Miami Hurricanes Basketball Game 29 Preview: North Carolina Tar Heels


Location: The BankUnited Center

Time: 2:00 PM


Line: North Carolina -1

The Miami Hurricanes basketball team held off Xavier Rathan-Mayes and the Florida State Seminoles to secure a rivalry win on Wednesday. Miami (18-10, 8-7) now turns its attention to the #15 North Carolina Tar Heels (19-9, 9-6). The Hurricanes are 4-0 against the Tar Heels since the 2012-13 season.

North Carolina Preview

The Associated Press ranks UNC as the #15 team in the nation, while the Coaches Poll and each have the Heels in the top 20. This may change in the next rankings, though, as NC State handed them a loss last Tuesday. North Carolina’s 9 conference wins are good for 5th in the ACC and a 1-game lead over Miami.

Carolina excels at seemingly everything offense. The Heels rank 14th in the country in offensive efficiency, 18th in points per game, 39th in field goal percentage, and 13th in assist/turnover ratio. Like a lot of the recent UNC basketball teams, this one is lead by an elite point guard.

Marcus Paige, preseason All-American point guard, averages 13.3 points and 4.5 assists per game. He makes great decisions on the court, committing few turnovers and frequently setting up his teammates for scores. He’s quick off of the dribble, making him a tough cover for opponents. Despite his 6’1” stature, Paige finishes well around the rim. He takes the bulk of Carolina’s 3-point attempts, hitting on just under 40% of them. Angel Rodriguez will certainly have his hands full with this matchup on Saturday.

North Carolina has dominated the boards in the majority of their games this season. They rank 2nd in the nation in rebounds per game and 6th in offensive rebounding percentage. Nearly 40% of all of their missed shots end up back in their hands. Big men Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson are largely responsible for this.

Meeks, at 6’9” and 270 pounds, mans the center position. Meeks has lost a good deal of weight (roughly 50 pounds) since arriving in Chapel Hill, which has allowed him some more quickness near the hoop. He likes to go back-to-basket and finish near the rim, so I’m sure Tonye Jekiri will make this a compelling matchup.

Brice Johnson, 6’9” power forward, has played well of late for Carolina. Over UNC’s last 5 games, Johnson has averaged 15.4 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. He’s another inside scorer for the Tar Heels.

On the wing, North Carolina is just as talented. Small forward J.P. Tokoto has developed from just an athlete to a guy who can play at a high level. Tokoto still has an affection for the flashy dunks, but he has added a respectable mid range shooting game and defensive presence to his skillset.

Talented freshman Justin Jackson plays shooting guard for the Tar Heels. The former five-star recruit stands at 6’8”, providing an instant mismatch. He’s a capable threat to shoot the ball, too.


North Carolina: 77 – Miami: 72

The Miami Hurricanes have had a lot of recent success versus North Carolina, but I’m not confident that they can pull off this win. I think Miami is definitely capable of pulling off this upset, but it will require a great deal of offense. Despite not shooting particularly well from 3-point range (29.8% over the last 3 games), the ‘Canes have been able to score lately, which is encouraging. A combination of scoring near the hoop and success on the perimeter would give Miami a great chance. On the defensive end, the Hurricanes need someone in addition to Jekiri to defend the rim. Carolina has multiple skilled big guys, so Omar Sherman and Ivan Cruz Uceda need to step up.

Angel Rodriguez attacked the basket at will against Florida State and managed to have an efficient game. It seems that as long as Rodriguez stays away from the three ball, he can play very well. The Paige-Rodriguez matchup should be a fun one.

J.P. Tokoto and and Justin Jackson defend the wing well for UNC. Davon Reed and Sheldon McClellan combined for 37 points against FSU. This is something to watch out for. McClellan, Reed, and Manu Lecomte each need to shoot well to give Miami a shot.

Miami’s final home game of the season is pretty much a must-win. A loss here would give the Hurricanes little hope for a NCAA Tournament berth, while a victory gets them right in the thick of the bubble.