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No one predicted the Hurricanes to be leading the ACC right now, not to mention by two games. Most people had them behind the big three and listed in fourth place. It's halfway through the season and Miami (FL) sits two games in front of anyone and 2.5 games ahead of preseason favorite NC State. They already beat North Carolina on the road and have to play the Wolfpack only once. It wouldn't be a surprise to see them finish at the top of the conference.
Things haven't been as easy for NC State who only has one road win the entire season, at Boston College. They already lost to Maryland, Wake Forest and Virginia. They still have road games at Duke, Clemson, UNC and Florida State. This is as close to a must-win game for them as possible. A loss here would leave them with a 5-4 conference record with some very difficult road matches ahead. The Hurricanes don't need a win here, but it sure would feel good for them to get another win over a ranked team.
Miami (FL) has won by having a very balanced team. They have three players that are capable of that big scoring game. Durand Scott and Kenny Kadjii went for 20-plus points against Duke. Scott only had five in their most recent road win at Virginia Tech, but Shane Larkin picked up his game and put in 25. Trey McKinney Jones is probably their most consistent scorer of all, while he may not have 20-point games, he will get your near double-digits every night. Throw in Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble and you have two rotating big men who can control the paint and get rebounds. The two average a combined 14.3 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game. This is in addition to Kadji who's averaging close to seven boards per game. The Hurricanes have scorers, they have defense and they can stick with anyone in the country.
Will that be the case in Raleigh where NC State hasn't lost all season? It will be tough, but it won't be impossible.
The Wolfpack are an interesting team and not for good reasons. Their lack of success on the road is troubling because there also seems to be a lack of effort that comes with it. That doesn't bode well for postseason play. Following this game they'll have two very difficult back-to-back games which make this one really important.
Miami (FL) has the big men to deal with C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell so it will be the matchup to watch. Leslie didn't actually start against Virginia and came off the bench to lead the team with 20 points and 14 boards in 30 minutes. Combine him with Howell who has four straight double-doubles and these two should be a regular force in the ACC, but it's not a given on the road. Even worse, point guard Lorenzo Brown could miss this game due to an ankle injury, but nothing has been determined. This is the same player that's averaging 12.7 PTS, 4.3 REB, 6.9 AST, 2.1 STL and 33.1 MIN per game. That hurts them a lot and you could see it in the Virginia game where they were outscored by 10 points in the second half after leading by seven at half time. This is already a shallow team which means Tyler Lewis will take his spot and he's averaging less than 10 minutes per game on the season.
Help will need to come from freshmen T.J. Warren and Rodney Purvis, and it will have to be more than what they did against Virginia as they went for a combined nine points. Scott Wood is also a key piece in the backcourt and may be asked to take more than three-pointers in this game.
The Hurricanes are ready to go in for the kill, but the Wolfpack won't go down easy, especially at PNC Arena.
Predicted Score - Miami 69 NC St 68
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