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College Basketball Pick
Let's make this clear, this is a better North Carolina squad than what we saw back on Jan. 10. Since their one and only home loss of the season to Miami (FL), the Tar Heels have won six of their past seven games with their only loss coming at NC State. The Hurricanes, as most people know, have yet to lose a game in ACC play and sport a 9-0 record, two games above Duke and three ahead of North Carolina.
How good can Miami (FL) be and when will their winning streak end? The Tar Heels get to travel to Coral Gables where the Hurricanes haven't lost all season. In fact, they have won their last three home games by an average of 24.3 points. Two of those games were against Duke and Florida State. Miami (FL) is rolling and will not be an easy out for anyone, no matter how well they are playing.
UNC actually led by two points at halftime in the first meeting between these schools. However, they had their last lead with about 16 minutes to go and never got it back. The Hurricanes won the game on the defensive end holding the Tar Heels to 59 points. Leading scorers Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo could not get anything going which ultimately was the reason they lost. The two shot a miserable 9-of-30 from the field while the rest of the team shot 50%. When your two best scorers who take the majority of the team's shots are struggling, the result usually doesn't end well. The positive of that is those two will probably have a better game on Saturday.
Bullock and McAdoo both dominated on Tuesday against Wake Forest going for a combined 43 points on 14-of-22 shooting. While those two are the dominant forces, guards Marcus Paige and Dexter Strickland will need to step their game up. Paige went off for 19 points in an overtime win over Virginia Tech last weekend and has the ability to put the ball in the bucket. Strickland is more of a defensive guy and isn't needed often offensively, but it's inevitable that he will do better than his last game against the Hurricanes. In 26 minutes of play, Strickland missed one shot and had no other stats. He didn't score, assist, rebound, steal or even have a foul. That's something you rarely see. This is a kid that leads the team in steals and has four assists per game. Off the bench, P.J. Hairston will be vital as he only had five points in the last matchup. He's hit double digits in five of his last six games.
The Hurricanes are beating teams with a complete effort from all areas on the court. Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji are a handful down low. Johnson muscles through everyone for the boards while Kadji is the scorer. Johnson didn't even play in the first game, but Kadji dominated with 18 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. They also have big man Julian Gamble coming off the bench if that wasn't enough. In the backcourt, Durand Scott and Shane Larkin have caused problems for everyone. In the first game the two had a combined five steals and a modest 11 points apiece. When called upon, both players are able to score.
That leaves the Tar Heels with a lot of work to do. Their lone advantage is on the boards where they are second in the nation with over 42 per game. They only managed 30 in the first game and the addition of Johnson will make things even harder for them this time around. It's an uphill battle for UNC to get back in the ACC race, but it starts now.
Predicted Score - Miami 73 North Carolina 63
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