North Carolina at Miami Saturday February 9th 2pm ESPN. The Tar Heels face a huge task when they head to Miami to face the Hurricanes the only team in a major conference without a loss in league play, Miami is 9-0 this season against the ACC. The eighth ranked Hurricanes are enjoying a historic season, they currently hold the second highest ranking in school history and may very well be the best team in college basketball.
Miami hasn’t lost since Christmas day and since then they have smashed Duke and defeated by UNC and NC State at home. The Hurricanes have the #1 strength of schedule in the nation and #2 RPI. They look to win their 11th game in a row when the Tar Heels come to town today. Miami is a veteran team with six seniors and three juniors on the roster compared to a very young UNC roster.
In their last match up Miami defeated Carolina 68-59 in Chapel Hill without senior center Reggie Johnson, Johnson is back and will pose all sorts of challenges inside the paint especially considering the depth inside for Miami with Kenny Kadji and Julian Gamble.
Keys to victory: Carolina needs repeat performances from James Michael McAdoo and Reggie Bullock who combined for 43 points against Wake Forest. McAdoo has played with more control and efficiency of late and needs to avoid rushing his shot and stay out of foul trouble. Bullock broke out of his shooting slump against Wake going 7-10 from the field, the Tar Heels need him to score especially early in the game when P.J. Hairston, Brice Johnson and Leslie McDonald are on the bench. Miami is a fantastic defensive team surrendering an average of just 59.8 points per game, it’s going to take several big time performances from Carolina’s scorers.
Bench scoring will be a huge factor, the Hurricanes are deep and experienced, the Tar Heels have a couple players in Dexter Strickland and Desmond Hubert in the starting lineup who don’t contribute much in terms of scoring. The bench that players better will likely win this game.
And finally taking good shots. Seems simple but in all almost all of Carolina’s losses one of the most glaring things has been shot selection. McAdoo needs to slow it down, get his shots from the right spots on the floor and play with patience. Bullock/Hairston and McDonald need to work hard without the basketball to free themselves up for open three’s and avoid chucking it up with a hand in their face.
Inside the numbers: The numbers favor Carolina slightly. UNC outscores Miami by an average of 9.5 pts per game (79.1-69.6), they also have the advantage on the boards 42.2-36.7 with a huge advantage on the offensive glass 15-10.1
The problem here is I don’t expect these numbers to translate to the box score today. Miami is just too big inside to give up that kind of rebounding advantage to Carolina. At the same time this is far too good of a defensive team to give up close to 80 points something they haven’t done all season long.
Series History: UNC leads the overall series with Miami, 18-3 the Tar Heels have won the last five meetings at Miami.