Where: Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC
When: Tuesday, January 10th, 9:00 PM
TV: ACC Network
Records: UNC 14-2, 1-0 ACC; Miami 9-5, 0-1 ACC
Anyone up for giving Jim Larranaga some payback?
In case you forgot Larranaga was the head coach of George Mason in 2006 when the Patriots went to the Final Four claiming UNC as a victim along the way. Now Larranaga is at Miami having left George Mason for an ACC job(and succeeded by Paul Hewitt after he left Georgia Tech, do try and keep up.) So far the results have been mixed despite the prediction of a top five finish in the league.
Some of those results can be tied to the fact Miami has not been completely healthy. Center Reggie Johnson did not return from a preseason knee injury until five games ago. Dequean Cook sat out the first ten games in connection with the NCAA's investigation into Nevin Shapiro. Guard Malcolm Grant has also missed a couple of games. In that respect the Canes are stilling coming together as a team and Johnson is nowhere near game shape to be as effective as he was last season.
Regardless, Johnson will be enough of a physical presence to give Tyler Zeller and John Henson problems as will Florida transfer Kenny Kadji. The real match-ups to watch will be on the perimeter where Grant and point guard Durand Scott will give the Heels all they want. Scott has plenty of speed and Grant is the leading scorer for Miami shooting 35% from three. That presents an interesting problem for the Heels given Kendall Marshall defensive deficiencies. If an opposing team has one solid guard, Dexter Strickland does the defensive work. Miami has two which will put pressure on Marshall to guard the ball well and on other defenders to rotate when help is required. Miami's offense is good enough to score and challenge the Tar Heel defense.
The Heels offense, on the other hands, outclasses the Miami defense in terms of efficiency. Miami brings the 137th best defense into this game versus a top ten offense. Miami also prefers a slower pace opting for a full ten possessions fewer than UNC. Unlike teams such as Wisconsin, Boston College or Virginia where the offense is dependent on the slower tempo, Miami strikes me as a team that can be loosened up a little in terms of pace which should work to UNC's favor.
After all the intensity talk, this is the sort of game that should bring out the focused Heels.
UNC 94 Miami 68