basketball-men-d1 flag

Mike Lopresti | NCAA.com | March 24, 2022

From 12 combined wins to the Sweet 16, how Miami and Iowa State matched in unlikely meeting

Jim Larranaga and his Miami team prepare to take on Iowa State in the Sweet 16

CHICAGO — Bottom line: There may never have been a Sweet 16 matchup quite like this one.

The Iowa State Cyclones are on the court in their practice cardinal and gold Thursday. This is no leisurely day-before shooting session. The first drills address defense and Coach T.J. Otzelberger’s intense urging carries all the way up to the Michael Jordan Bulls title banners, hanging in the United Center.

The Cyclones' opponent, the Miami Hurricanes, will be in a little later, working out with March Madness on the scoreboard and Sweet 16 on the baseline. Oh, the joy to still be alive in the NCAA tournament.

Now consider where both teams were one year ago.

Miami’s season had ended in the ACC tournament, with a 10-17 record, its third losing record in a row. The players on the roster had lost 113 games to injuries — none of it COVID-related — the most among major conferences. The Hurricanes dressed only seven healthy scholarship players for games in mid-season. Then it got worse. The final eight games, they dressed only six. Eleven different players started a game and only two appeared in all 27.

Jim Larranaga’s program, once a solid March presence, seemed as if it was sitting on the wet sand of South Beach.

“A lot of adversity,” forward Sam Waardenburg said. “And a lot of it was out of our control.”

Larranaga’s feelings about a quick revival? “Let’s just say this is my highest level of confidence and this is my lowest level of confidence,” he said, holding one hand high, the other below his press conference table. “You can’t see how low my hand has gotten. College basketball is difficult. To build a program is extremely hard. To do it in the ACC, it’s even harder.”

MEMORIALIZING THE MADNESS: We're tracking every single NCAA tournament upset

The Iowa State season had ended in the Big 12 tournament. The winter was a 2-22 nightmare, with 18 consecutive losses and the program’s first winless conference record since 1937. Coach Steve Prohm was fired six days later.

Transfer Izaiah Brockington still remembers the jokes he heard when he first visited campus after that disaster: "Hey, you guys going to win more than two games this year?"

“I promise,” he told them.

Two programs, hard times.

One year later, the Miami Hurricanes are 25-10. They went into Cameron Indoor Stadium and beat Duke. They mashed North Carolina by 28 points, and just last Sunday steamrolled SEC champion Auburn by 18. Four Miami players have started at least 32 of the 35 games.

“It’s probably not a great analogy, but it would be like playing a chess match and you start the match without your queen, one rook and one bishop,” Larranaga said of last season. “We were so short-handed. We only had six guys, seven guys. You can’t go up and down. You can’t develop the chemistry and the bond of players. You can’t learn the offense when you’re not even going against a defense.

“This year the greatest gift we have is health. So we’re enjoying the heck out of it. And we keep our fingers crossed.”

One year later, the Cyclones are 22-12. They won as many NCAA tournament games last weekend as they did all last season. They are 15-0 in non-conference games and spent much of this season snapping long losing streaks; 18 in row overall, 19 in a row against ranked opponents, 24 in a row in the league, 25 in a row to power-conference opponents, 28 in a row away from their home arena, 42 in a row when trailing with five minutes left, 78 in a row when behind with one minute to go.

OH SO SWEET: 1 reason why each Sweet 16 team has advanced this far

“It’s still kind of unbelievable,” said Brockington, now the leading scorer.

Since the tournament field expanded to 64 bids in 1985, only five of 576 teams in the Sweet 16 — roughly 0.9 percent — won 10 or fewer games the season before. Two of the five are in this game. By midnight Friday, one of them will be on the doorstep of the Final Four.

One year ago in Ames, Iowa, the transfer portal turned into a gusher. Neither the current Cyclones’ coach nor his top five scorers were on campus. Otzelberger was at UNLV. So was one of his guards, Caleb Grill. Brockington was at Penn State, Gabe Kalscheur at Minnesota, Aljaz Kunc at Washington State and Tyrese Hunter at St. Catherine’s High School in Wisconsin. Together, they were averaging 56 points a game — all for someone else.

Weren’t these guys a little wary to walk into a program that was 2-22?

“Their lack of recent success hadn’t really scared me off, because as far as I was concerned, that was a whole different team,” Brockington. “So I saw an opportunity for us to do something special here.”

