Previewing the College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon


For the third straight season, ESPN will be airing their 24 Hour Tip-Off Marathon, which starts at midnight tonight. Twenty games
in total, over the course of 25 hours. Its what every college
basketball fan dreams about.

Here is the full schedule:

Midnight: Miami at Memphis, ESPN
2:00 am: St. John’s at Saint Mary’s, ESPN
4:00 am: Central Michigan at Hawaii, ESPN
6:00 am: Stony Brook at Monmouth, ESPN
8:00 am: Robert Morris at Kent State, ESPN
10:00 am: Northeastern at Southern Illinois, ESPN
Noon: Oral Roberts at Tulsa, ESPN
2:00 pm: La Salle at Baylor, ESPN
4:00 pm: Virginia Tech at Kansas State, ESPN
5:30 pm: Marist at Villanova, ESPNU
6:00 pm: Ohio State at Florida, ESPN
6:00 pm: Baylor at Connecticut, ESPN2
7:00 pm: Detroit at Syracuse,
7:30 pm: Miami (Ohio) at Duke, ESPNU
7:30 pm: St. Joseph’s at Penn State,
8:00 pm: Butler at Louisville, ESPN
8:00 pm: North Dakota at Wisconsin,
9:30 pm: Belmont at Tennessee, ESPNU
10:00 pm: South Carolina at Michigan State, ESPN
11:00 pm: San Diego State vs. Gonzaga (in Spokane, WA), ESPN2
11:30 pm: Nevada or Pacific at UCLA, ESPNU (Note:
Nevada and Pacific play today at 5:30 pm PST while UCLA will play Cal
State Northridge. The winners will advance and play each other.)

Here is the rank and preview each of the twenty games:

1. 6:00 pm: Ohio State at Florida:
A rematch of the 2007 NCAA title game, the Buckeyes will once again
have a uber-talented freshman manning the paint in 6’8″ Jared
Sullinger, who had 19 points and 14 boards in the Buckeye’s opener.
There is plenty of other talent on the OSU roster, however. Another
freshman — DeShaun Thomas — had 24 points in the opener, while David
Lighty, William Buford, and Jon Diebler all return on the perimeter.
Perhaps the most important piece for this team will end up being Aaron
Craft, a freshman point guard that went for 8 points, 9 assists, and 0
turnovers in his debut.

Enes Kanter done for the season, the Gators look to be the favorite to
win the SEC East. They have a super back court with Kenny Boynton and
Erving Walker, and with guys like Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus up
front, Billy Donovan had plenty of length and athleticism. The biggest
issue for the Gators is how they will go about slowing down Sullinger,
who is much stronger than Gator’s front court. Freshman Patric Young
was brought in for situations like this, but he looked like a freshman
in the first game.

BIAH Prediction: Ohio State 70, Florida 67

2. 11:00 pm: San Diego State vs. Gonzaga
(in Spokane, WA): Believe it or not, this could very well be a matchup
of the two best teams on the west coast. This game will also provide us
with the best individual matchup as Elias Harris and Kawhi Leonard
(hopefully) spend the evening going at each other. Harris is the more
polished of the two right now, as he has the ability to attack from the
perimeter. Leonard is probably more aggressive and more athletic at
this point in their careers and does most of his damage in transition
and on the offensive glass.

is known for their front court, but this season the Zags has a big and
talented front line. What this game could come down to is who gets the
most out of their back court. Steven Gray is playing some of the best
basketball of his career right now, averaging 21.0 ppg, 8.5 apg, and
7.5 rpg, but between DJ Gay had 20 in the opener for the Aztecs while
James Rohan knocked down three huge threes in the second half.

BIAH Prediction: Gonzaga 81, SDSU 72

3. 4:00 pm: Virginia Tech at Kansas State:
If Kawhi Leonard and Elias Harris isn’t the best individual matchup of
the marathon, Malcolm Delaney and Jacob Pullen is. Not only are these
two arguably the two best lead guards in the country, they may very
well be the two best scorers in the country.

Kansas State’s
advantage is obviously on the interior as Tech is missing JT Thompson
and Allan Chaney, but that advantage looks to be mitigated. Curtis
Kelly will sit out for the second game in a row, and his replacements
(Freddy Asprilla and Wally Judge) finished with 2 points, 5 boards, 6
turnovers, and 7 fouls.

