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Heel Tough Blog: Miami Preview

Bob Donnan - USA TODAY Sports

After a midweek loss to Clemson, the Tar Heels hit the road tomorrow, to take on Miami, in a game that feels important for both teams. The loss to Clemson was certainly disappointing, but as disappointing or concerning as the messaging that came out of the loss, after Armando Bacot and Harrison questioned the team’s focus going into the game. It was made known that multiple players were late to the arena for the game, and that was after a bad practice on Monday, and a bad shootaround earlier in the today. With all the off-court drama coming out of that game, there is pressure on Carolina to bounce back in a big way tomorrow afternoon. 

Miami entered the season, preseason ranked inside the top 15, and was picked to finish second in the ACC. Those preseason rankings came after Miami’s run to the Final Four last year, and they returned three core players from that NCAA Tournament run. Instead of living up to those preseason expectations, Miami is 15-8 (6-6) and is nowhere to make the NCAA Tournament, but a win over the best in the ACC could change that. Like Carolina, Miami lost earlier in the week, at Virginia, in a game where they scored just 38 points. Despite their struggles, they have four players that average double figures scoring, led by Norchad Omier, who averages 17.6 points, and 9.8 rebounds. Furthermore, they shoot 37% as a team from behind the three-point line and will challenge Carolina’s perimeter defense. 

Seth Trimble didn’t play in Tuesday’s loss to Clemson, as an upper-body injury kept him out of the game. When Huert Davis met with the media prior to traveling to Miami for tomorrow’s game, and had this to say about the status of his reserve guard, He's continuing to improve, and it's gonna be a game-time decision. But every day he's getting better.”

Carolina has seen their comfortable lead in the ACC regular season race evaporate after two losses in three games. Virginia has closed to within a game of Carolina, and with a trip to Charlottesville looming, Carolina hopes that first place isn’t on the line, as they haven’t won in John Paul Jones Arena in over a decade. That means that they need to get back to their winning ways, starting tomorrow at Miami. Here’s how they get it done. 

  1. Win the Battle in the Paint: Armando Bacot has played like an All-American the last couple of games, returning to dominant form after a conversation with Hubert Davis following the Georgia Tech loss. He has posted back-to-back double-doubles against quality big men (Kyle Filipowski and P.J. Hall), and tomorrow he’ll have his hands full with Norchamd Omier. Omier leads Miami in scoring, while Bacot is the second leading scorer for UNC, so expect both teams to try and establish their big men early in the game. Clemson may not have scored a plethora of points in the paint the other night, but they got timely offensive rebounds in the second half, to lead them to victory. After his post-game comments the other night, you can expect Armando Bacot ready to play at a high level, and Carolina will need him to continue at the level he’s played at recently because whichever big has the better game, lends to their team to winning the game. 

  2. Defend Perimeter: Clemson went 11-31 from behind the three-point line on Tuesday night, and while you like the 35%, the 11 makes were far too many. Miami shoots 37% as a team from deep, and all four of their double-digit scorers shoot 37% or better from deep. Miami will run some 5-out action, putting pressure on Bacot or Jalen Washington to hold their own on the perimeter defensively. In their two losses, UNC has allowed a combined 20 made three-pointers. They need to get back to form as the best perimeter defensive team in the ACC, which means they need to communicate when defending a ball screen, fight over the ball screen, and close out hard on their open shooters. If not, Miami is more than capable of shooting them out of the gym. 

  3. Get To The Foul Line: This will be easier said than done, as Miami’s opponents are shooting the fourth fewest free throws in the country, but that shouldn’t stop Carolina from attacking the rim early and often. You can credit Miami’s ability to defend without fouling, but you also need to force the issue to see how they can hold up. R.J. Davis and Cormac Ryan are both in the midst of shooting slumps, and the best way to break out of them is to see the ball go in the basket, at the foul line. When it comes to winning the battle on the inside, the best way to do that is to get Norchad Omier in foul trouble, which means they need to establish Bacot on the block, and he needs to go right at him from the very beginning. If Carolina fails to shoot less than 15 free throws, it’s hard to envision them winning this game. 

Series History: 

  • Carolina is 26-10 all-time against Miami, and they are 19-9 since they joined the league even though Miami has won the last two contests. In Coral Gables, Carolina is 10-4, and they are 8-4 in the current Watsco Center 


  • North Carolina - 8th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 117.8 (23rd) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 93.1 (8th)

  • Miami - 74th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 113.9 (56th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 103.0 (107th) 


  • North Carolina - 10th. 

  • Miami - 70th. 

TV Info: Saturday’s game will tip at 4 PM on ESPN. 

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