Atlantic Coast Conference play begins for the Miami Hurricanes Wednesday night at the Watsco Center.
And the shorthanded Canes will face a challenge from the North Carolina State Wolfpack, who will enter the contest ranked 18th nationally.
The number one strength of the 12-1 visitors is their ability to score. The Wolfpack average 89.4 points per contest, which ranks third in the ACC and eighth in the country. Six of their 13 games saw them break the 90-point threshold, including three games above 100.
Unlike the Hurricanes, who will still be missing Dewan Hernandez and remain at just seven scholarship players, the Wolfpack use great depth as a weapon. While only three players average more than 10 points per game, seven average at least eight points and 11 average at least four points.
NC State flexed its roster depth in their last game on December 28 against Loyola Maryland. Five players scored at least ten points and three more had at least eight. Torin Dorn—who also leads the team in points with 15.1 per game and rebounds with 6.5 per game—scored 17 points while also leading in rebounds with eight on Friday.
The Wolfpack’s deep pockets prove multidimensional on the court, with Markell Johnson and CJ Bryce also proven assets. Johnson is the leading 3-point shooter in the starting lineup, making the long ball 49 percent of the time, while also leading the team in assists.
Devon Daniels, DJ Funderburk, Braxton Beverly, and Jericole Hellems give round out the top seven for the ‘Pack. All are potent scorers, averaging at least eight points per game but also excel in specialty rolls, such as Funderburk’s leading offensive rebounding total and highest statistical field goal percentage. Slowing down NC State’s multitude of weapons will be necessary for Miami if they Canes look to stay in the game.
With limited depth on Miami’s side, the Canes will need a focused effort from everyone involved.
Ebuka Izundu leads the ACC in field goal percentage at 69.3 percent, becoming a force in both scoring and in rebounding. Chris Lykes, who crossed the 20-point milestone against Campbell after a couple of down games, will need to reassert himself as the primary scoring threat for UM. DJ Vasiljevic’s ability to shot from range and claim the extra points for the Canes will also be critical against this ranked opponent. Vasiljevic has connected on just above a third of his attempts over the past three games, and will need to raise his 3FG percentage closer to that of earlier in the season—when he was making more than half of his shots at times—to give UM a better chance in this matchup.
Both sides look to this matchup as a way to open up some early momentum in the ACC Standings. Last season, Miami and NC State finished with an identical 11-7 Confrence record, determined in small part by Miami’s 86-81 win in Raleigh in January 2018.
Both teams could be close to each other again in the standings, with NC State tabbed 8th in the ACC preseason poll with the Canes behind in 10th. Wednesday night will be an opportunity for the both the Wolfpack to continue their strong start and for the Canes to prove that they still deserve to be in the thick of the conference conversation.
TV: ESPNU 7PM