BIAH Prediction: Kansas State 69, Virginia Tech 59

4. 2:00 am: St. John’s at Saint Mary’s:
Steve Lavin is returning to the West Coast, where he has been
absolutely cleaning up on the recruiting trail. The Johnnies, under
their new head coach, look to make their first tournament trip in a
long, long time. St. Mary’s kicks off their post-Samhan era by hosting
a team from the Big East. There are enough storylines here to
overshadow the fact that this is an early season non-conference game
with a ton of significance. Both of these teams will be in or around
the bubble come March. Will this result play a part in who gets in and
who doesn’t?

And yes, I just referenced the bubble. Before Thanksgiving.

BIAH Prediction: St. Mary’s 76, St. John’s 75 OT

5. 8:00 pm: Butler at Louisville:
Butler gets their first real test of the season as the head to
Louisville to christen the brand new KFC Yum! Center. I find it very
difficult to believe that the Bulldogs will be nearly as good as they
were last season. I love Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored, but without a
future pro like Hayward, I think Butler simply regresses to “very good
mid-major” as opposed to “national power.” Having said that, if Howard
can play big inside, the Bulldogs are more than capable of knocking off
a Cardinals team that is depleted due to ineligible freshmen and

BIAH Prediction: Butler 59, Louisville 50

6. Midnight: Miami FL at Memphis:
Memphis may not have Jelan Kendrick, but this is still going to be a
very good basketball team. Just how good remains to be seen. This is a
deep team with a lot of weapons offensively — Joe Jackson, Will
Barton, Wesley Witherspoon, Angel Garcia. They should be, at worst, a
top 25 team and win C-USA. But Miami isn’t terrible. They have some
pieces with Reggie Johnson inside and Durand Scott, Malcolm Grant, and
DeQuan Jones on the perimeter. At the very least, we should get a
number of highlight reel dunks.

BIAH Prediction: Memphis 78, Miami FL 64

7. 10:00 pm: South Carolina at Michigan State:
The Gamecocks lost a ton of talent in the offseason, led by the
graduation of Devan Downey. Michigan State has essentially the same
group of guys that have made back to back Final Fours. I’m intrigued,
however, to see how far along Kalin Lucas is in his recovery, as well
as the improvements made by Durrell Summers in the offseason.

BIAH Prediction: Michigan State 80, South Carolina 62

8. 7:00 pm: Detroit at Syracuse:
If there is going to be an upset of a major conference team by a
mid-major, this looks like the most likely candidate. Detroit has some
buzz during the offseason. They returned much of a roster — including
Eli Holman, who went for 15 points and 13 boards against New Mexico in
the opener — that went 9-9 in the Horizon last season and added one of
the best point guards in the country in Ray McCallum, Jr. (Sr. is the
head coach). Syracuse is talented, but they have not looked great in
their two wins this season. They’ve struggled from the perimeter, Fab
Melo has looked raw inside, and Kris Joseph hasn’t exactly turned into
the star everyone expected him to be. So do I think the Orange will get

BIAH Prediction: Syracuse 84, Detroit 61

9. 11:30 pm: Nevada or Pacific at UCLA:
I’m hoping this ends up being UCLA and Nevada, as the Wolfpack are a
sleeper team in the WAC. While Armon Johnson and Luke Babbitt both left
for the NBA, Nevada went out and reloaded with transfers and talented
freshmen. Watch out for Deonte Burton, a high-scoring, high-flying
point guard from LA. UCLA, on the other hand, looks like they just
might be back to being UCLA. The key may actually be JuCo transfer
Lazeric Jones at the point, who has seemingly taken over for Jerime

To be fair, if Pacific does win against Nevada, they have a chance to be a mid-major darling as they have already beaten UTEP.

(I’ll update this prediction once I find out who the Bruins are playing.)

10. 8:00 am: Robert Morris at Kent State:
Robert Morris may have lost their head coach, but they bring back Karon
Abraham, who was the team’s leading scorer a year ago. Kent State, who,
like Bobby Mo, won 23 games last season, has gotten off to a bit of a
slow start, losing to Cleveland State, but this is still a group that
should compete in the MAC. The Golden Flashes are led by forward Justin
Greene. This may not be the highest level of basketball, but these are
two good teams with NCAA Tournament potential.

