Once they realized their NCAA Tournament dream was shattered, University of Miami basketball players set their sights on Madison Square Garden. That is where the semifinals and championship of the National Invitation Tournament are being held, and the Hurricanes are one win away from getting there.
The second-seeded Canes (23-12) are on the road to play the No. 1-seeded Richmond Spiders (21-13) Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Robins Center in the NIT quarterfinals. The team is in great spirits, according to UM coach Jim Larrañaga.
The only bad news is that point guard Angel Rodriguez (injured wrist) “is not likely to be in uniform,” Larrañaga said. He traveled with the team but did not practice Monday. Manu Lecomte will likely start in his place.
Miami had just one day to prepare for the Spiders, who present an unusual challenge because they play a matchup-zone defense and the Princeton offense, which features constant motion, perimeter shooting and backdoor cuts. Richmond coach Chris Mooney played at Princeton.
“At this time of year, one day is what you get [to prepare], so it’s very difficult,” Larrañaga said. “Richmond is a very, very good team.”
The team is motivated to be among the final four NIT teams standing.
“Everybody still alive in the NIT has the same goal — to get to Madison Square Garden,” Larrañaga said. “By this weekend there will be just 24 teams left playing — 16 in the NCAA and eight in the NIT. Everyone wants to be one of those teams.”
The Hurricanes are particularly excited about the idea of playing at the Garden because so many team members have connections to the Northeast. Larrañaga and assistants Chris Caputo and Michael Huger are from New York, Davon Reed is from New Jersey, Ja’Quan Newton is from Philadelphia, and James Palmer is from Washington.
Miami is coming off a win over Alabama. Richmond beat Arizona State 76-70 in overtime. In that game, senior Kendall Anthony scored 21 points, Terry Allen had 17, T.J. Cline had 19, and Shawn Dre Jones had 15 off the bench (6-of-7 shooting). The Spiders have won a school-record 16 home games this season and are playing their best basketball in the postseason.
Richmond was 13-12 on Valentine’s Day, and nobody expected much. But it has gone on to lose just one game in the past nine, a 70-67 loss to VCU in the Atlantic 10 conference quarterfinals. Even taller teams such as ASU have had trouble with the Spiders. They outrebounded Richmond 46-30 and still lost.
Tuesday: UM men at Richmond
What: NIT quarterfinal game.
When/where: 7 p.m., Robins Center, Richmond, Virginia.
TV/radio: ESPN; WQAM 560 AM, WVUM 90.5 FM.
Seeds/records: No. 2 Miami 23-12; No. 1. Richmond 21-13.
Noteworthy: Both teams are playing well of late. The Hurricanes have won five of their past six. The Spiders have won eight of nine. … Richmond has won 16 home games this season and last made the NIT quarterfinals in 2002. … The Spiders are led by Kendall Anthony (16.6 ppg.).