Otzelberger explained the process: “It was really important to us that we identified guys that could help us bring back the pride to the Cyclone program. That involves people that have a very workmanlike way of approaching each and every day. We talk a lot in our program about low ego, high producing, work capacity and coachability. Those are things that you would think every program would want to put in place. But it takes the right guys to do that.”

There were potholes. Iowa State recovered from a four-game losing streak in February, including Texas mashing the Cyclones 63-41. They shook off a three-game skid in early March, including the bad day they scored only 36 points against Oklahoma State, and the 72-41 thumping by Texas Tech.

“We’ve had times where we felt like our back’s against the wall,” Otzelberger said. “But we’ve always been able to go back to those work habits, go back to that togetherness and that plan, and regain our confidence to move forward.”

Certainly, the March woes had to bring a sense of urgency. The clock was ticking. “Urgency to me is something I’ve taken a lot of pride in my entire life,” Otzelberger said. “So we were urgent the day we came in. We’ve been urgent every single day. We were urgent when we practiced today.”

Defense has kept Iowa State going in the right direction. The Cyclones scored 54 and 59 points last weekend and couldn’t be stopped. At practice Thursday, they were drilling on guarding the 3-point line, where LSU and Wisconsin combined to shoot under 15 percent last weekend. They had 24 steals against the Tigers and Badgers. But Friday they face a Miami team that committed only seven turnovers in two tournament games.

The Hurricanes have been led by the guard trio of Charlie Moore, Kameron McGusty and Isaiah Wong. Moore and McGusty started all 35 games, Wong 34, Waardenburg 32. This is a very veteran effort. Between redshirting, transferring and an extra season of eligibility due to COVID, Miami’s five starters have spent a combined 25 years in college basketball.

Their paths have not all been the same. Waardenburg has spent all six years as a Hurricane. Moore has started games for California. And Kansas. And DePaul. And Miami. A career stretching across six years, four schools and three time zones. He is a Chicago kid who has come home this weekend.

McGusty thought about leaving to pursue a professional career. The sense of unfinished business kept him a Cane. “Miami was one of the hottest schools in the country when I decided to come here,” he said. “So I wanted to leave on the same high note I came in on.

“I knew we could have a season like this.”

Both coaches have spent all season convincing broken programs of their possibilities. Larranaga has a particularly vivid example. Once upon a time, he coached a team called George Mason ...

“Sadly to say, they’re tired of hearing about George Mason,” Larranaga said of the Cinderella story he led to the 2006 Final Four. “And they have told me, 'Hey, let’s do what they did, so you can talk about us in the future rather than them.'”

Still, it’s great yarn to tell, he said, “about being underrated, underappreciated, and even basically told you’re not even going the Dance. But these guys, they’ve also created a lot of stories.”

Friday night means something to Otzelberger, whose first real break in coaching came when the Cyclones hired him as an assistant. “Iowa State is a place that took a chance on me and gave me an opportunity probably before my resume truthfully had earned an opportunity to coach at a place of this magnitude,” he said.

It also means something to Larranaga, especially given the darkness of recent times. “And my wife had to remind me every day that as far as coaching is concerned, nothing has changed," he said. "You’re going to go to practice every day, you’re going to prepare your team, you’re going to be the teacher and mentor that they need. And that’s what I needed to hear.”

So this unexpected ride is an emotional one?

“Yeah,” he said softly. “It is.”

Two teams — with a combined record of 12-39 last season — and two coaches who started this season in the back of the pack. One of them will soon have a shot at the Final Four.

2022 March Madness schedule, livestream links

Click or tap on any of the games below to be taken directly to that live stream or box score.

