Where: BankUnited Center, Coral Cables, FL
When: Wednesday, January 26th, 7:30 PM
Records: UNC 13-5, 3-1 ACC; Miami 12-7, 1-4 ACC
Let's hope the flight to Miami is not indicative of the manner in which this game will be played. Andrew Jones at Fox Sports provides a nice summary of Tar Heel player tweets after a rough landing in which they apparently feared for their lives and offers many thanks to God afterwards.
Unlike Georgia Tech and to some extent Virginia Tech, Miami is not a team that has given UNC a ton of trouble since joining the ACC. The Heels are 7-1 vs the Hurricanes and 3-0 in Coral Gables. The only loss suffered by UNC at the hands of Miami came in 2006 during the first meeting in Chapel Hill. UNC won the rematch weeks later on the road as a part of the impressive win streak that lifted the 2006 squad from borderline NCAA team to a top three ACC finish. What lies in front of UNC this evening is an opportunity. Road wins are hard to come by and while Miami should not be trifled with, this is certainly a game UNC could and probably should take. Securing a 2nd road win this early in this season would be like finding gold.
The Heels are coming off an eight day layoff. The break was helpful since both Leslie McDonald and Reggie Bullock needed the time to recover from their respective injuries. UNC has always responded fairly well after layoffs and the hope is they come out with the same kind of fire we saw in the first half versus Clemson. Miami is not great defensively speaking. KenPom.com has them at 123rd in defensive efficiency and ranked in the 200s on defensive OR% and turnover rate. Miami only forces turnovers 18.7% of the time which falls well below the national average. UNC should be able to thrive offensively(as much as UNC can thrive offensively.) Kendall Marshall will start again at PG giving UNC the change to get off on the right offensive foot.
UNC's focus really should be on the defensive end. Miami is a good offensive rebounding team and has solid players at the positions which have routinely given UNC trouble. PG Durand Scott had 29 points in a losing effort versus UNC last year. Scott shoots 37% from three and is really quick which puts UNC on notice to stop penetration. Joining Scott in the backcourt of Malcolm Grant who leads the Canes in scoring at 15.7 ppg and shoots 44% from three. Facing two capable guards is often a nightmare for UNC so I would not blame you if you got into the fetal position now. Of course there is also 6-10 forward Reggie Johnson who averages 12.3 ppg and a gaudy 9.8 rpg. Johnson has eight double-doubles in 19 games and four other contests where he had nine rebounds. John Henson, Justin Knox and Tyler Zeller will have their hands full keeping Johnson off the boards or else good defensive possessions could go to waste.
Miami has been good at times and not so much at others. They trailed NCSU by 17 in Raleigh on Sunday and rallied only to lose by two. That might say more about NCSU than Miami if the game at Clemson last night was an indication. All things considered a road game is a road game and the opponent should be treated like they are ranked #1 in the country, because against UNC teams always seem to play like they are.
UNC 71 Miami 67