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The Miami Hurricanes men's basketball team is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years, and the Canes' sights are set high. Earning a number-two seed in the East region, the Canes hope to do something no UM team has done before: make it past the Sweet Sixteen round of the tournament, and perhaps even farther.
The Canes are not the only people with big expectations for themselves. ESPN basketball analyst Digger Phelps picked Miami to win the tournament, and 9.4% of tournament bracket entries on Yahoo! Sports had Miami going all the way (only Louisville and Indiana are more popular among amateur bracketologists).
But UM coach Jim Larranaga is wary of his team resting on its laurels, which include the first-ever ACC regular season and tournament championships in school history.
"We've got to turn the page," Larranaga said Monday. "When non-conference season was over, we turned the page. Regular season over, turn the page. ACC tournament is over, turn the page. One does not have anything to do with the next. They're all separate events and we need our guys to get some rest, because it was a long, grueling tournament."
First up for the Canes are the 15th-seeded Pacific on Friday, followed by the winner of Friday's Illinois-Colorado match-up should the Canes win.
The road to the Final Four could also include games against 4th-ranked Indiana, 15th-ranked Marquette, or 16th-ranked Syracuse if the Canes keep winning.
Miami has one of the oldest rosters in the tournament, featuring five seniors in the regular rotation along with sophomore wunderkind point guard Shane Larkin. But the Canes give their coach, winner of the national Henry Iba Coach of the Year and ACC Coach of the Year awards, for their strong play in 2012-13.
"He's our leader," senior Julian Gamble said this week. "Throughout the chaos, he stayed even-keeled and told us to keep having fun. You have to control the things you can control, and truth is, there are very few of them."
Larranaga has had success in the tournament before. He took George Mason University, his former school, to the 2006 Final Four as an 11-seed. Like this year's Canes, the 2006 Patriots was chock full of upperclassmen making one last attempt at glory before their college careers ended.
Can lighting strike twice for Larranaga? Crazier things have happened.