GAMES TIME TV CITY Venue
National Championship — Monday, April 4
No. 1 Kansas 72, No. 8 North Carolina 69 9:20 p.m. TBS New Orleans, Louisiana Caesars Superdome
RESULTS TIME NETWORK CITY SITE
First Four — Tuesday, March 15
No. 16 Texas Southern 76, No. 16 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 67 6:40 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena
No. 12 Indiana 66, No. 12 Wyoming 58 9:10 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena
First Four — Wednesday, March 16
No. 16 Wright State 93, No. 16 Bryant 82 6:40 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena
No. 11 Notre Dame 89, No. 11 Rutgers 87 9:10 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena
First Round — Thursday, March 17
No. 11 Michigan 75, No. 6 Colorado State 63 12:15 p.m. CBS Indianapolis, Indiana Gainbridge Fieldhouse
No. 4 Providence 66, No. 13 South Dakota State 57 12:40 p.m. truTV Buffalo, New York KeyBank Center
No. 9 Memphis 64, No. 8 Boise State 53 1:45 p.m. TNT Portland, Oregon Moda Center
No. 1 Baylor 85, No. 16 Norfolk State 49 2 p.m. TBS Fort Worth, Texas Dickies Arena
No. 3 Tennessee 88, No. 14 Longwood 56 2:45 p.m. CBS Indianapolis, Indiana Gainbridge Fieldhouse
No. 12 Richmond 67,  No. 5 Iowa 63 3:10 p.m. truTV Buffalo, New York KeyBank Center
No. 1 Gonzaga 93, No. 16 Georgia State 72 4:15 p.m. TNT Portland, Oregon Moda Center
No. 8 North Carolina 95, No. 9 Marquette 63 4:30 p.m. TBS Fort Worth, Texas Dickies Arena
No. 12 New Mexico State 70, No. 5 UConn 63 6:50 p.m. TNT Buffalo, New York KeyBank Center
No. 15 Saint Peter's 85, No. 2 Kentucky 79 (OT) 7:10 p.m. CBS Indianapolis, Indiana Gainbridge Fieldhouse
No. 5 Saint Mary's (CA) 82, No. 12 Indiana 53 7:20 p.m. TBS Portland, Oregon Moda Center
No. 9 Creighton 72, No. 8 San Diego State 69 (OT) 7:27 p.m. truTV Fort Worth, Texas Dickies Arena
No. 4 Arkansas 75, No. 13 Vermont 71 9:20 p.m. TNT Buffalo, New York KeyBank Center
No. 7 Murray State 92, No. 10 San Francisco 87 (OT) 9:40 p.m. CBS Indianapolis, Indiana Gainbridge Fieldhouse
No. 4 UCLA 57, No. 13 Akron 53 9:50 p.m. TBS Portland, Oregon Moda Center
No. 1 Kansas 83, No. 16 Texas Southern 56 9:57 p.m. truTV Fort Worth, Texas Dickies Arena
First Round — Friday, March 18
No. 7 Ohio State 54, No. 10 Loyola Chicago 41  12:15 p.m. CBS Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania PPG Paints Arena
No. 2 Auburn 80, No. 15 Jacksonville State 61 12:40 p.m. truTV Greenville, South Carolina Bon Secours Wellness Arena
No. 3 Texas Tech 97, No. 14 Montana State 62 1:45 p.m. TNT San Diego, California Viejas Arena
No. 3 Purdue 78, No. 14 Yale 56 2 p.m. TBS Milwaukee, Wisconsin Fiserv Forum
No. 2 Villanova 80, No. 15 Delaware 60 2:45 p.m. CBS Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania PPG Paints Arena
No. 10 Miami (Fla.) 68, No. 7 No. 7 Southern California 66 3:10 p.m. truTV Greenville, South Carolina Bon Secours Wellness Arena
No. 11 Notre Dame 78, No. 6 Alabama 64 4:15 p.m. TNT San Diego, California Viejas Arena
No. 6 Texas 81, No. 11 Virginia Tech 73 4:30 p.m. TBS Milwaukee, Wisconsin Fiserv Forum
No. 4 Illinois 54, No. 13 Chattanooga 53 6:50 p.m. TNT Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania PPG Paints Arena
No. 2 Duke 78, Cal State Fullerton 61 7:10 p.m. CBS Greenville, South Carolina Bon Secours Wellness Arena
No. 11 Iowa State 59, No. 6 LSU 54 7:20 p.m. TBS Milwaukee, Wisconsin Fiserv Forum
No. 1 Arizona 87, No. 16 Wright State 70 7:27 p.m. truTV San Diego, California Viejas Arena
No. 5 Houston 82, No. 12 UAB 68 9:20 p.m. TNT Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania PPG Paints Arena
No. 7 Michigan State 74, No. 10 Davidson 73 9:40 p.m. CBS Greenville, South Carolina Bon Secours Wellness Arena
No. 3 Wisconsin 67, No. 14 Colgate 60 9:50 p.m. TBS Milwaukee, Wisconsin Fiserv Forum
No. 9 TCU 69, No. 8 Seton Hall 42 9:57 p.m. truTV San Diego, California Viejas Arena
Second Round — Saturday, March 19
