Has the bubble burst for Miami as far as its NCAA Tournament chances are concerned?
UM Hoops: News & Notes (3/19)
The Gophers, who earned their right to advance with a win at La Salle, likely will open with Maurice Walker, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, and Rodney Williams, a 6-7 junior, to work against Miami's 6-10 Reggie Johnson and 6-11 Kenny Kadji.
It likely won't be determined until game time if 6-11 senior Ralph Sampson III will be available. He has missed the last three games because of a knee injury.
Miami coach Jim Larranaga is taking the approach that the extra time between games will allow Sampson to play.
Either way, he expects a challenge from the Gophers, who are 20-14 to Miami's 20-12 slate. "Hopefully," Larranaga said, "our big guys will outwork their big guys because their big guys work very, very hard."
If the Hurricanes get the win, where they play next will be determined by how Tennessee, the No. 1 seed in their bracket, fares against fourth-seeded Middle Tennessee.
Those two teams are playing in Knoxville just before the Hurricanes and Gophers clash.
If the Volunteers win, the Hurricanes will be going to Knoxville later in the week. But as the bracket's No. 2 seed, the Hurricanes will be at home if Middle Tennessee beats Tennessee.
The winner of the third round advances to the NIT semifinals in New York on March 27.
--Junior F Kenny Kadji has hit a wall in his last three games, scoring a total of only 12 points and getting only 12 rebounds in Miami's two appearances in the ACC tourney and its game in the NIT. But coach Jim Larranaga said he is not concerned about the junior who is second on the team in scoring with his 12.0-points-per-game average.
"I actually feel very good today about Kenny," Larranaga said. "I had a great meeting with him yesterday and I think he'll be much better now."
--NIT opponents Miami and Minnesota have met only once before with Miami claiming a 63-58 win over the Gophers in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 2, 2009.
G Durand Scott, who will not play this time, had 20 points to lead the Hurricanes in that game, and G Malcolm Grant, who will start against the Gophers this time, came off the bench for 16 points.
Two other present team members, G Garrius Adams and C Reggie Johnson, had two points each, and DeQuan Jones was scoreless.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The disappointment became a motivating factor." -- Coach Jim Larranaga, on the approach his Hurricanes took for its NIT opener after getting over the disappointment of not being selected for the NCAA tourney.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SCOUTING REPORT: Miami will be missing its No. 1 scorer and a team leader with G Durand Scott serving an NCAA-mandated suspension. The Hurricanes have gotten good play from Rion Brown, Scott's replacement, but with Brown in the starting lineup, that takes away from the lift Brown had been giving them off the bench. The Hurricanes like to go through C burly 6-10 C Reggie Johnson but also have the ability to "go small" with Brown and Trey McKinney-Jones operating with Shane Larkin, Kenny Kadji, and Malcolm Grant.
FUTURES WATCH: G Durand Scott was assessed a six-game suspension after the NCAA determined he had received impermissible benefits. He already has served two games -- the ACC tourney loss to Florida State and the opening NIT win over Valparaiso -- and how many carry over to next season will be determined by how far the Hurricanes advance in the NIT. At the moment, he would have to miss the first three games of 2012-13, but a win over Minnesota would trim that to two.
REGULAR SEASON REVIEW: Just another win or two, like perhaps the overtime loss at Ole Miss or the one-point setback to Virginia, possibly was all that kept the Hurricanes from getting an NCAA at-large bid. The Hurricanes had to overcome suspensions, injuries, and family emergencies that cost them the services of Johnson, DeQuan Jones, Garrius Adams, Malcolm Grant, Kenny Kadji,, Brown, Scott, and even Shane Larkin (not cleared in eligibility until the second game) for from one to 10 games at some point.
--Sophomore G Rion Brown has led the Hurricanes in scoring in two of the last five games and been in double digits in four of the outings. He has had 31 points in two games since moving into a starting role.
--Senior G Malcolm Grant didn't exactly light it up in the win over Valparaiso (2-of-4 on 3-pointers), but that performance made him 19-of-39 (48.7 percent) over his last eight games.
--Senior F DeQuan Jones has 24 rebounds in Miami's last six games going into the contest against Minnesota.
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