Miami enters the NCAA Tournament looking to replicate the deep run it made to the Elite Eight last season.
The Hurricanes, the No. 5 seed in the East Region, will face a threat from the start when they take on No. 12-seed Drake in a first-round matchup on Friday night in Albany, N.Y.
Miami (25-7) won a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title with a 15-5 record, but fell against Duke in the ACC tournament semifinals.
Drake (27-7) enters the tournament having won 13 of its past 14 games and is the Missouri Valley Conference champion following a 77-51 rout of Bradley in the final.
“I thought this last month of the season we were playing some of our best basketball,” Drake coach Darian DeVries said. “We were fully healthy and have made it all the way through the season healthy and that’s a good feeling, too.”
While Miami’s backcourt has been its strength, led by ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong (16.2 points per game), the Hurricanes enter the tournament potentially without their best frontcourt player.
It’s unclear whether Norchad Omier, who suffered a knee injury in the first two minutes of Miami’s loss to Duke last Friday, will be able to play.
Without Omier, who is averaging 13.6 points and a team-best 9.7 rebounds per game, the Hurricanes were outrebounded by the Blue Devils 36-24 and limited to only eight offensive rebounds.
“There’s really no update at this point,” Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga said. “We’ve got our fingers crossed. We wish him the best, but we’ve got to prepare both ways.”
Drake has been one of the most consistent mid-major programs over the past five seasons under Devries, winning 20 or more games each of those seasons.
The Bulldogs are making their sixth NCAA Tournament appearance and second in the past three seasons. Drake beat Wichita State in a First Four play-in game in 2021 before losing to Southern California in the first round.
Drake, which made Elite Eight appearances in 1970 and 1971 and finished in third place in 1969, is led by Devries’ son, Tucker, the MVC Player of the Year with 18.9 points per game.
The Bulldogs coach expressed excitement for his program to face a team like Miami.
“For us, it’s been a long week, waiting to see who we play,” Darian DeVries said. “Now we know who it is and super excited just to be a part of it. Playing a very good Miami team that won the ACC, so we know we have a big challenge in front of us.”
Drake is a prolific 3-point shooting team, which presents a challenge to Miami’s guards on the perimeter. Along with Tucker Devries, guards Roman Penn, Garrett Sturtz and D.J. Wilkins are all shooting 36 percent or better from 3-point range.
“I know they can shoot 3s,” Miami guard Nijel Pack told reporters after learning Miami’s selection on Sunday. “I’ve seen a little bit of them playing, and they’re a really good-shooting team.”
–Field Level Media