BIAH Prediction: Kent State 68, Robert Morris 61

11. Noon: Oral Roberts at Tulsa:
This game lost some of its luster when Tulsa lost over the weekend to
Appalachian State. That said, these are still two of the best
basketball programs outside of the Big Six, and both are coming off of
20 win seasons.

BIAH Prediction: Tulsa 74, Oral Roberts 70

12. 2:00 pm: La Salle at Baylor:
Baylor will play their second game without LaceDarius Dunn, who is
suspended for three games after hitting his girlfriend over the summer.
It will be interesting to see if AJ Walton played tomorrow; Walton was
expected to start for Baylor before being suspended for the first game.
The Explorers aren’t terrible this season, either. They bring back some
size — Aaric Murray inside — and some versatility on the perimeter.

BIAH Prediction: Baylor 77, La Salle 64

13. 9:30 pm: Belmont at Tennessee:
After Detroit-Syracuse, I think the second most-likely upset of a major
conference team is Tennessee. Belmont is a good program. They return a
lot of experience from a group that won 19 games and finished in a
four-way tie atop the Atlantic Sun. Tennessee is relatively
inexperienced, they are dealing with a ton of off-the-court issues, and
they have not looked anywhere near dominant this season.

BIAH Prediction: Tennessee 74, Belmont 67

14. 8:00 pm: North Dakota @ Wisconsin:
Wisconsin isn’t a team generally known for scoring a lot of points.
They put 99 up against Prarie View A&M. North Dakota won eight
games last season.

BIAH Prediction: Wisconsin 85, North Dakota 51

15. 7:30 pm: Miami (Ohio) at Duke:
Yes, Miami OH can play a little. And I fully expect them to make a run
at the Devils early in the game. But this Duke team is, simply put,
just too damn good this year.

BIAH Prediction: Duke 89, Miami OH 61

16. 5:30 pm: Marist at Villanova: Marist won one game last season. One. Villanova has a chance to win the Big East. This could get ugly quickly.

BIAH Prediction: Villanova 84, Marist 46

17. 10:00 am: Northeastern at Southern Illinois:
SIU has fallen on hard times as Chris Lowery has gotten away from his
grind-it-out defensive style. Northeastern lost so much from their team
last season that it is difficult to see them competing this quickly in
the CAA. Also, keep in mind neither of these teams score all that much.

BIAH Prediction: Northeastern 51, Southern Illinois 44

18. 7:30 pm: St. Joseph’s at Penn State:
The bottom of the A-10 versus the bottom of the Big Ten. Yay. If there
is any reason to watch this game, it is Talor Battle, who is one of the
best point guards in the country. But even then, its not worth missing
Ohio State-Florida or Louisville-Butler.

BIAH Prediction: Penn State 79, St. Joseph’s 58

19. 4:00 am: Central Michigan at Hawaii:
Yuck. Central Michigan and Hawaii are both rebuilding programs, and
this game is being played at 4:00 am EST. If your goal is to make it
for all 24 hours, and you think you’ll need a nap to pull it off,
schedule it for this game.

BIAH Prediction: Hawaii 63, Central Michigan 58

20. 6:00 am: Stony Brook at Monmouth:
Monmouth was picked 10th in the NEC preseason poll, and while Stony
Brook is a pretty good team, they aren’t good enough to draw your
attention to a game that tips when everyone should be sleeping. 6:00 am
basketball is not conducive to having your legs. If you are awake,
however, its worth it to watch this game if nothing else than to see
the dedicated fans that make it to the gym at 6:00 am on a Tuesday.

BIAH Prediction: Stony Brook 74, Monmouth 55

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Unbeaten Gamecocks, Iowa’s Clark star in women’s Final Four

women's final four
Jeff Blake/USA TODAY Sports

SEATTLE ⁠— An undefeated South Carolina team led by star Aliyah Boston and guided by vaunted Dawn Staley, an Iowa squad that features high-scoring Caitlin Clark and the return of LSU and flashy coach Kim Mulkey headline the women’s Final Four this weekend.

Virginia Tech is the newcomer to the group as the Hokies are making their first appearance in the national semifinals. Hokies coach Kenny Brooks became the third Black male coach to take a team to the Final Four in women’s basketball history.

All of the women’s basketball world will descend on Dallas this week as the Division I, II and III championships will be held there. It’s only the second time that all three divisions will have their title games in the same place.

Staley and the Gamecocks are looking to become the 10th team to go through a season unbeaten and the first to repeat as champions since UConn won four in a row from 2013-16. South Carolina advanced to its third consecutive national semifinals and fifth since 2015 thanks to another superb effort by Boston, the reigning AP Player of the Year. The three-time All-American had 22 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Maryland on Monday night.

Next up for the Gamecocks is Iowa and the sensational Clark. She helped the Hawkeyes reach their first Final Four in 30 years with a game for the ages in the regional semifinals on Sunday night. The junior guard had the first 40-point triple-double in NCAA history in the win over Louisville.

The Gamecocks have the experience edge having reached the Final Four so often with this group. No one on Iowa’s roster was alive the last time the team advanced to the game’s biggest stage. C. Vivian Stringer was the coach of that team in 1993 that reached the Final Four before losing to Ohio State in overtime.

“It is like a storybook, but it’s kind of been like that for us all year long,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “I mean, we have had — honestly, we keep talking about destiny and how it’s supposed to happen and it is happening. But I’m so happy for Caitlin. I can remember sitting in her living room and her saying, I want to go to a Final Four. And I’m saying, We can do it together. And she believed me. And so I’m very thankful for that.”

The other game will pit LSU against Virginia Tech. The Tigers are making their first trip to the national semifinals since 2008 when Sylvia Fowles dominated the paint. Now LSU is led by another stellar post player in Angel Reese.

She broke Fowles’ record for double-doubles in a season earlier this year and was key in the Tigers’ win over Miami in the Elite Eight.

Reese, who transferred in this season from Maryland, has made Mulkey’s second season at the school a special one. She came to LSU with a resume headlined by three NCAA titles from her time at Baylor along with some flamboyant sideline looks such as her silver-shimmering jacket with white pants that she wore in the Elite Eight game Sunday.

“What really makes me smile is not cutting that net down,” Mulkey said. “It’s looking around out there at all those LSU people, looking at that team I get to coach experience it for the first time.”

LSU’s opponent is also making its first appearance at the Final Four. The Hokies have had the best season in school history, winning the ACC crown as well under Brooks. He joined former Syracuse Quentin Hillsman and Cheyney State’s Winthrop “Windy” McGriff.

The significance has not been lost on Brooks, who hopes he can inspire other Black male coaches to get more opportunities.

The Hokies run to the national semifinals has been led by star post Elizabeth Kitley and sharpshooter Georgia Amoore. The pair combined for 49 points in the win over Ohio State in the Elite Eight.

Tar Heels’ Love plans to enter name in transfer portal

caleb love transfer portal
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina guard Caleb Love says he will enter his name into the transfer portal after three seasons with the Tar Heels.

The 6-foot-4 Love announced his decision with a social media post Monday. He had big moments during an unexpected run to last year’s national championship game though he also wrestled with inconsistency for most of his college career.

At his best, Love has game-changing scoring potential and is fearless in taking a big shot. That included scoring 28 points with a huge late 3-pointer to help the Tar Heels beat Duke in the Final Four for the first NCAA Tournament meeting between the rivals and the final game for Blue Devils Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski.

This season he led the team by averaging 16.7 points. but his shooting percentages all dipped after showing gains in 2022. He never shot 40% from the field for a season and twice failed to shoot 30% on 3s.

UNC returns Armando Bacot, the program’s career leading rebounder and an Associated Press third-team All-American, and guard R.J. Davis at the core of an expected roster revamp. That comes after the Tar Heels became the first team to go from No. 1 in the AP preseason poll to missing the NCAA Tournament since it expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at

AP March Madness coverage: and bracket: and and

Texas reportedly reaches deal with Terry as full-time coach

texas basketball
Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports

AUSTIN, Texas ⁠— Texas has reached an agreement with Rodney Terry to be the Longhorns’ full-time head basketball coach, taking the interim tag off his title after he led the program to the Elite Eight following the midseason firing of Chris Beard, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press.

