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Miami one of 6 ACC teams pointing toward Elite 8

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Over the next two nights, eight games will be played in the NCAA Tournament. When those games are over, we will know the identities of the Elite 8.

The odds are strong there will be at least one, if not more, ACC teams among the final eight. No fewer than six ACC schools made the Sweet 16 and none play each other over the next two days.

One of those non-ACC teams seeking to survive and advance is the Maryland Terrapins of the Big 10. The Terps were among the founding members of the ACC before joining the Big 10 two years ago.

Thursday’s games feature three ACC members. In the South, No. 2 seed Villanova is a four-point favorite over Jim Larranaga’s third-seeded Miami Hurricanes. Top-seeded Kansas is a 6.5 point pick over Maryland.

In the West, No. 3 seed Texas A&M of the SEC is a three point underdog to second-seeded Oklahoma. Oregon, the top seed in the region, is a three-point pick over fourth-seeded Duke.

Miami and Villanova open the night’s action with a 7:10 p.m. tip off from Louisville. Texas A&M and Oklahoma begins at 7:35, Kansas and Maryland at 9:40 and Oregon vs. Duke tips off at 10:07.

Miami is playing in only their eighth NCAA Tournament, but they have the talent, as well as the coaching to make a serious run. Villanova will provide a stern test.

With the exception of an upset loss to Seton Hall in the finals of the Big East Tournament, all of the Wildcats’ five losses have come against ranked teams. Larranaga is quite familiar with Villanova Coach Jay Wright.

“I’ve just enjoyed getting to know him and exchanging drills with him and talking basketball,” Larranaga said about Wright.

This will be the fourth meeting between the two coaches. Wright and Villanova beat Larranaga twice while the latter was head coach at George Mason. Larranga won the most important matchup, when the two met in the NCAA Tournament.

The winner of Thursday’s game will meet the winner of the Kansas and Maryland game on Saturday with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

Friday’s games feature North Carolina vs. Indiana, Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin, Virginia vs. Iowa State and Syracuse vs. Gonzaga.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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