University of Miami basketball coach Jim Larrañaga shared two important messages as the Hurricanes boarded their bus Tuesday afternoon, headed to the airport to catch a flight to Dallas for the NCAA Tournament.
First, sophomore guard Bruce Brown will be in uniform for Thursday’s opening game against Loyola-Chicago. He was cleared by doctors Monday after missing 11 games with a stress fracture in his left foot.
“For those who don’t know, this will be a shock to everybody, Bruce Brown will be dressing come Thursday,” Larrañaga said. “He won’t play, but he wants to be in uniform. Beyond Thursday, first thing is we have to play well enough to win the game. Then after that, you make decisions one day at a time. He’s been cleared. He’s in the boot right now but was out of the boot this morning walking around the gymnasium working with our trainer.”
Secondly, Larrañaga said he was a bit surprised to see NCAA Tournament prognosticators picking the 11th-seeded Ramblers to upset the sixth-seeded Canes in the first round. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi said Loyola-Chicago “can and should” beat Miami. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas and others have picked the Ramblers in an upset. ESPN gave Loyola-Chicago a 46.5 percent chance at an upset, and Las Vegas lists Miami as a two-point favorite.
“I think they deserve the recognition they’re getting,” Larrañaga said. “I just think it shows a little bit of disrespect for us and the ACC that people must not think we’re any good.”
Asked if that is extra motivation, he said: “It is to me. I think we’re now the underdog. People are picking them. We need to embrace that.”
Sophomore Dewan Huell said the players have also noted that the Ramblers are becoming a popular sleeper team, and the Hurricanes plan to prove doubters wrong.
“We have to go in, embrace the moment, go out there and play with a chip on our back because a lot of people have us losing this first game, so we want to prove them wrong,” Huell said. “This isn’t the first time people have slept on us. We’re just going to prove them wrong, like always. I think our ACC regular season prepared us for this moment.”
Freshman Chris Lykes agreed: “It’s cool [if people pick Loyola-Chicago], it just adds fuel to our fire. We’re still a little bummed out by the North Carolina loss [in the ACC quarterfinals]. We’re not going to worry about what people are saying, what expectations are. We know what we can do when we play our best basketball.”