This is the first year the ACC has gone to 18 games instead of the usual 16 game conference schedule. Before league expansion, a 9-7 in conference record was good enough to make the dance. As we learned last year, that was no longer the case. I'm going to guess 10-8 is the bare minimum to make the tourney, with 11-7 being more likely. Some people have NC State as the team to beat in the ACC this year, which is another way of saying anyone can win it.
And for those of you who say "I don't want to read your stupid blog, I want to watch the games myself and come to my own conclusions" you can do that! Some of the time. ESPN or ESPN2 will carry both Duke and UNC matchups as well as our February 13th FSU game. The NC State game on February 2nd will be carried nationally by CBS. We also get the coveted ESPNU coverage for the Jan 13 Maryland game, Feb 17 Clemson game and the Virginia game on February 19th. All other games are broadcast locally/regionally/ESPN3/WatchESPN/IDon'tKnowTheDifferenceBetweenTheLastTwo.
4 biggest matchups Miami faces this year after the jump.
January 10th at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill- Chapel Hill, NC
Very quickly Miami will get its first test against a young but, as always, talented UNC team in Chapel Hill on January 10th. After losing 4 first round picks, the Heels will look to focus the offense around sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo, who excelled late last season and should be a lottery pick this year. Top freshman point guard Marcus Paige will be running the show and UNC is loaded with outside shooters in Reggie Bullock, Leslie McDonald, and P.J. Hairston. This is a wing heavy team that, outside of McAdoo, will have to rely on 6-10 260lb freshman Joel James to protect the paint. If the scramble defense forces Paige into freshman mistakes and Reggie does what he can do against a shallow frontline, Miami will have a very good shot to win in the Dean Dome.
January 27th vs Florida State University- Coral Gables, FL
Florida State will be an important game, and hopefully, one that the Canes can pack the building for. Beating FSU last year, without Reggie, was the highpoint of the season for me. FSU loses 4 starters, but return their top 3 scorers. Go figure. And they still have Michael Snaer, who always seems to be in the right place at the right time. The name of the game, as always with a Leonard Hamilton coached team, is defense, where they aspire to turn a beautiful game into something bordering on unwatchable. There is no overthinking this game; it will be decided by Miami's execution against that defense. Shane Larkin's development will be a key. If he can make the leap from talented, if inconsistent, freshman into a playmaker, then FSU won't be able to pack the paint against Scott drives and Reggie post ups.
February 2nd at North Carolina State- Raleigh, NC
Miami only gets 1 shot at the supposed king of the ACC this season. Do everything foward CJ Leslie (14.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg) returned for his 3rd year in Raleigh and he will have 3rd team all ACC guard Lorenzo Brown as well as solid forward Richard Howell. An all-conference point guard and 2 good forwards is enough to put any team in contention. The real story is their top ranked recruiting class, headlined by five star recruit Rodney Purvis who is extremely athletic but might not be extremely eligible. Last year the team was not as strong without Leslie on the court, see the Duke meltdown, and Purvis could bridge the gap when he isn't in the game. The former Pitino commit is a solid passer and finisher, Purvis could be the extra punch that puts the Wolfpack over the hump. Freshman TJ Warren's size (6'8") and shooting touch should fit in well and help both depth and court spacing. The freshman class is rounded out with 7th ranked prep point guard Tyler Lewis who can really pass it and should be able to spell Brown. I think overcoming the athleticism that NC State offers might be a challenge, but if Leslie gets into foul trouble and no one picks up the slack, it's anyone's game
March 2nd at Duke University -Durham, NC
Hopefully this game will have a greater impact on Miami's seeding then if they get into the dance at all. Miami is one of the few teams to have vaguely consistent success against Duke lately. Duke lost slithery Austin Rivers, who had a great first step but maybe wasn't the best teammate around. The Blue Devils claim a more cohesive team and the addition of freshman shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon will put them back at their usual elite level. I think they are still a pretty un-athletic team that Scott can exploit, especially if Mason Plumlee gets into foul trouble as he is known to do. Duke couldn't stop anyone off the dribble last year and I don't see any additions that should fix the problem. I think Miami beats Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium (if you have the means to see a game there it is so choice) late in the season. Reggie Johnson always looks like a beast against Duke and Kenji's play is just going to open things up for him even more.
This is my first and hopefully not last post here at the 7th Floor, which I'm excited to be a part of. I'll be covering basketball with Strauzer and trying to lend a hand with football. I've been going to basketball games since the Miami Arena days and I really think my loyalty was cemented when I threw up on Constantin Popa's shoes as a child at Super Cuts, hence the name. I really think Coach L can build something and is easily the best coach since MJ stole Leonard. Hopefully this season will be a good ride.