Miami: The inexperienced NCAA contender
by Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
GREENSBORO, N.C. — For a team that’s prided itself on its experience all season, the Miami men’s basketball team is about to be very inexperienced as it enters largely unknown territory: The NCAA tournament.
Yes, the Hurricanes have one of the oldest teams in the nation, a roster chock full of talent and years and years of experience. In this one-and-done era, a BCS-level school starting four seniors is nearly unheard of.
But, because of the program’s struggles in recent years, very few of these veteran players have actually gone to the NCAA tournament.
Florida made the NCAA tournament in 2010 when Kenny Kadji was there, but he couldn’t play due to a back injury. Sixth-year senior Julian Gamble went with Miami in 2008; he was redshirting at the time and didn’t play, either.
But Gamble did get a souvenir.
“This entire season, I kept my participation trophy – that every team got from the tournament back when I went – I kept it in the locker room as a motivational piece,” Gamble told USA TODAY Sports this week. “To see this is the goal we’re going for. Even though that trophy is smaller than the one we actually want, it’s still good for everyone to see someone on our team has experience in that situation.”
That means dealing with increased media attention, crazy atmospheres and a schedule players might not be used to. Even the ACC tournament, which concludes Sunday afternoon, doesn’t prepare teams that well for the NCAA tournament because it has them playing on back-to-back-to-back days.
In the NCAAs, if you win, you get a day off to prepare for your next round. Win that, and you get nearly a week. Gamble thinks the different schedule – plus more media requests and open practices – will be the toughest part for his team to adapt to.
“From an atmosphere and attention standpoint, I think it’s something we’ve experienced at one point or another this season,” Gamble said confidently, referencing top-10 showdowns against Duke and other high-profile games against Michigan State and North Carolina.
Senior Reggie Johnson said he’s already looking forward to experiencing … [For more on Miami is an experienced inexperienced NCAA tournaement contender, click here.]