9 p.m. Feb. 27 – Miami @ No. 9 North Carolina
Following a thrilling win at home over Boston College, the Hurricanes travel to Chapel Hill with their first of two opportunities to win double-digit ACC contests.
It will be a tall order. The UNC Tar Heels are one of the hottest teams in the country heading into March, boasting a six-game winning streak. The formula fueling this hot streak is different from the one that led coach Roy Williams’ teams to back-to-back title games.
Those teams had multiple dominant upperclassman who played inside and controlled the rebounding battle, with the help of Justin Jackson on the perimeter.
Williams has adjusted that method. The team is now lead by junior Luke Maye, a big man that shoots 3-pointers, and Joel Berry II, who was last year’s “Most Outstanding Player” of the Final Four.
Instead of a couple dominant big men, Maye and a deep group of solid wings consisting of Theo Pinson, Pittsburgh transfer Cam Johnson and Kenny Williams have led the effort on the glass.
To win a tough game on the road, Miami will need to do its best to limit the second-chance opportunities of the country’s leading offensive-rebounding team. On offense, the Canes must attack the basket relentlessly, as UNC lacks a true shot-blocking threat and is a bit undersized. Sophomore forward Dewan Huell could dominate against a small front court, but it may not be enough.
Prediction: North Carolina 84 – Miami 71
Noon March 3 – Virginia Tech @ Miami
Miami closes out its regular season against Virginia Tech, which sits at an identical 9-7 ACC record going into the last week of the season.
A win over the Hokies would give the Canes the tiebreaker over North Carolina State, Louisville and Virginia Tech, all of which currently claim nine conference victories. So it could greatly benefit Miami’s ACC Tournament seeding.
Coach Buzz Williams’ team is the only one in the conference that can say it beat Virginia, which is currently the No. 1 team in the country. The Hokies have the talent to beat anybody, so how can the Hurricanes pull off a win against them for a second time this season?
In the first matchup between the two teams, Miami dominated the glass 41-28 and got off to a hot shooting start to put away Virginia Tech. The Hokies’ duo of Justin Robinson and Justin Bibbs both played well, combining for 38 points, but fellow double-digit scorers Ahmed Hill and Kerry Blackshear Jr. failed to do much of anything, totaling just two points.
Part of V-Tech’s strength is in its deep stable of scorers, but if UM can turn two of them into non-factors again, that’s a pretty good recipe for a win.
On offense, look for the Canes to shoot away from deep – they knocked in 10 of 21 3-pointers in their last matchup against the Hokies – and if they can connect on those looks, they should ride into the postseason with another 10-win ACC showing.
Prediction: Miami 85 – Virginia Tech 83