No. 8 North Carolina 93, No. 1 Baylor 86 (OT) 12:10 p.m. CBS Fort Worth, Texas Dickies Arena
No. 1 Kansas 79, No. 9 Creighton 72 2:40 p.m. CBS Fort Worth, Texas Dickies Arena
No. 11 Michigan 76, No. 3 Tennessee 68 5:15 p.m. CBS Indianapolis, Indiana Gainbridge Fieldhouse
No. 4 Providence 79, No. 12 Richmond 51 6:10 p.m. TNT Buffalo, New York KeyBank Center
No. 4 UCLA 72, No. 5 Saint Mary's 56 7:10 p.m. TBS Portland, Oregon Moda Center
No. 15 Saint Peter's 70, No. 7 Murray State 60 7:45 p.m. CBS Indianapolis, Indiana Gainbridge Fieldhouse
No. 4 Arkansas 53, No. 12 New Mexico State 48 8:40 p.m. TNT Buffalo, New York KeyBank Center
No. 1 Gonzaga 82, No. 9 Memphis 78 9:40 p.m. TBS Portland, Oregon Moda Center
Second Round — Sunday, March 20
No. 5 Houston 68, No. 4 Illinois 53 12:10 p.m. CBS Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania PPG Paints Arena
No. 2 Villanova 71, No. 7 Ohio State 61 2:40 p.m. CBS Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania PPG Paints Arena
No. 2 Duke 85, No. 7 Michigan State 76 5:15 p.m. CBS Greenville, South Carolina Bon Secours Wellness Arena
No. 11 Iowa State 54, No. 3 Wisconsin 49 6:10 p.m. TNT Milwaukee, Wisconsin Fiserv Forum
No. 3 Texas Tech 59, No. 11 Notre Dame 53 7:10 p.m. TBS San Diego, California Viejas Arena
No. 10 Miami (Fla.) 79, No. 2 Auburn 61 7:45 p.m. truTV Greenville, South Carolina Bon Secours Wellness Arena
No. 3 Purdue 81, No. 6 Texas 71 8:40 p.m. TNT Milwaukee, Wisconsin Fiserv Forum
No. 1 Arizona 85, No. 9 TCU 80 (OT) 9:40 p.m. TBS San Diego, California Viejas Arena
Sweet 16 — Thursday, March 24
No. 4 Arkansas 74, No. 1 Gonzaga 68 7:09 p.m. CBS San Francisco, California Chase Center
No. 2 Villanova 63, No. 11 Michigan 55 7:29 p.m. TBS San Antonio, Texas AT&T Center
No. 2 Duke 78, No. 3 Texas Tech 73 9:39 p.m. CBS San Francisco, California Chase Center
No. 5 Houston 72, No. 1 Arizona 60 9:59 p.m. TBS San Antonio, Texas AT&T Center
Sweet 16 — Friday, March 25
No. 15 Saint Peter's 67, No. 3 Purdue 64 7:09 p.m. CBS Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Wells Fargo Center
No. 1 Kansas 66, No. 4 Providence 61 7:29 p.m. TBS Chicago, Illinois United Center
No. 8 North Carolina 73, No. 4 UCLA 66 9:39 p.m. CBS Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Wells Fargo Center
No. 10 Miami (Fla.) 70, No. 11 Iowa State 56 9:59 p.m. TBS Chicago, Illinois United Center
Elite Eight —  Saturday, March 26
No. 2 Villanova 50, No. 5 Houston 44 6:09 p.m. TBS San Antonio, Texas AT&T Center
No. 2 Duke 78, No. 4 Arkansas 69 8:49 p.m. TBS San Francisco, California Chase Center
Elite Eight — Sunday, March 27
No. 1 Kansas 76, No. 10 Miami (Fla.) 50 2:20 p.m. CBS Chicago, Illinois United Center
No. 8 North Carolina 69, No. 15 Saint Peter's 49 5:05 p.m. CBS Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Wells Fargo Center
Final Four — Saturday, April 2
No. 1 Kansas 81, No. 2 Villanova 65 6:09 p.m. TBS New Orleans, Louisiana Caesars Superdome
No. 8 North Carolina 81, No. 2 Duke 77 8:49 p.m. TBS New Orleans, Louisiana Caesars Superdome

Dan Hodge Trophy: History, winners, and how it works

Here's the history of the Dan Hodge Trophy, named after one of the all-time greats and given annually to the top college wrestler every year since 1985.
READ MORE

How the NCAA college wrestling championship works

Here is a comprehensive guide to the NCAA college wrestling tournament and its history, including how athletes qualify for the championship, where it will be held, select individual and team records and how the scoring works.
READ MORE

2022 NCAA wrestling championship predictions: Top title contenders at each weight class

Let's break down the bracket by weight class, assessing the most likely title contenders and a few sleepers who could cause disruption over the course of three days in Detroit: 
READ MORE

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from NCAA.com and our partners