Texas was knocked out of the NCAA Tournament by Miami on Sunday, ending its longest postseason run since 2008. Terry and Texas officials reached the agreement Monday, according to a person with knowledge of the deal who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Financial terms of the deal were not immediately available.

Terry took over the Longhorns as acting head coach when Beard was first suspended on Dec. 12 after a felony domestic violence arrest. Terry was giving the title of interim head coach when Beard was fired Jan. 5.

Texas won the Big 12 Tournament championship and questions about Terry’s future with the program were amplified as the Longhorns kept winning in the postseason. Texas fans wondered what more he needed to prove and Longhorns players publicly advocated for him to get the job.

“It was all about this team. I’ve enjoyed every single day of this journey with this group,” Terry said in Sunday’s postgame news conference as his voice cracked and he held back tears. “It was never about me. It was always about these guys. I love these guys.”

Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte had praised Terry’s job handling the team in crisis and gave him a raise, though only through April. He’d also noted Terry inherited a veteran, senior-heavy roster and strong staff of assistants built by Beard.

That lineup could have disintegrated into chaos after Beard’s arrest. Instead, Terry marched the program to a second-place regular season finish in the Big 12 and a No. 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Longhorns went 22-8 under Terry, and their march to the Elite Eight was the program’s first beyond the NCAA Tournament’s first weekend in 15 years.

Terry is the second Black head coach in program history, joining Shaka Smart, who coached Texas from 2015-2021.

Terry, 54, had a previous stint as an assistant at Texas under Rick Barnes from 2002-2011. He also was head coach at Fresno State and UTEP. He left UTEP after three seasons to join Beard’s staff in 2022. He is 185-164 as a head coach.

Former Texas player T.J. Ford, who led the Longhorns to 2003 Final Four and was that season’s Naismith national player of the year, praised the move to keep Terry.

“I’m very excited that the right decision was made to continue this great culture,” Ford tweeted.

The dormant Texas program had all the signs of renewal under Beard, as he mined the transfer portal to build a roster to compete in the rugged Big 12. He had done the same at Texas Tech, where he led the Red Raiders to the 2019 national championship game.

Beard was arrested after his fiancée called 911 and told police he choked, bit and hit her during a confrontation at his home. She later recanted that she was choked, but Texas still fired Beard as university lawyers called him “unfit” to lead the program.

The Travis County district attorney eventually dismissed the felony charge, saying they could not prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, and because of her wishes not to prosecute.

Beard has since been hired at Mississippi.

Caitlin Clark leads Iowa to first Final Four since 1993

Alika Jenner/Getty Images

SEATTLE – Caitlin Clark put on quite a show, having one of the greatest performances in NCAA Tournament history to help Iowa end a 30-year Final Four drought.

She had 41 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds to lead the No. 2 seed Hawkeyes to a 97-83 win over fifth-seeded Louisville on Sunday night and send the team to its first women’s Final Four in since 1993.

“I dreamed of this moment as a little girl, to take a team to the Final Four and be in these moments and have confetti fall down on me,” said Clark, who is a Iowa native.

The unanimous first-team All-American was as dominant as she’s been all season in getting the Hawkeyes to Dallas for the women’s NCAA Tournament national semifinals on Friday night. The Seattle 4 Region champion will face the winner of the Greenville 1 region that has South Carolina playing Maryland on Monday night.

“I thought our team played really well. That’s what it’s all about. I was going to give it every single thing I had,” said Clark, who was the region’s most outstanding player. “When I came here I said I wanted to take this program to the Final Four, and all you’ve got to do is dream. And all you’ve got to do is believe and work your butt off to get there. That’s what I did, and that’s what our girls did and that’s what our coaches did and we’re going to Dallas, baby.”

Iowa (30-6) hadn’t been to the Final Four since Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer led the team to its lone appearance in 1993. Before Sunday, the team had only been to one other Elite Eight – in 2019 – since the Final Four team.

Clark had the 11th triple-double of her career and the 19th in NCAA Tournament history. She had the first 30- and 40-point triple-double in March Madness history.

“It’s like a storybook, been like that all year long,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “We keep talking about destiny and how it’s supposed to happen. … She’s spectacular. I don’t know how else to describe what she does on the basketball court. A 40-point triple-double against Louisville to go to the Final Four. Are you kidding me? That’s mind-boggling.”

