Eye on the U

UM guard Newton has extra motivation entering NCAA Tournament opener

Miami Hurricanes guard Ja’Quan Newton drives against Duke Blue Devils guard Frank Jackson during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Watsco Center in Coral Gables on Sat., Feb. 25, 2017.
Miami Hurricanes guard Ja’Quan Newton drives against Duke Blue Devils guard Frank Jackson during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Watsco Center in Coral Gables on Sat., Feb. 25, 2017. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

University of Miami guard Ja’Quan Newton will have extra motivation to play well against Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night.

His father, Joe Newton, plans to be in the stands at the BOK Center, and he is somewhat of a legend in parts of Oklahoma. Joe Newton was a star guard at Central Oklahoma University and was named the 1998 Division II National Player of the Year. He averaged 26.1 points, 5.6 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 3.4 steals per game.

Newton said he is looking forward to facing the Spartans — especially with his father in the audience.

“I love this building, love the court,” Newton said after the Canes’ first practice on Thursday. “Court has an extra bounce to it, the rims are soft, basketballs are perfect, I like it. We’re all really excited to play. Everybody’s loose. Watching all these other games on T.V. .. I can’t wait to get out there.”

Familiar Face

When Baylor walked onto the BOK Center floor for practice at the end of UM’s practice session, one player stood out to Hurricane players — former UM guard Manu Lecomte, who transferred after his sophomore season. The Belgian guard wanted more playing time, didn’t want to sit behind Angel Rodriguez, so he left to play for the Bears. He sat out last season, and has been a key player this season, as the Bears went 25-7, tying a school record for wins in a season. Lecomte averaged 12.4 points per game and ranked fifth in the Big 12 in three-point shooting percentage (42.2) and eighth in assists (3.9).

Lecomte missed out on UM’s Sweet 16 run last season, so he is eager to play on Friday against New Mexico.

“This is my first NCAA Tournament game,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of motivation even though this is the team’s fourth straight time. It’s all new to me, so we’re all really hungry.”

Winning Starts: Miami has won its opening NCAA Tournament game in each of its last three appearances, and advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2013 and 2016.

Perfect attendance

Michigan State is making its 20th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance under coach Tim Izzo, the nation’s third-longest active streak. The only two teams that have made more Dances in a row are Kansas (28) and Duke (22).

Scouting report

UM coach Jim Larranaga said some of the Michigan State players remind him of players in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“When we showed our players videotape of Lourawls Nairn, Jr., and told them his nickname is TumTum, we showed a tape of him and then compared him to John Gillon of Syracuse because the first time we played Syracuse, Gillon torched us with his speed and quickness and ability to score in the open court.

“Then we talked about Miles Bridges and the great player he is and compared him to a Jason Tatum of Duke, of how well he can score from three-point range but what a great athlete he is and how he can score in a variety of ways.

“And then we compared Nick Ward to a Kennedy Meeks, a premier low-post player, a tremendous offensive rebounder, tremendous jump hook shooter. Kennedy is right-handed. Nick Ward is left-handed. But there’s a lot of similarities.”

Izzo on UM

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo compared Miami to Wisconsin.

“I compare them a little bit to Wisconsin of old days, but Miami will run and is more athletic. But they have the ability to control tempo, and we’d like the tempo to be high. Tum brings that. We’re going to try to push it.”

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