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Miami head coach Larranaga is a ghost from UConn's past
The Huskies have had to take down many big coaching names this tournament, but the next one is particularly horrifying for UConn fans.
Jim Larranaga has been down this road before.
In 2006, he was the head coach of a George Mason team that was playing the role of David against the Goliath that was that year’s UConn squad.
Mason pulled off another stunning upset, beating the Huskies 86-84 in overtime in the Elite Eight.
This time around, Larranaga is at a slightly bigger school, leading the fifth-seeded Miami Hurricanes, but remains a heavy underdog against the Huskies as they prepare to tip-off on Saturday (8:49 p.m. CBS) in Houston.
“The UConn team of 2006 was an overwhelming favorite because we were an eleven seed,” Larranga said. “They were the No. 1 seed.”
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UConn might not be the top overall seed like it was in 2006, but the 2023 Huskies (29-8) enter the weekend as the odds-on favorite to win their fifth national title. KenPom is projecting a seven-point win for the Huskies over the Hurricanes.
While Miami (29-7) doesn’t come with the same fairy tale storyline as George Mason did, the Hurricanes are making their first trip to the Final Four.
In order to advance to Monday’s title game, Larranga’s squad will have to beat a UConn team that has a similar advantage as it did in 2006.
“I think everybody, despite the fact we got to the Elite Eight, thought we had no shot because of UConn’s size,” Larranaga said.
In 2006, the Huskies had a frontcourt of Hilton Armstrong, Josh Boone and Rudy Gay — all future NBA draft picks.
The Huskies are now led by 6-foot-9 junior Adama Sanogo (17.1 points, 7.5 rebounds), 6-8 freshman Alex Karaban (9.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and have 7-2 freshman Donovan Clingan (7.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg) coming off the bench. Sanogo is averaging 20 points and just under 10 rebounds per game in the NCAA tournament.
“Their front court was 6-9, 6-10, 6-11 (in 2006) and our front court was 6-4, 6-5, 6-7,” Larranga said. “And quite honestly there’s a lot of similarities now because we are like 6-4, 6-6, 6-7 and UConn is huge.”
The Hurricanes main force up front is 6-7 sophomore Norchad Omier (13.3 ppg, 10.1 rpg). They are not particularly strong in offensive rebounding (74th in the country), whereas UConn is second-best in the nation.
UConn’s big men are a key factor in the team’s success, but so is sophomore guard Jordan Hawkins (16.3 ppg), who was the MOP of the West Regional.
“It’s not to say that UConn’s guards aren’t unbelievable because Hawkins is one of the great players in our country,” Larranaga said, “but we really start preparing [Tuesday] and we will be looking at what strategy we can implore to neutralize that size.”