Trailing by five at the half, Louisville cut its deficit to 48-47 before Clark and the Hawkeyes scored the next 11 points as part of a 17-6 run to blow the game open. That brought most of the pro-Iowa crowd of nearly 12,000 fans to their feet.

Louisville was down 22 with just under 6 minutes left before going on a 13-1 run to get within 86-76 with 2:10 left. The Cardinals could get no closer.

Clark left the game with 22.7 seconds left to a loud ovation from the crowd as she hugged her coach. After the game, Clark paraded around the court holding the regional trophy high above her head, delighting the thousands of fans who stuck around to celebrate their Hawkeyes.

Hailey Van Lith scored 27 points and Olivia Cochran had 20 points and 14 rebounds to lead Louisville (26-12).

Clark hit eight of the Hawkeyes’ season-high 16 3-pointers, including a few from just past the March Madness logo. It was a school record for the Hawkeyes in the NCAA Tournament, blowing past the previous mark of 13 against Gonzaga in 2011.

Louisville scored the first eight points of the game, forcing Iowa to call timeout. Then Clark got going. The 6-foot junior scored the first seven points for the Hawkeyes and finished the opening quarter with 15 points. When she wasn’t scoring, she found open teammates with precision passes.

She also had four assists in the first 10 minutes, accounting for every one of Iowa’s points as the Hawkeyes led 25-21.

Clark continued her mastery in the second quarter, hitting shots from all over the court, including a few of her famous long-distance 3s from near the logo.

Louisville was able to stay in the game, thanks to Van Lith. After scoring the first six points of the game, she went quiet before getting going late in the second quarter. She had 11 points in the second quarter as the Cardinals found themselves down 48-43 at the break.

Clark had 22 points and eight assists in the opening 20 minutes enroute to the fourth-highest scoring total all-time in a NCAA regional.

“She played great, she made some big shots,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said of Clark. “She passed the ball well. we turned her over at times.”


Clark has 984 points this season and is looking to join former Hawkeye Megan Gustafson with 1,000 points in a single year. Four other players have done it, including Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist, who accomplished the feat this season. Kelsey Plum, Jackie Stiles and Odyssey Sims were the others to do it.


Van Lith once again played well in her home state. The small-town standout from 130 miles away from Seattle grew into being one of the best prep players in the country, the all-time state high school leader in scoring and now a star for the Cardinals.

Hundreds of fans from her hometown of Cashmere, which has a population of 3,200, took in the game, cheering the Louisville star on.


It was a bittersweet day for Iowa assistant coach Jan Jensen. Her dad Dale died in the morning after battling pancreatic cancer for a year. He was 86.

“He didn’t sound so good the last couple days and I was kind of fretting, ‘When am I going to go if we go to Dallas?’” she said. “I just feel like he knew. He was never a high maintenance guy, he was never a guy who made it complicated with me in anything. So I think, he told my people at home, I’m not ready to go until Jan’s team is done.”

Miller, Wong rally Miami past Texas 88-81 for 1st Final Four

miami texas
Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On the eve of Miami playing for a place in its first Final Four, the quiet conversation floating through the team hotel did not revolve around all that the Hurricanes had accomplished this season. Instead, they talked about what had happened to bring last season to a close.

The sting of an Elite Eight defeat was fresh to those who were there. And they made everyone else feel it, too.

“That loss sat with me for a really long time,” the Hurricanes’ Jordan Miller said. “It doesn’t go away, and the fact that we had the opportunity to come back and make amends, make it right, that’s what was pushing me.”

Miller responded with a perfect performance against second-seeded Texas in the Midwest Region final Sunday. Along with Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Isaiah Wong and March dynamo Nijel Pack, Miller rallied the Hurricanes from a 13-point second-half deficit for an 88-81 victory that clinched that long-awaited trip to the national semifinals.

“How hard we fought to come back in this game, especially on a stage like this, it’s an amazing feeling,” said Pack, one of Miami’s newcomers. “I know how much these guys wanted to win this game, especially being here last year and losing the Elite Eight, and now being able to take it to the Final Four is something special.”

Miller finished with 27 points, going 7 of 7 from the field and 13 of 13 from the foul line, while Wong scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half against the Longhorns, who had been the top remaining seed in a topsy-turvy NCAA Tournament.

