ACC Championship: Miami vs. UNC Preview

USA TODAY Sports

The third meeting between the Miami Hurricanes and North Carolina Tar Heels this season will determine the ACC Champion. The #1 seeded Hurricanes defeated the Boston College Eagles and North Carolina State to get here, while UNC defeated the Florida State Seminoles and Maryland Terrapins. The game can be seen at 1:00 Eastern on ESPN.

Can Miami earn a #1 seed? Can the Canes beat the Tar Heels for an unprecedented third time this season and win their first ever ACC championship? Juan and I break it down.

IK: Round three against UNC. I would’ve preferred Maryland.

JT: From a matchup standpoint, yeah, I would have rather gone against a weaker Maryland team playing it’s fourth game in four days, but for NCAA #1 seed implications, I’m glad we got North Carolina.

IK: Good point. UNC has a top 20 RPI whereas Maryland isn’t even in the top 50. The problem is that if we lose, it doesn’t matter. At least a win against Maryland keeps us in the conversation.

JT: I don’t think we would have moved up at all with a win over Maryland. I even think we would have dropped down to a three seed with a loss to Duke, but North Carolina gives us a good marquee name to beat and I think if we take them down we should be a #1 seed.

IK: I think we need help to be a #1 seed. We won’t get it over Kansas over Louisville, and I can’t say I disagree with either of those teams getting it over us. We’re a two seed at worst and a one seed with help.

JT: I agree with that. As for the championship game, what has to happen for Miami to come out on top?

IK: If you look at the first time these two teams played, the key for Miami was their defense on Reggie Bullock. Bullock was hot in the first half, and UNC led by 2 at halftime. The Canes committed more defense to him in the second half and outscored the Tar Heels by 11.

The reason I picked the first game and not the second one is that Miami shot a ridiculous 58% on threes and 54% overall from the field at the game in Miami. I’d be very surprised to see that happen again. Couple that with the fact that this is basically a home game for UNC, and it makes sense to use that as a reference point.

JT: Bullock played pretty well today and hit big three after big three. What I want to see is Miami attack the basket. Ever since the Miami loss, the Tar Heels have gone with a smaller lineup, which is good for the Canes offensively. I want to see Kadji attacking the rim a little more. It’s also an advantage because NC has one true post presence in McAdoo but on the third game in as many days for both teams, I think the team that penetrates and puts pressure on tired defenders and attacks the boards wins this game, and all of those things definitely favor Miami.

IK: Those are all good points. McAdoo has really struggled with Miami’s size this season, going 8-26 from the floor with 20 points. On top of that, he has only 9 rebounds, and he averages almost 8 per game. The size advantage for Miami will be key.

JT: Definitely. I read earlier that UNC is mad about the "disrespectful" off the backboard dunk that Kadji and Larkin did, so that’s an additional motivation for the Heels. I want to see the Canes come out ready to go, because if NC falls down early, I feel like they’ll start getting down on themselves.

IK: I could see that happening as well. In both ACC tournament games so far Miami has had a chance to put the game away early and hasn’t taken advantage. That can’t happen tomorrow. UNC has something to prove.

JT: Definitely. UNC is playing a lot better than both Boston College and NC State and the incentive of being the ACC tournament champion also helps a teams performance.

IK: Prediction Time. Watcha got?

JT: I think this one is coming down to the wire. I think UNC comes out strong and then Miami answers. I have the Canes winning their first ACC Championship by a score of around 62-59.

IK: I’m of the belief that it’s really, really hard to beat a team three times in one season. This game is going to be a battle. That said, Miami is coming off one of their best performances of the season, even if there were a few hiccups along the way. Final score: Miami 73-65.


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