those teams could be headed for a rematch in Austin in a third-round game Sunday.

First, the sixth-seeded Bruins (25-9) will have to get past 11th-seeded Minnesota at the Erwin Center, and that won't be easy without freshman guard Jordan Adams (15.3 ppg), who suffered a broken foot in the Pac-12 semifinals.

Minnesota (20-12) began the season 15-1 but finished 5-11. The Golden Gophers tied with Illinois for seventh place in the rugged Big Ten.

The Tubby Smith-coached team is not short on talent. Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins -- not related -- are the top scorers, and 6-8, 245-pound senior Trevor Mbakwe (10.0 points, 8.7 rebounds) is quite a load.

Illinois (22-12) will play Big 12 expatriate Colorado (21-11) in the 7 vs. 10 game.

Buffaloes standout forward Andre Robertson (11.3 rebounds, 10.9 points) gets a gig close to home; he's a San Antonio Wagner graduate.

The winner of that game is likely to have the tall order of Miami on Sunday.



Source: (c)2013 Austin American-Statesman, Texas Distributed by MCT Information Services


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