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Heel Tough Blog: Miami Preview


Field Level Media

A little over 48 hours after beating Virginia on the road, Carolina returns to the hardwood later tonight, when they host Miami, in the first of the three straight home games, coming down the stretch of the regular season. The win at Virginia ended an 8-game losing streak at Charlottesville, the longest such losing streak in program history. More importantly, with Duke losing at Wake Forest, it propelled UNC back into first place, with four games left to play. Carolina goes to Durham on March 9th, but if Carolina takes care of business at home over the next three games, they could earn a share of the regular season, by the time they have to travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium. Of course, that means they have to avoid a letdown at home, as they did against Clemson when they allowed the Duke win to cause a hangover, losing at homie for the only time this season. 


At 15-13, Miami is by far the biggest disappointment in the league this season, and with six straight losses, it appears that they have mailed the season in. Miami was predicted to finish inside the top three of the season, and after returning some of their core from last year’s Final Four team, expectations were high in Coral Gables. With where they are now, they are simply looking for a way to salvage a lost season, and a way to do that is to play spoiler down the stretch. Norchad Omier leads them in scoring and rebounding and will pose a challenge for Armando Bacot as he did in the first matchup. Nijel Pack, who is one of four Hurricanes to average double figures, hasn’t played the last two games, and his status for tonight is currently uncertain. He scored 20 points two weeks ago, in the loss to UNC. 


These two teams met just over two weeks ago, a 75-72 win for UNC, as Carolina bounced back from the loss to Clemson earlier that week. UNC built an early double-digit lead in the first half, before seeing it evaporate, eventually trailing at the half. In the second half, Carolina would once again build a double-digit lead, and held on for the win, after not a basket across the final 4:07 of the game. Miami has lost four straight games on the road, so there’s a chance this game isn’t as competitive as the first. 


After the win at Virginia, Hubert Davis said the team was going to enjoy ending a historic losing streak for the program, but when they got back to Chapel Hill, it would be time to move on and start focusing on Miami. Davis, who has had the pulse of this team all season long, knows how important a regular season ACC title is to the players, and the fan base, and knows a home loss to Miami could take that opportunity away. Here’s how Carolina can ensure that doesn’t happen. 


  1. Win the Battle of the Bigs: Norchad Omier recorded a double-double in the first matchup, but so did Armando Bacot, who got the best of Omier in the second half, leading Carolina to a win on the road. You would expect both of them to play well once again, as they are two of the best bigs not only in the ACC but in all of college basketball. What gives Carolina the upper hand, is they are deeper up front, and if Jalen Washington can build off his performance on Saturday, Carolina can dominate the inside as a team, and not ask Bacot to do it all by himself. Not that Bacot isn’t up to the challenge, (he’s recorded double-doubles in six straight games), but it’s going to take a total team effort on Omier, and hopefully Washington build off one of his best games in ACC play this season. 

  2. Get Them in Foul Trouble: Miami does a fantastic job of playing defense without fouling, as teams make the seventh fewest free throws against them, and attempt the seventh fewest free throws against them. Part of that shows a level of discipline to play defense without fouling, but given how short their rotation is, they can’t afford to get into foul trouble. Carolina was able to get them in foul trouble in the first game and will need to do the same in this game. It’s not known if Nijel Pack will be able to play tonight, after missing the last two games, and if that’s the case, they’ll be even more shorthand. If Carolina could happen to get Omier or Wooga Poplar out of the game for a long period of time, it’s hard to imagine how Miami can compete with Carolina over the course of 40 minutes. 

  3. Defend the Perimeter: In the first matchup Miami knocked in five first-half threes, and that allowed them to lead at the half. In the second half, they went just 1-12, and it’s the biggest reason why Carolina ultimately won the game. The only way that Miami can pull the upset, is if they go off from deep, which is possible because they shoot 37% as a team from behind the arc. On Saturday, Carolina held Virginia to 14% from behind the arc, and they’ll need to be that locked in again tonight, and not allow Poplar or Matthew Cleveland to get hot. 

Series History: 

  • Carolina is 27-10 all-time against Miami, including being 20-9 since they joined the ACC. In Chapel Hill though, Carolina is 12-5, with all 17 games being played in the Smith Center. 

KenPom:

  • North Carolina - 8th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 118.3 (24th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 93.6 (8th) 

  • Miami - 92nd overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 113.2 (72nd) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 104.6 (135th) 

NET:

  • North Carolina - 9th. 

  • Miami - 91st. 

TV Info:

  • Tonight’s game will tip at 7 PM on ESPN. 


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