Miami Hurricanes enter NCAA tournament “seasoned” after ACC play

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Saturday, March 19 • First Round (Stanford, Calif.)
#12 South Dakota (26-6) vs. #5 Miami (Fla.) (24-8), 3:30 p.m. PT/6:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
#13 San Francisco (21-11) at #4 Stanford (24-7), 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

STANFORD, Calif. – Before the No. 19 team in the country arrived at Stanford this week to face South Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA tournament, they had to survive a brutal Atlantic Coast Conference schedule.

After beating Pittsburgh and higher-ranked Florida State in the ACC tournament, the Hurricanes fell to the No. 2 team in the nation, Notre Dame. However, with a 24-8 record that includes ten conference wins, Miami was all but assured an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament.

“Once you hear your name get called on Selection Monday, it’s all just a rush with all the traveling, getting on the plane, checking into the hotel late at night,” said First Team All-ACC junior guard Jessica Thomas about her team’s bid. “It’s a really exciting feeling.”

The intense competition in the ACC helped prepare the Hurricanes for the road to Indianapolis, the site of the Final Four. The trek for Miami begins 2,574 miles away from their sunny Coral Gables, Florida campus. Five teams from the ACC are among the tournament field of 64. Those five teams are also ranked in the top twenty of both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls. Miami was picked to finish sixth in the preseason ACC polls but outperformed prognostications to land in fifth place.

Meier, a former star at ACC charter member Duke, appreciates the role of high-level of competition in the conference in helping the Hurricanes prepare for the postseason.

“I played in the ACC and was blessed to be able to coach in the ACC,” she noted during the teams’ Friday press conference. Miami joined the ACC along with two other former members of the Big East (Virginia Tech and Boston College) in between July 2004 and July 2005. In the following years, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame also joined the conference.

The entry of the teams after Miami’s entry “was like this unbelievable influx of unbelievable strategies” said Meier. “I thought I had my ACC thing down. I knew what North Carolina was going to do, I knew what Duke was going to do.”

The conference’s expansion exposed Miami and the other older members of the ACC to a wide variety of programs.

“Now up and down the roster of the ACC, you’re going to have every possible philosophy, style of play, type of talent.”

With the burden of scouting a bevy of nationally-ranked teams, Miami comes into the NCAA tournament with experience in facing a diverse selection of foes.

“We feel seasoned because we’ve been through such a great conference for sure.”

Junior guard Adrienne Motley leads the Hurricanes with 15.6 points per game while Thomas adds 11.9 points per contest. They are among Saturday’s projected starters along with redshirt senior guard Michelle Woods, redshirt junior forward Keyona Hayes and sophomore forward/center Erykah Davenport.

Seeded at No. 5 in the Lexington Region of the tournament, Miami’s contest against No. 12 seed SDSU will mark the first time the two teams have ever met.

Thomas expects a hard-fought game against the Summit League tournament champion, a team known for its prowess from three-point land.

“We’ve watched a lot of film on them on their conference tournament,” said Thomas. “They can shoot the three-ball like crazy from all around the roster, and we know defensively, they like to get in on it on defense as well.”

Meier compared the Jackrabbits to the Netherlands national team, a relevant comparison since her team includes two Dutch freshmen, guard Laura Cornelius and forward/center Emese Hof. The Hurricanes played the Netherlands National Team during a European tour last summer.

After watching film of SDSU she notes that they have post players that can stretch the floor.

“They run, and pass the ball so quickly. Their pace of play is similar to some European teams.”

SDSU’s head coach Aaron Johnston confirmed her assessment when citing the strengths of his team vs. Miami: “Our post players can play the perimeter.”

Projected starters for the Jackrabbits include junior guard Kerri Young, freshman guard Madison Guebert, sophomore guard Macy Miller, junior forward Clarissa Ober and sophomore forward Ellie Thompson.

Miller leads the Jackrabbits with 15.3 points per game while the freshman Guebert contributes the most three-point shots.

Neither team has starters over 6-2. The contest marks the seventh appearance in the NCAA tournament for the Jackrabbits and the tenth for the Hurricanes.

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