Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Miami comes to town sans Reggie Johnson? Can UNC right the ship against the Hurricanes?
So the roller coaster which is the 2012-13 season continues with Miami visiting Chapel Hill. The Heels, coming off a loss at Virginia, will not only be looking to avoid an 0-2 ACC start but also to get a grasp of what this team needs to do to consistently succeed. So far no one is really sure what that is other than "get the ball to Reggie Bullock" which is obviously a good idea but not a total solution.
Miami, in particular, could prove to be a troublesome opponent because the guard play is very good. Shane Larkin at the point and Durand Scott and the wing guard will be a handful in every sense of the word. Assuming the lineup doesn't change(and knowing Roy Williams it won't) Larkin is likely to give Marcus Paige fits. Dexter Strickland can probably handle Scott but over the course of the game it is expected Larkin and Scott will do plenty of damage.
The upside for UNC is Reggie Johnson is out nursing a broken thumb. That is one less very big body the Heels won't deal with on the interior. Miami still has plenty of interior help with 6-11 Kenny Kadji who is versatile and can operate anywhere on the court. 6-10 Julian Gamble is another player of size with whom UNC will have to contend.
In some ways, Miami is similar to UNLV just as a slower tempo. They have size, athleticism and a good backcourt. UNC handled the Running Rebels for the most part with easily their best effort of the season on both ends. The question is can they repeat that performance? In that game Reggie Bullock did not play but P.J. Hairston did playing 32 minutes and putting together the best all-around performance of his career. Given the matchup, some healthy doses of Hairston at the three, Bullock at the two and Strickland at the one might be in order. With two wing shooters out there it will spread the floor and perhaps open up some driving lanes for Strickland. It will also pull create more space for entry passes if there is concern over Bullock and Hairston shooting threes. I know Roy Williams won't start the game this way but if Leslie McDonald doesn't play, Hairston will see some run on the wing opposite Bullock. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't but I would mind seeing it tried.
Since this is a home game and UNC has played well in the friendly confines of the Dean Dome, I generally expect much the same tonight hence the "roller coaster" nature of the season. UNC also can't afford to give any home games away given the difficulty of the schedule, especially catching Miami without Reggie Johnson. Holding home court is an absolute necessity if UNC is to secure enough wins to get into the NCAA Tournament which makes this game a must-win.
UNC 73 Miami 69