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Coach L Looking To Put The Finishing Touches On His Best Job Yet

With the NCAA tournament looming, Miami is looking to close 2017 off on a positive note, and close off one of Larrañaga’s most challenging seasons to date.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-North Carolina vs Miami Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday night, the Miami Hurricanes will have their toughest first round NCAA tournament matchup of the Larrañaga era.

After a sweet 16 run in 2016, Miami will look to get through Michigan State and make it to the round of 32 this weekend.

Entering as an 8 seed, the ‘Canes aren’t favored by many to make a tournament run. If Miami is able to move past Michigan State they will in all likelihood face off against #1 seed Kansas for a slot in the Sweet 16.

But despite the fact that Miami has a much more difficult road than in the past, Larrañaga’s coaching job this season has been more impressive than any other year at Miami.

With four empty scholarships, three departing starters, and an 8 man rotation, the odds were stacked up against the ‘Canes in 2016-17. At the start of the year even Larrañaga questioned whether the team would make the tournament.

“Not after the first couple practices when I saw how far we had to go to really become the kind of team that could compete with the best teams in the country,” Larrañaga told the Miami Herald. “Which is what you have to if you’re going to compete in the ACC.”

After an early season stumble in the Advocare Invitational that included losses to Iowa State and Florida, Miami found themselves far away from the top 25. The ‘Canes bounced back with a win against Rutgers, but with no signature wins entering conference play, optimism was diminishing.

And after a heartbreaking last-second loss at home to Notre Dame, the theme of inconsistency continued to plague Miami.

Once the ‘Canes took down #9 North Carolina at home, however, things began to take a turn. Miami went 6-2 in their next 8 games, and won their first matchup of the ACC tournament for the 8th straight season.

“After the non-conference, things really started to change,” Larrañaga told the Miami Herald. “Our focus defensively became much better. Our offense, although sporadic and we still turn the ball over a little too much, we started to do some things offensively that I liked. Meaning our young guys started to contribute more at the offensive end, meaning guys like DJ Vaseljevic, Bruce Brown, Ebuka Izundu, Anthony Lawrence. When I saw that coming on, I thought we really had a chance.”

The ‘Canes took down Georgia Tech, Clemson, Virginia, and Duke during a 10 day period, and were settled in with their rotation.

Although Ja’Quan Newton’s turnovers continued to be an issue, his scoring was where it needed to be, and freshman Bruce Brown began to hit his stride. Seniors Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy continued to be more reliable than ever, and Miami found themselves securely in the tournament.

“We really had only nine scholarship guys this year,” Larrañaga told the Miami Herald. “There were games we only had seven. We had one player suspended for three games and we won those three games. We’ve overcome a lot of adversity and are hitting our stride right now and hopefully we’ll play very well on Friday night.”