The Miami Hurricanes have made it to the Elite Eight for the second time during head coach Jim Larranaga's tenure and have as good a chance as any to make it to the Final Four.
As they prepare to face off against the Texas Longhorns, led by senior guard Marcus Carr, the Hurricanes will need to rely on their swarming defense and high energy like they did when they upset the Houston Cougars. The Hurricanes played like a well-oiled machine against the Cougars, even dominating at times, despite the Cougars having multiple first-round prospects on their roster.
The Longhorns are talented too, but the injury status of senior forward Dylan Disu could severely limit their ability to overtake the Hurricanes.
All of this leads to the following predictions for Miami, who will face Texas in the Elite Eight on Sunday, Mar. 26.
3 bold predictions for Miami vs Texas in March Madness Elite Eight
1. The Hurricanes will move on to the Elite Eight
The Hurricanes defeated the Cougars by a 14-point margin, pulling away from Houston in the second half as Isaiah Wong, Jordan Miller, Norchad Omier, and Nijel Pack all outplayed their matchups. Though the Longhorns are no pushovers, they shouldn't be any tougher of a matchup for Miami than the top seed in the Midwest Region.
For starters, leading scorer Marcus Carr isn't particularly efficient with a career field goal percentage of 40.0 and a career 3-point percentage of 34.5 percent. With Wong, Pack, and Wooga Poplar all capable of matching up with Carr physically, they have a good chance to cut off the head of the snake.
Sir'Jabari Rice, who plays off-ball, will be tougher to contain. Nonetheless, the off-ball defense of Poplar inspires confidence in Miami's ability to prevent the five-year senior from being a difference-maker.
Looking past their backcourt, the frontcourt of the Longhorns features players with various skillsets. Timmy Allen is a dynamic forward and much better inside of the paint, but the Hurricanes have their own versatile weapon in Jordan Miller, who should be able to outplay Allen. Christian Bishop is a solid low-post player but at just 6-foot-7, doesn't have a size advantage over Hurricanes center Norchad Omier.
It could end up being more of a defensive battle than anything, but with the Hurricanes projected to have a rebounding and shooting advantage, they should be favored to win.
2. Norchad Omier will have a career game
As previously mentioned, the Longhorns may be without starting forward Dylan Disu, who averaged 22.5 points and 10.5 points per game in the first two games of the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
With the powerfully built Omier providing a dominant presence on the boards, Miami already has one key advantage over an unimpressive rebounding team that will be missing one of their best rebounders. To that point, even if both teams are unable to bury a shot, at least the Hurricanes should have a greater chance of getting second-chance points.
Omier is averaging 10.1 rebounds per game for Miami this season, nearly double the highest rebounding average for the Longhorns leading rebounder (Timmy Allen with 5.6 rebounds per game). Though Texas is typically an efficient team, there should be plenty of rebounds to go around for the big man.
Especially if the Hurricanes can smother the Longhorns.
Against the Cougars, Omier pulled down 13 rebounds as Houston shot 37.5 percent from the field. Houston shoots 45.8 percent for the season.
3. Isaiah Wong and Nijel Pack catapult themselves into first-round consideration
If Wong can outplay the Longhorns 1-2 punch at point guard in Carr and Tyrese Hunter, he has a terrific chance of putting NBA scouts on notice. As one of the most versatile scorers in the NCAA and particularly at his position, Wong will have another chance to demonstrate his 3-level scoring ability and the potential impact he could have in the NBA.
Currently averaging 16.3 points per game on 44.7 percent shooting from the field and 38.8 percent shooting from 3-point range this season, Wong has averaged 23.5 points per game in the last two games. March Madness usually has a large impact on draft stock, so another strong performance by Wong against popular competition will go a long way for the senior guard.
The same can be said for Pack, a junior with an outstanding career 3-point percentage of 41.7 percent. After scoring 26 points against Houston while shooting 7-10 from 3-point range, Pack may already have the nation's attention.
However, if he can get loose for another one of those games on his way to helping Miami reach their first Final Four appearance in school history, scouts would have plenty of reason to move the 6-foot-0 guard up in their rankings.