The No. 24-ranked Miami Hurricanes reeled off a four-game winning streak to close the season and will look to win their fifth-straight when they square off against the No. 12 North Carolina Tar Heels for the second time in nine days.
Miami is a No. 3-seed and North Carolina is a No. 6-seed in the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn, New York, and the two teams are set to battle it out at 9 p.m. March 8 in the quarterfinals. UNC is coming off a 78-59 win over Syracuse March 7.
Most Miami fans have probably seen the miraculous halfcourt shot by Ja’Quan Newton that won the Canes the first matchup against the Tar Heels … But what can UM do in order to emerge victorious yet again?
DON’T OVERHYPE JOEL BERRY II
Yes, Berry was fantastic in last week’s game, pouring in 31 points on 11-of-17 shooting and hitting several ridiculously tough 3-pointers – including the tying shot that served as the prelude to Newton’s winner.
However, in the two games since against Duke and Syracuse, he has 14 combined points on a paltry 5-of-20 shooting. He’s a good player but one who isn’t overly athletic and tends to rely heavily on his outside shot. The Canes don’t need to overreact to his offensive outburst the last time around because many of the threes he hit were just a case of good defense but better offense.
BEWARE OF THE SWINGMEN
Instead, UNC’s trio of Theo Pinson, Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams should be the main focus for Miami’s defense.
Pinson is a poor shooter but can impact a game with his passing and offensive rebounding. The Hurricanes needs to make him settle for 3-pointers and ensure he isn’t nabbing second chances on the glass. If he does, Johnson and Williams will probably be the beneficiaries.
The pair combined for 28 points and five 3-pointers last time out, many seeming to come on open looks. It will be hard for the Canes to match their offensive output from last outing – one where they scored 91 points and hit 11 threes – so they likely won’t be able to survive if Johnson and Williams go off from behind the arc.
RIDE CHRIS LYKES (AND THE PICK-AND-ROLL) TO THE FINISH LINE
The talented freshman looked like the best player on the floor for long stretches of the previous matchup against North Carolina.
Lykes’ 18 points and four assists led the team, as did his four made 3-pointers. Newton had one of his better showings as well, posting 13 points and three assists.
Miami’s offense is at its most dynamic point when three shooters flank a ball screen set by a big man for Lykes or Newton. Both Dewan Huell and Ebuka Izundu had great performances in the last matchup, assisted by UM guards who were finding them on rolls to the basket.
Lykes especially has proven adept at finding fellow freshman guard Lonnie Walker IV and other teammates out of the pick-and-roll, as well as having the ability to finish among the tallest opponents at the basket. Lykes can also create open 3-pointers for himself off the dribble, a useful tool to have when the offense stalls out.
The 5-foot-7 guard has an advantage in quickness and pure speed over almost any defender, and the Hurricanes need him at his best in order to pull off the upset for the second time.
Miami must put the ball in his hands early and often.
Prediction: Miami 81 – North Carolina 79