North Carolina (26-6, 14-4 ACC) vs. Miami (21-10, 10-8 ACC)
Brooklyn, N.Y. – Barclays Center
Thursday, 12 p.m.
ESPN (Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas)
ACC Network (Tim Brando, Mike Gminski)
“We have a list of seven things we have to do against North Carolina, both defensively and offensively, and we're going to review those seven things defensively and seven things offensively with our players tonight. There's no practice. We're not going anywhere and practicing this. So it's more about mental preparation and relying on our skills that we've developed over a long period of time, both offensively and defensively. We have the utmost respect for Carolina. They won the regular season championship. A lot of people are picking them to win the National Championship. So we know we're the underdog. But we like that we've moved on and we're in the quarterfinals now.” – Miami head coach Jim Larranaga following his team’s win over Syracuse on Wednesday
“There’s not a lot to say. It was a big-time kicking of our rear ends, is what it was. They were much more aggressive going towards the boards, going after loose balls. When I say aggressive that is not intended in any way to mean anything dirty. They were quicker to every loose ball.” – UNC coach Roy Williams after UNC’s 77-62 loss to Miami in January
Heels Finish on Top: In what is being hailed as arguably the most competitive season in ACC history, North Carolina won the regular season conference title by two games. The Tar Heels were paced in league play by ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson. The junior wing led the team in scoring with 18.3 points per game this season and has also received First-Team All-America honors. Another Tar Heel receiving postseason recognition is Joel Berry, who was named Second-Team All-ACC and a finalist for the Cousy Award, which is given to the nation’s top point guard. Roy Williams finished second in ACC Coach of the Year voting, trailing only Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner. When it comes to fundamentals, no ACC team did them better than UNC this year. The Tar Heels led the conference in scoring (81.7 ppg) and total rebounding (42.5 rpg). Even with their regular season success, the Tar Heels may still need a win or two in Brooklyn to secure a No.1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Hurricanes Get Past the Orange: Miami earned its ticket to the ACC Tournament quarterfinals after defeating Syracuse, 62-57, in the 8/9 matchup on Wednesday. With both the Hurricanes and the Orange playing zone defense, the teams combined to attempt 44 3-pointers. The game was a homecoming of sorts for Miami forward Kamari Murphy; the Brooklyn-native led the Hurricanes with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Miami sixth man D.J. Vasiljevic was critical off the bench in securing the victory. The 6-foot-3 Australian guard scored 13 points, including three big treys. The game was tightly contested, even down to the stat sheet: both sides shot 43 percent from the field and grabbed 22 defensive rebounds. Miami won the crucial offensive rebounding battle, 9-4, and used that momentum to eke out the five-point victory.
Miami Spotlight: The Hurricanes entered ACC Tournament on a two-game losing streak, which summarized an overall inconsistent run in conference play. With a 10-8 conference record, the Hurricanes may need a continued run this week to guarantee their ticket to the Big Dance. Senior guard Davon Reed, who was named Third-Team All-ACC as well as to the All-Defensive team, has led Miami on the scoring front this season, averaging 15.8 points per game while shooting 40.3 percent beyond the arc. Jim Larranaga’s squad prides itself on its defensive efficiency – they held their conference opponents to 66.7 points per game, which is second in the ACC, and are sixth in defensive field goal percentage (43.8 percent).
Matchup to Watch: North Carolina’s rebounding dominance has been well-publicized all year, but it was not on display in the Tar Heels’ matchup with Miami back in January. UNC, which is able to dominate the pace of the game with their prowess on the offensive and defensive boards, was unable to outmuscle and outmatch the Hurricanes in the paint. The inability to get an advantage on the glass was only highlighted in the first half by UNC’s 20.7 field goal percentage. With the programs meeting back up in Brooklyn, Roy Williams’s team will have to set the tone early down low, with the involvement of Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks being the No. 1 priority. The duo was outrebounded by a notably smaller Miami team in the first game, and the two bigs (who are the primary drivers of the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the nation) were held to just two offensive boards. As far as UNC’s backcourt goes, expect the presence of Theo Pinson to make a big difference. The 6-foot-6 was absent in the first game due to injury, and fellow wing Justin Jackson only pulled down one rebound in 34 minutes of play.
Last Meeting: UNC fell to Miami, 77-62, in Coral Gables on Jan. 28. North Carolina opened the game on an 11-2 run, but then the Hurricanes switched to a zone defense and stifled Roy Williams’s offense. UNC was held to 35 percent shooting from the field, and was outrebounded, 41-36.
Series Record: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series, 20-7.
Projected UNC Starters:
2 Joel Berry (6-0, 195, Jr.) – 15.1 ppg, 3.7 apg
3 Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260, Sr.) - 12.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg
4 Isaiah Hicks (6-9, 242, Sr.) - 11.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg
44 Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Jr.) – 18.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg
1 Theo Pinson (6-6, 211, Jr.) – 6.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg
5 Tony Bradley (6-11, 240, Fr.) –7.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg
0 Nate Britt (6-1, 175, Sr.) – 4.4 ppg, 2.3 apg
32 Luke Maye (6-8, 235, So.) – 5.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg
Projected Miami Starters:
21 Kamari Murphy (6-8, 220, Sr.) – 7.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg
00 Ja’Quan Newton (6-2, 187, Jr.) – 13.9 ppg, 3.6 apg
03 Anthony Lawrence (6-7, 210, So.) - 7.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg
05 Davon Reed (6-6, 220, Sr.) – 15.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg
11 Bruce Brown (6-5, 190, Fr.) – 11.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg
04 D.J. Vasiljevic (6-3, 198, Fr.) – 5.9 ppg, 1.3 rpg
15 Ebuka Izundu (6-10, 231, So.) - 4.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg
20 Dewan Huell (6-11, 220, Fr.) – 5.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg