As of Monday, March 18, 2013
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Gwinnett Daily Post
Preview: Pacific vs. Miami (Fla.)
The best season in school history wasn't enough to land Atlantic Coast Conference champion Miami a No. 1 seed. The second-seeded Hurricanes will face Big West champion Pacific in the East Region on Friday in Austin, Texas. The winner will play either seventh-seed Illinois or 10th-seeded Colorado. Both teams come in sizzling as Miami posted its fourth straight win with an 87-77 triumph over North Carolina in the ACC championship game and Pacific has won seven in a row. It's only the seventh NCAA Tournament appearance for Miami and the first since 2008, but coach Jim Larranaga is making his sixth trip to the tourney and took George Mason to the Final Four in 2006.
It's an emotional occasion for Pacific as coach Bob Thomason announced that this season - his 25th at his alma mater - will be his last. Thomason orchestrated a major turnaround after going 11-19 a year ago and has the Tigers in the tournament for the fifth time in his tenure - and the first since 2006. The Tigers' Big West tournament title didn't come easily, as they won their three games by a combined 14 points.
TV: 2:10 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT PACIFIC (22-12): The Tigers clinched their ninth trip to the NCAA Tournament with a strong run through the Big West tournament culminating with a 64-55 win over UC Irvine in the title game. Pacific gets balanced scoring with only senior guard Lorenzo McCloud (11.4 points) averaging double figures but seven players scoring five or more points. Junior forward Tony Gill (7.4 points) took over in the Big West tournament, averaging 15.3 points to earn MVP honors. Senior forward Travis Fulton (9.1 points, four rebounds) is the top rebounder for a team that is undersized in the post.
ABOUT MIAMI (27-6): The Hurricanes certainly made a strong case for a top seed, but they'll have to settle for matching the highest seed in school history. They bowed out in the round of 32 as a No. 2 seed in 1999. This team would seem to have more staying power considering its incredible run through the ACC. Miami shoots the ball well and is solid at the defensive end, and the Hurricanes have veteran leadership from senior guard Durand Scott (13.2 points) and senior big man Kenny Kadji (13.3 points, seven rebounds). The catalyst, however, is sophomore point guard Shane Larkin (14.6 points, 4.4 assists), who has said he plans to return for his junior season despite speculation he would warrant a high pick in the NBA draft.
Miami is the first team since NCAA Tournament seeding began to win the ACC's regular-season and tournament titles and not receive a No. 1 seed.
Thomason's Pacific teams pulled off upsets in 2004 and 2005, but both lost in the round of 32.
Larkin scored a career-high 28 points in the ACC title game and has topped 20 points in three consecutive games.
PREDICTION: Miami 73, Pacific 60