Now, the No. 5 seed Hurricanes (29-7) have a date with No. 4 seed UConn on Saturday night in Houston. Two more Final Four newbies, fifth-seeded San Diego State and No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic, will play in the other national semifinal.

It’s the first time since seeding began in 1979 that no team seeded better than No. 4 made the Final Four, so perhaps it is fitting that Miami coach Jim Larrañaga is involved. He took George Mason there as an 11 seed 17 years ago to the day.

Miami was a 10 seed last year when it lost 76-50 to eventual national champion Kansas in a regional final.

“No one wanted to go home,” said Miller, coincidentally a George Mason transfer, who joined Duke’s Christian Laettner as the only players since 1960 to go 20 for 20 combined from the field and foul line in an NCAA tourney game. “We came together. We stuck together. We showed really good perseverance and the will – the will to just want to get there.”

After Miami climbed back from a 64-51 deficit with 13:22 to play, the game was tied at 79-all when Norchad Omier was fouled by the Longhorns’ Brock Cunningham while going for a loose ball. He made both of the foul shots to give the Hurricanes the lead, then stole the ball from Texas star Marcus Carr at the other end, and Wong made to more free throws with 34 seconds remaining to keep them ahead for good.

Miller kept drilling foul shots down the stretch to ice the Midwest Region title for the Hurricanes.

Wooga Poplar scored 16 points, and Pack followed up his virtuoso performance against top-seeded Houston with 15, as the same school that once dropped hoops entirely in the 1970s advanced to the game’s biggest stage.

“You just love when your players accomplish a goal they set out before the season,” Larrañaga said.

Carr led the Longhorns (29-9) with 17 points, though he was bothered by a hamstring injury late in the game. Timmy Allen added 16 and Sir’Jabari Rice had 15 in the finale of a season that began with the firing of Chris Beard over domestic violence charges that were later dropped and ended with interim coach Rodney Terry consoling a heartbroken team.

“These guys more than any group I’ve worked with in 32 years of coaching have really embodied, in terms of staying the course, being a team,” Terry said, choking up so hard on the postgame dais that he could barely speak. “They were so unselfish as a team, and they gave us everything they had. They really did.”

The Longhorns revealed about 90 minutes before tipoff that Dylan Disu, the Big 12 tourney MVP and early star of the NCAA Tournament, would miss the game with a foot injury. He hurt it in the second round against Penn State and only played about 90 seconds in the Sweet 16 against Xavier before watching the rest of that game in a walking boot.

Without their 6-foot-9 star, the Longhorns’ deep group of dangerous guards resorted to potshots from the perimeter against Miami’s porous defense. Rice hit two 3s early, Carr two of his own, and the Longhorns stormed to a 45-37 halftime lead.

On the other end, Texas tried to keep Pack and Wong from producing a sequel to their 3-point barrage against Houston.

Pack, who dropped seven 3s in the regional semifinal, didn’t even attempt one until there were 7 1/2 minutes left in the first half, and his best shot – a looping rainbow as he fell out of bounds – didn’t even count because it went over the backboard.

Wong took as many shots and scored as many points (two) as he had turnovers in the game’s first 20 minutes.

The Longhorns’ advantage stretched to 13 in the second half, and tension built on the Miami bench. At one point, Harlond Beverly and Larrañaga got into a verbal spat and the 73-year-old coach yanked the backup guard from the game.

Fortunately for the ’Canes, Pack and Wong were poised, Poplar and Miller seemingly possessed.

Still trailing 72-64 with about eight minutes to play, Pack and Wong joined Miller and Omier in turbocharging a 13-3 run to give the Hurricanes a 77-75 lead, their first since the opening minutes. When Rice answered at the other end for Texas, Miller calmly made two go-ahead free throws to begin his late-game parade to the line.

Carr made a nifty turnaround jumper to tie the game again for Texas, but the Miami momentum never slowed. Omier made two free throws with a minute left, swiped the ball from Carr at the other end, and Miller and Co. finished it off.

“We just all bought into staying together, keeping that hope alive,” Miller said, “and the way we just willed this one through, I think everybody played really well, and I think it really shows the poise of this squad.”