Carolina returns to action tonight, as they travel to Coral Gables, to take on the 13-4, first place in the ACC, Miami Hurricanes. The last time we saw the Tar Heels, they blew out Georgia Tech 88-65, to improve to 12-4, and 4-1 in conference play. Armando Bacot powered the Heels to the win, with 29 points, and 12 rebounds, making it back to back 29 point, double-doubles for Bacot, who’s making his case for ACC Player of the Year.
Miami’s 9 game winning streak came to a close the other day, as Florida State topped Miami 65-64. Miami is led by Kameron McGusty’s 18.0 points per game, and he also leads Miami in rebounds at 5.9. Isaiah Wong is second on the team in scoring at 15.9 points per game, and Charlie Moore is the other scorer that averages double figures, at 12.8 points per game. Jim Larranaga has a nice blend of experience, and talent, which is a big reason why the Hurricanes are the most surprising team in the ACC, and maybe in all of college basketball. Already having beaten Duke, Miami will be confident they can take down the other Tobacco Road power.
The Tar Heels 12-4 record is respectable, but one thing Carolina doesn’t have on their resume is a Quad 1 win, which is why if you check all the early NCAA Tournament projections, they come in on the 7,8, or 9 seeds line. You might be thinking it’s too early to start thinking about the Big Dance, but yesterday marked exactly 8 weeks, before the bracket for the 2022 tournament will be unveiled. With the struggles of Michigan and Georgia Tech, you could make the argument that Hubert Davis still doesn’t have a signature win in his first season on the bench in Chapel Hill, a win at Miami, which would vault Carolina to the top of the ACC standings, would most definitely qualify.
Battle of Guards: This game is going to feel like an NCAA Tournament game, in terms that the game will be determined by which team’s guards play better. You can put Leaky Black on one of Miami’s guards, but he can’t guard all three of them. We’ve talked all season long that when Caleb Love is engaged, Carolina looks different in a good way. In this game, they are going to need both Love and R.J. Davis to be engaged, early and often. Miami is going to challenge their toughness from the onset and make them earn everything they get. The change in philosophy was supposed to get more out of the guards on the roster and in the future, this is a game we need to see them reap the rewards of a change in philosophy.
Play Inside-Out: As much as his game will be determined by the guards, they can make the game easier on themselves, if they play through Armando Bacot. Bacot has recorded, three straight double-doubles, where he surpassed 20 points scoring. Miami doesn’t have the size or the depth, to compete with Carolina inside for 40 minutes. If Armando has another big game, a Carolina win looks likely.
Turnovers: With the physical nature of Miami, they are going to try to force turnovers, as they force over 13 per game. Carolina has limited their turnovers issues as of late, but on the road, or on neutral sites have been where they’ve struggled the most. This game won’t be very competitive if UNC turns the ball over, more than 15 times. Both the guards and the bigs, need to be strong with the basketball and handle the physicality they’ll see the best they have all season.
Series History: The Tar Heels are 26-8 all-time against Miami, having gone 19-7 since the Hurricanes joined the league. Despite the struggles at times in Coral Gables, Carolina is 10-3 in Miami and has won 8 of the last 10 matchups overall.
UNC - 24th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 116.2 (14th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 97.8 (73rd)
Miami - 83rd overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 114.2 (21st) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 104.5 (195th)
UNC - 32nd.
Miami - 84th.
TV Info: Tonight’s game will start at 7 PM on the ACC Network.
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