Hurricanes ready to embrace underdog role in NCAA Tournament

MIAMI (WSVN) - The Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball team left South Florida, Tuesday, to face Michigan State in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

Head Coach Jim Larrañaga and the ‘Canes are heading to the ninth March Madness experience in school history.

However, this is the third time for Larrañaga while being head coach at the University of Miami. “We’re enjoying the journey,” said Larrañaga. “Practice these last few days has been absolutely terrific. The focus, the enjoyment — they’re having fun, but they’re working hard.”

The Hurricanes enter the tournament as an eighth-seed, facing the ninth-seed Michigan State Spartans on Friday.

The Spartans hail from the Big 10 Conference, and many expert bracketologists predict Miami will not go far. “The experts are gonna say what they’re gonna say,” said Hurricanes guard and senior Davon Reed. “But, you know, we embrace that role, and I think we gotta just continue to play our game. Can’t focus too much on what other people are saying. Treat every game like it’s a championship game.”

Freshman Hurricanes guard and Melbourne, Australia native Dejan Vasilijevic said nobody expected them to be playing in March. “Everyone wrote us off at the start of the season, saying, ‘We’re too young and inexperienced,'” he said. “We’re gonna prove them wrong and continue to prove them wrong.”

Coach Larrañaga added that, after defeating some of college basketball’s giants, they can compete against anyone.

“When the NCAA Tournament begins, the message I send my players all the time is: There are 68 really good teams,” said Larrañaga. “Some teams don’t have a great chance of advancing to the Final Four, but, if you come outta the ACC and competed against North Carolina, Duke and Florida State, you’re ready for a national championship.”

The Hurricanes face Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo and the Spartans on Friday, with tip-off expected at 9:20 p.m. EST in Tulsa, Okla.

Copyright 2017 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.