Tulsa tries to show progress against Miami
Posted: Friday March 24, 2000 09:32 PM
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Tulsa's march back to the final 16 started with a loss in the 1999 NCAA tournament.
"We had a nice team," coach Bill Self said. "I thought we had the pieces to at least make Duke sweat."
Duke won 97-56 and showed just how far the Golden Hurricane had to go to reach the elite level. A victory over sixth-seeded Miami (23-10) Friday night in the South Regional would be further proof that seventh-seeded Tulsa (31-4) has made it.
Tulsa used the 41-point second-round loss to Duke as motivation to return to the tournament and make the round of 16 for the third time since 1994.
"Duke showed us everything a good team had to be," Tulsa forward Eric Coley said. Since then, the Golden Hurricane has lost to only two teams -- to Oral Roberts once and Fresno State three times -- with the four losses by a total of seven points.
And their victories are seldom close. Twenty-five times this season, Tulsa beat opponents by double-figure margins on the way to winning the Western Athletic Conference regular season title.
"It's been a dream season so far," Self said. "We're confident, but I'm sure everyone still playing at this time is confident."
For Miami, each postseason victory makes history at a school with little basketball tradition.
The 'Canes are in only their fourth NCAA tournament and their first regional semifinal. Friday's game is another step in a long, sometimes difficult, 10-year march to basketball respectability under coach Leonard Hamilton. Miami won its first share of the Big East title, and a win over Tulsa would set a school record for season victories. "I never thought we would not get to this point in the program, because of the will, desire and determination," Hamilton said.
"Obviously, by us making the Sweet 16, it's a history making event for the University of Miami," 'Canes center Mario Bland said. "We don't have all the NCAA tournament banners that other schools have that are in our current position. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves. If we start thinking about what we've done, we can lose our focus of the game tomorrow."
Both teams see themselves in each other. Defense comes first under the disciplinarian Hamilton and Self, who once was Hamilton's assistant at Oklahoma State.
"Miami plays exactly like we do," Tulsa guard Marcus Hill said. "We both like to shoot the quick shot and play good defense. I think it will be one of the best games in the tournament because we are so much alike."
Offensively, Miami relies on the finesse of 6-foot-5 guard Johnny Hemsley, who averaged 18.2 points per game in the regular season and 22 in two NCAA tournament victories over Arkansas and Ohio State. Four Miami starters are averaging in double figures in the tournament.
Tulsa had four players average at least 10 points or more during the regular season but its biggest offensive weapon starts the game on the bench. Sixth-man David Shelton leads the Golden Hurricane with a 14-point scoring average despite playing only 22 minutes a game, sixth-best on the team.
Even with its recent success, Tulsa is rarely considered among the nation's elite. Tulsa was the first team in the nation to reach both 20 and 25 victories this season but couldn't earn higher than a No. 7 seed.
Self and his players believe that will change. Schools like Tulsa and Miami, even without strong national traditions, put plenty of talent on the floor, Self said.
"Players are filtering down, and now there's not a nickel's worth of difference between players in the WAC and in the ACC," he said. "I think there is so much parity that on any given night any team can win and I don't think that existed 10 years ago."