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Game Preview: #5 UNC vs #11 Miami

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North Carolina vs Miami, 1:00 PM, CBS

UNC looks to bounce back versus Miami. Here are the focal points.

First place on the line

One of the damaging aspects of the loss to Duke is this game could have been about the Tar Heels grabbing some significant breathing room over a gaggle of teams presently sitting on 4-5 losses. Instead the loss to Duke dropped UNC into a tie with Miami and made this game a must win of sorts. Granted this game was going to be really important anyway since the Hurricanes were just one game out. Now the stakes are a tad higher with a loss putting UNC in the mix of four loss teams with some of those owning a tiebreaker versus the Tar Heels. In that respect it is imperative the Tar Heels stay a step ahead.

In addition to first place in the ACC, UNC really needs a win against a ranked team. At present the Tar Heels have just one versus Maryland in December. Getting one here would be immensely helpful to bolstering the case for a higher seed in the NCAA Tournament. Since Raleigh is one of the sites for the 1st and 2nd Rounds, UNC getting seeded high enough for that site is vital.

Bouncing back

Under Roy Williams, UNC is 11-3 in the game after a regular season loss to Duke. The three losses came in the first game of the ACC Tournament following a loss to Duke to close out the regular season. History certainly favors the Tar Heels in this situation. That being said there is a lot of history and conventional wisdom that hasn't really fit this team or group of players. Whether it will now is really guesswork.

The reason being is it is nearly impossible to know two things. One is where the team is at psychologically following a brutal loss to arch rival Duke. The Tar Heels has the game in hand but couldn't close. Secondly, the offense is operating with so much inconsistency it isn't clear if it will bounce back or continue to flounder. Three games worth of Marcus Paige shooting 11-20 from three didn't seem to matter Wednesday night when he was 0-6 from beyond the arc.

If there was a reasonable expectation the offense will respond then there is likely much less worrying about the team's mental state. However with another poor shooting night that led to a loss, one has to wonder how much confidence the players have left or how much grasp they have on the team identity.

Should Marcus Paige move back to point guard?

There is no evidence Roy Williams is considering a lineup change but given the struggles for both Marcus Paige and Joel Berry sending the former back to his position for three years might have some value. Heading into the season and once Paige returned from injury the Berry/Paige backcourt made sense. Berry looked ready to run the team and putting Paige on the wing better positioned him to take shots or so the theory went.  After more games than not in ACC play with Paige struggling it may be time to rethink the matter.

If Paige were to move back to the one UNC would certainly need Justin Jackson to perform at a high level since most likely Theo Pinson would be the wing guard. Pinson's lack of offensive production would put more pressure on Paige and Jackson to mitigate that. That being said, Paige and Jackson both enjoyed a long productive stretch to close out last season with Paige at the PG and Jackson as the WG. If recapturing that magic is possible with a lineup change then it's worth a shot. And if it doesn't happen in the starting lineup, getting Paige minutes at PG during the course of the game is the next best thing.

UNC 81 Miami 73Game Preview: #5 UNC vs #11 Miami