Unlike a year ago, when he was preparing his University of Miami team for the school’s second appearance in the regional semifinals of the NCAA Men’s Tournament, Hurricanes basketball coach Jim Larranaga doesn’t have a direct interest in this week’s upcoming “Sweet 16” doings.
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a favorite.
“I’m rooting for Virginia,” Larranaga said Monday as he met with local media for a postmortem on his team’s season, which ended with a second-round loss to North Carolina State in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament earlier this month.
“First of all, they’re an ACC school. Second of all, I think Tony Bennett and his staff have done a great job this year.
“And third of all, I used to be an assistant at Virginia and I still have a lot of friends there -- players I recruited there -- who would like to see the Cavaliers move on.”
Based on their two victories this past weekend -- 70-59 over Coastal Carolina last Friday and especially 78-60 over Memphis on Sunday -- the Cavaliers would seem to have a very shot of not only just moving on but winning the whole thing. But in that, they’re not alone.
“I think all 16 teams do,” Larranaga said.
Next up for the Cavaliers, the No. 1 seed in the East Regional, is Michigan State Friday night in New York. Iowa State and Connecticut play in the other regional semifinal.
In addition to his backing of Virginia, Larranaga, remaining loyal to conference, also said he would have liked to have seen North Carolina advance as well. But the Tar Heels lost in one of the most unlikeliest manners in tourney history.
After Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane drove the lane and banked in a shot with 1.6 seconds left, North Carolina’s Nate Britt took the inbounds pass and raced up the floor. It wasn’t until he got to midcourt, however, that he saw his coach, Roy Williams, frantically gesturing to him to call a timeout.
As he finally did, the clock went to 0:00. It appeared that the timeout was called before the final buzzer, however, and officials did come to the scorer’s table to review it.
But instead of putting time back on the clock, the officials declared the game over because they found there was about a second delay before the clock was started after the inbounds pass. The final score stood at Iowa State 85, North Carolina 83.
Larranaga called the ending “bizarre” and“strange” and thinks it could result in rules tweaking.
“I think that’s going to be a major discussion at the Final Four with the rules committee,” he said. “because as a player I catch an inbounds pass and I dribble up and see that’s there time on the clock, I don’t know that the guy didn’t start it right away.”
Larranaga questioned the rule that limits reviews of such things as clock issues and out-of-bounds calls to the final two minutes of the game.
“I’m like, wow,” he said. “How about all the times during the game that that might have happened? And you’re looking at the last 1.6 seconds?
In fact, there are too many reviews in Larranaga’s opinion.
“I’m not that much in favor of us going to the clock every time to evaluate whether we got the call right,” he said. “I’ve always felt like part of this game is played by humans, refereed by humans, kept time by humans, and there’s always human error.
“Well, if you can correct it and get it right, that’s fine. But how many times during the game did the clock start late? Maybe there wasn’t time for DeAndre Kane. Maybe that shot was late because the clock got started a little bit late throughout the 40-minute game.
“I just thought it was strange.”