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UNC vs. Miami: Three Things to Watch

The Heels have lost two of three. It’s time to get back on track.

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing loss Tuesday night, the North Carolina Tar Heels travel south to take on Miami. The Hurricanes are 6-6 in the ACC and are not close to the team coming off a Final Four run and projected to finish second in the conference.

As evidenced by the losses to Georgia Tech and Clemson, though, you still cannot take a night off the ACC.

Start of the Game

Impressive second-half performances have masked the slow starts this season. But continuing that trend is a recipe for disaster, especially as the team heads towards tournament time. This factor was painfully obvious after the Tar Heels were in a 15-2 hole less than four minutes into the game on Tuesday.

The reason this is such an important factor on Saturday is that Carolina is playing on the road against a team that was utterly embarrassed in their last game.

Miami lost to Virginia 60-38 on Monday. It was reported far and wide that the Hurricanes’ 38 points are the lowest since Miami brought back their basketball program in 1985. After digging into sports-reference.com, it was the lowest scoring total for a game with the data available, which went back to the 1949-1950 season.

A bit more digging revealed in the oldest available Miami media guide that the lowest scoring total for a game was one point scored against Ponce De Leon High School during the 1928-29 season. So, Miami is coming off its lowest point total since the 1928-29 season, and the program is reporting a sellout.

If you do not think the Hurricanes will be ready to play, there is some oceanfront property in Avery County I’d like to sell to you.

Defensive Improvements

If you have to take some silver linings from the Clemson game, Adam Lucas reported that after the Tigers lit up the Heels, “Clemson made 20 of its final 60 field goal attempts and eight of its final 28 three-point tries.” In other words, UNC settled down, but the defensive effort was still not enough to steal a victory. The lockdown defense in January, especially in the second halves of games, has not returned. And missing Seth Trimble in the last game did not help that cause.

Tomorrow is not a time to relax, either.

Miami is third in the ACC in field goal percentage and ranks fourth in three-point percentage. Norchad Omier is fighting for a place on the All-ACC First Team and will certainly make things difficult for the Carolina defenders.

Battle on the Glass

Tomorrow’s game will feature the top two defensive rebounding teams in the ACC.

This is even more important for Miami, as they defend against the top offensive rebounding team in the conference. The Hurricanes are 10th in the league in offensive rebounding, so they may face some challenges against Armando Bacot and Harrison Ingram if they want second-chance possessions.

As RJ Davis continues to get covered up on defense, second-chance opportunities will become even more important for UNC.