In my first post here at State of the U, I circled this game on the calendar. This was the game where Miami would need to make a statement. At North Carolina. Hostile road environment. Quality opponent. Conference game. It doesn’t get much bigger than this. This game isn’t do or die for Miami. They can lose this game and still make the NCAA tournament. They can win this game and not make the NCAA tournament. That’s not the point. As a program, this is the kind of win the Canes need. Miami basketball needs to take the next step, and it starts with winning games like AT North Carolina. The Michigan State win was great, but this one is on the road, and in conference. If the Canes want to be considered among the ACC’s elite, it’s time for them to start proving it.
North Carolina Scouting Report
UNC is a very hard team to judge this season. They have a very solid record at 10-4. The real question is how did they get there. The Tar Heels are currently 1-2 against the RPI top 50, with the lone win coming at home against UNLV. They’ve lost to Texas, Butler, Indiana, and most recently, Virginia. They’ve beaten some quality opponents such as Chaminade, Eastern Tennessee State, and Gardner-Webb (see: sarcasm). The UNLV is their one good win this season. Outside of that, they’ve lost to the three major opponents they’ve faced, and even let one get away against defensive minded Virginia. This team is good, don’t get me wrong. But they aren’t last year’s UNC team, with Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller. This roster is younger and less experienced, and frankly, not as talented. But still – any team coached by Roy Williams can’t be counted out.
Here’s what to expect from UNC: points. And more points. And then when you think they’re done getting points, they might throw a few more at you, just for good measure. UNC ranks 9th in the country in scoring, at 81.4 points per game. By comparison, Miami ranks 151st at 68.8 per game. It’s worth noting, however, that UNC is not the most efficient offensive team. While they rank 9th in scoring, they rank 61st in offensive efficiency. UNC plays at an insanely high pace, averaging 75.6 possessions per game, good for 3rd most in the nation. That’s how UNC beats you. They get out in transition and score easy baskets when they have numbers. If this turns in to a track meet, Miami is finished. That’s why…
Key For The Canes
Slow it down! Virginia basically wrote the book on how to beat UNC. Slow the ball down. Make them play in the half court. UNC got about 63 possessions in the Virginia game, which is 13 below their season average. They scored only 52 points in that game, their lowest output of the season by far. Virginia plays at the 5th slowest pace in the entire country, averaging 61 possessions per game. They played to their pace, and they won. The Canes average 65 possessions per game, which is considerably lower than UNC. Even though I think the Canes are better in transition than they are in the half court, that’s not how they’re going to beat UNC. They will lose if they try and speed the ball up. They need to box out, collect defensive rebounds, and then try and work the shot clock and get smart shots up. Meanwhile, it needs to be a priority to GET BACK ON DEFENSE. UNC will run off of made baskets if the opportunity presents itself. Don’t even give them the chance. The Canes are a solid defensive team, ranking 42nd in points per game. If they can slow the game down and get UNC in the half court, they have an excellent chance.
This doesn’t exactly fit in with my "key for the Canes", but I feel like it needs to be pointed out. In their last two games, Miami has outscored it’s opponents 51-22 in the first 12 minutes of the second half. This speaks volumes to Jim Larranaga’s ability to make halftime adjustments, and is something to watch out for if this is a close game going in to the break.
Projected Starting Lineups
Center – Julian Gamble, 6’11, 250, SR
Forward – Kenny Kadji, 6’11, 242, SR
Guard – Trey McKinney-Jones, 6’5, 220, SR
Guard – Durand Scott, 6’5, 203, SR
Guard – Shane Larkin, 5’11, 176, SO
Forward – James Michael McAdoo, 6’9, 230, SO
Forward – Desmond Hubert, 6’9, 220, SO
Forward – Reggie Bullock, 6’7, 205, JR
Guard – Dexter Strickland, 6’3, 185, SR
Guard – Marcus Paige, 6’0, 157, FR
This is a very winnable game for Miami. Virginia gave every team in America the blueprint on how to beat the Tar Heels. Plus, it’s much easier to slow the game down than it is to speed it up. You can’t fast break if one team gets on defense, but you can set up your half court offense whenever you want, whether you have numbers or not. That’s why I think Miami is going to win this game. Coach L has proven to me this year that, if nothing else, he’s a great in game coach. He’s made second half adjustments against MSU and La Salle (Canes were trailing both games at halftime) that ultimately won Miami the game. I expect that he watched the UVA-UNC game very closely, and knows exactly what his team needs to do to win this one, even on the road. Final score: 68-60 Miami.
You can find me live tweeting the game on twitter @IK_Canes.