College Basketball Pick
The two best teams in the ACC, according to the standings, face off on Saturday. Despite only five losses on the year, North Carolina has been critiqued more than any other team at the top of the rankings. But it’s hard to argue what the Tar Heels have done, even with road struggles here and there. Their play at home was unstoppable, until Duke came to town and somehow left with a win on Wednesday night. Miami would like to do the same on Saturday.
Miami can’t be overlooked, but all three of its ACC losses have come on the road, two of them to lesser competition in Clemson and NC State. The Hurricanes beat Florida State on the road last weekend, but UNC is another animal, especially at Chapel Hill.
The question when facing UNC is usually how are you going to stop them from dominating in the paint. The Heels lead the nation in points per Game in the paint and while Tonye Jekiri and Kamari Murphy are good players, that may not be enough.
Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks are a force down low and while Jekiri and Murphy can hold their own, this will be their toughest test yet. Not to mention, the Heels still have Isaiah Hicks coming off the bench. And of course Justin Jackson is always a matchup problem at small forward. The ‘Canes will likely have to use Davon Reed on Jackson, and Jackson gets the edge with his ability to shoot from deep, but also being a factor on the block.
Miami usually wins Games with its guard play, which includes Reed, Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McCllellan and Ja’Quan Newton off the bench. However, those guys can all be matched with Marcus Paige, Joel Berry and Nate Britt on North Carolina. An issue in this Game is that Miami has minimal post presence on the offensive end, as Jekiri and Murphy both average less than 10 points per Game. Winning this Game solely on guard play, may be a little difficult, especially due to UNC’s size in the paint. The Hurricanes will either need to hit a bunch of threes or get some kind of production from their bigs to have a chance. Otherwise, it may be a little difficult to pull off a win in Chapel Hill.
Then again, Paige and Berry combined to go 4-of-22 from the field Wednesday as Duke’s guards won that matchup. It’s not a stretch to say Miami can do the same.
Brice Johnson hasn’t really been stopped this year and it’s hard to see Miami doing that with Kamari Murphy. And they can’t use Jekiri on him because he’ll be glued to the big-bodied Meeks. If the Tar Heels have their way down low, that will only open up space for Paige and Berry to knock down shots, both of whom have the ability to do so. Johnson finished with 29 points and 19 boards against the Blue Devils midweek.
UNC has one of the most well rounded teams in the country and this is the type of Game that it’s going to shine in, especially at home. The Tar Heels have been good at home, and coming off a loss, it’d be a surprise if Miami took them down here. The ‘Canes need to find a new big guy that can body up Johnson in the paint. Otherwise, mark up another win for the Heels.
Score Prediction – North Carolina 81 Miami 78