ACC Team Preview: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Posted by Matt Patton on October 31st, 2013

Some members of the Wake Forest faithful put together money to fly a banner proclaiming “Fire Ron Wellman around BB&T Field at the beginning of October. Alas, at the last minute the air-advertisement company backed out, leaving the disgruntled fan sentiment grounded in a metaphor that seems perfect to describe Demon Deacon athletics as a whole. The hunt for Wellman’s job originally started because of his vocal support for head basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik. Bzdelik’s tenure in Winston-Salem has been abysmal (like, 1-24 on the road in conference play abysmal), but Wellman still supports him.

Wake Forest Preview 2013

Luckily, Bzdelik oozes charisma and makes great PR moves. Well maybe not. He did announce that Wake Forest won’t have a team captain this year despite having a four-year senior who has been one of the best players on the team since his freshman year. More than most jobs in the ACC, Wake Forest requires a coach that’s either willing to take a lot of risks or has that one in a million charm (put the two together, and you get the late Skip Prosser). Otherwise it’s too easy to get overshadowed by North Carolina, Duke and NC State just down the road. Bzdelik possesses none of these traits. Now it should be clear why a large portion of the fan base wants Bzdelik and Wellman gone.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Who Is The Second Best Guard In The ACC?

Posted by KCarpenter on January 30th, 2013

There’s no doubt that Erick Green has been the best guard in the ACC this season. He scores and makes plays at a hyper-efficient rate while playing a ton of minutes at a very fast pace. No other guard in the conference has performed as consistently and as well. He’s miles ahead of the competition, but it’s not because of a lack of quality guards in the league. In fact, the ACC has a plethora of talented guards, playing well for a lot of different teams. Let’s get down to the big question though: If Erick Green is the best guard in the ACC, who is the second best?

Who Is the Second Best Guard In The ACC?

If you had asked this question not all that long ago, the answer might have been an easy one: Seth Curry. The Duke shooting guard is enjoying a strong year as a perfect complementary piece on this Duke team. Is Curry really the second best guard in the conference? What about undefeated Miami’s Durand Scott or the lead guard of another team that beat the Blue Devils in NC State’s Lorenzo Brown? What about some of the conference’s other great shooting guards like C.J. Harris or Joe Harris? None of these are crazy choices. Does Curry stack up?

Curry’s elite skill is scoring. He’s fourth in the conference in points per game and he is the second best guard in this measure after Erick Green. He’s not a volume scorer, but rather very efficient, posting an offensive efficiency mark of 114.2 this season with a usage rate of 22.1%. This is very good. However, from an efficiency standpoint, Curry is nowhere close to Reggie Bullock‘s silly numbers. Averaging a 129.1 offensive efficiency on 19.1% usage rate, Bullock is shooting better than Curry from every part of the floor: three-pointers, two-pointers, and from the free throw line. Bullock is a better play-maker, a better rebounder on both ends, has more steals and blocks, and by just about every account is a better defender. Curry has a slight edge in turnovers, and a serious advantage at getting to the line.  Still, it would be difficult to argue that Curry is playing better basketball than Bullock.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

How Did Wake Forest Beat Virginia? Simple — at the Free Throw Line

Posted by KCarpenter on January 10th, 2013

What do you make of the ACC when Virginia can beat North Carolina on Sunday and then lose to Wake Forest by three on the following Wednesday? The Demon Deacons won this game by jumping ahead early and staying ahead. This didn’t come down to a fluke run or some gimmick strategy. Looking at only the box score from this game, you might even wonder how WFU was able to win at all. The Demon Deacons shot a paltry 40.9% from the field and 26.7% from three. Virginia took 11 more field goal attempts than the Deacs (which works out to a staggering 25% more attempts), mostly thanks to destroying Wake on the glass by collecting a whopping 16 offensive rebounds. Remarkably, the Demon Deacons did not score a field goal for the final 10 minutes of the game — yet, miraculously, they walked away with the win. What happened?

Travis McKie and His Teammates Have a Very High FT Rate

Travis McKie and His Teammates Have a Very High FT Rate

Stealthily, Wake Forest has become one of the best teams in the country at getting to the foul line. In this game, Wake went 15-of-21 from the free throw line (a pedestrian 71.4%). Twenty-one free throws isn’t an outrageously high number until you remember that Jeff Bzdelik’s team only attempted 44 field goals (again, thanks to Virginia’s rebounding as well as its glacial pace). Over the course of the season, Wake Forest has attempted about 50% as many free throws as they have field goals, a mark that, before  last night’s game, was the third best in the country. While the team hasn’t been great at making those free throws, you don’t have to make as many if you get to the line so often. While stars Travis McKie and C.J. Harris have shown a knack for getting to the line in the past, Wake Forest’s transition to living at the line as a team is a change from past seasons under Bzdelik and a lot of credit is due to the team’s newcomers. Of the six freshmen who play rotation minutes, five have free throw rates (FTA/FGA) over 55%. This team has six players who draw at least 4.5 fouls per forty minutes, so with the exception of freshman point guard Codi Miller-McIntyre and spot-up shooter Chase Fischer, every rotation player on the team is very good at drawing fouls and getting to the foul line.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC Week 1 Power Rankings

Posted by mpatton on November 16th, 2012

We’ve got a full week of game action as evidence to start evaluting these teams a bit better, so here goes…

Disclaimer: Power Rankings don’t imply which teams are best. They’re all about who has momentum right now. 

Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke (2-0) stays on top of the rankings after taking care of business against Georgia State at home before knocking off the defending champion Kentucky Wildcats in the Georgia Dome. This team still has a long way to go, but they showed poise holding off a talented, albeit young, Kentucky team. While Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee owned the box score, Quinn Cook rose to the challenge and put in his bid for the starting spot. Minnesota is the next NCAA tournament-quality team on Thursday.
NC State Wolfpack 2. NC State (2-0) absolutely blitzkrieged its first two opponents, Miami (OH) and Penn State. Putting too much stock in beating the Redhawks by 38 is unwise. But that 17-point win over the Nittany Lions–despite Lorenzo Brown finishing an icy 1-12 from the field–is worth noting. Specifically, Tyler Warren was phenomenal going for 22 points (on 12 shots) and eight rebounds. The game tonight against Massachusetts should be a fun one.
North Carolina Tar Heels 3. North Carolina (2-0) looked lost on offense at times against Gardner-Webb, which is just a young team trying to learn to play together. James Michael McAdoo has been phenomenal through the first two games (he’s averaging over 20 points and 12 rebounds), and Reggie Bullock asserted himself against Florida Atlantic. This team should keep improving, but in time for the trip to Bloomington in a week and a half? That’s ambitious.
Maryland Terrapins 4. Maryland (1-1) looks a lot better than expected. Alex Len is going to be a top-10 pick. He absolutely ravaged Kentucky, which Maryland kept close to the bitter end before making mincemeat of Morehead State. Nick Faust still can’t shoot, but Seth Allen will be really fun to watch the next few years. The Terrapins need to work on consistent offense, but as Dez Wells gets more and more used to Mark Turgeon’s system, good things will happen.
Boston College 5. Boston College (1-1) played with a stacked Baylor team for 35 minutes after beating a bad Florida International team by double figures (still, that’s huge improvement over last year). This team will still struggle to win a ton of games, but Ryan Anderson‘s development into an All-ACC caliber player is accelerating the rebuilding process (he’s averaging 27 points and 12 boards a game). Dennis Clifford also got off to a solid start. The Eagles’ games against Dayton and Auburn should both be winnable this week.
Clemson Tigers 6. Clemson (1-0) beat down Presbyterian this week, which isn’t worth much on its own. But Devin Booker and Milton Jennings both played very well (combined to go 11-14 from the field for 26 points) and look like they’re ready to step into bigger roles for Brad Brownell this season. A near impossible test awaits this week in the form of Gonzaga.
Virginia Tech Hokies 7. Virginia Tech (3-0) scarfed three cupcakes this week, winning all three games by double figures. The “meat” of the nonconference schedule is still a ways off (and “meat” is used loosely to describe BCS-conference teams), but so far James Johnson‘s tenure is a success. He’ll need Robert Brown to continue producing offensively to relieve some of Erick Green‘s perimeter burden.
Florida State Seminoles 8. Florida State (1-1) is much better than its home loss to the South Alabama, but those are the kind of losses that will motivate this team to keep getting better. Michael Snaer is also in an early season slump, having only hit a third of the shots he’s taken. But the Seminoles’ 27-point beatdown of Buffalo (where they scored 95 points!) may right the ship. The next six games showcase three against possible NCAA tournament teams: BYU (today), Minnesota and Florida.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 9. Wake Forest (1-0) played decently against Radford. The game was never free from doubt, but the Demon Deacons didn’t let the Big South Highlanders get the best of them this year. CJ Harris got to the charity stripe like a pro, but Travis McKie‘s 11 points left a little to be desired–especially against a team of this caliber. Turnovers are going to kill Wake Forest in at least two conference games this year.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 10. Georgia Tech (2-0) has balance, but can’t shoot. The Yellow Jackets need someone to step up from the perimeter to keep other teams honest (right now they make a smooth 17.6% of their shots from downtown. Two of Mfon Udofia, Daniel Miller and Kam Holsey need to become go-to guys on offense. Miller doesn’t appear to want that role.
Miami Hurricanes 11. Miami (1-1) needs to be careful not to become a dumpster fire. The team lost its exhibition against St. Leo and now lost to Florida Gulf Coast to ice the cake. This team looks phenomenal on paper, but sometimes things just don’t translate the way we expect. The same Reggie Johnson who made Mason Plumlee look like a child at Cameron Indoor Stadium last year has only hit one third of his shots against middling competition. There’s still time for Larranaga to turn this car around, but time is running out.
Virginia Cavaliers 12. Virginia (1-2), if Miami has to be careful, Virginia fans may already smell that trash burning. So far the Cavaliers lost to George Mason and Delaware. These wins (or struggles) could be statistical aberrations (if your style keeps opponents within striking distance, you’re bound to lose some unfortunate games), and Jontel Evans is out.Things aren’t off to a great start in Charlottesville.
Share this story

ACC M5: 10.22.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 22nd, 2012

  1. Tallahassee Democrat: Veterans Ian Miller and Michael Snaer are really excited about the freshmen joining the team this season. Snaer specifically lauded Aaron Thomas, Devon Bookert and Montay Brandon as potential stars on this year’s team. Thomas has Snaer’s “can’t stop me” attitude which should make him an elite scorer, but Bookert may hold the key for Florida State making the next step with his ball-handling skills. The biggest issue with the last few Seminole teams has been offense, and most of the team’s offensive woes come from turning the ball over too frequently. If Bookert can run the offense and reduce the team’s turnover rate, look out.
  2. Associated Press (via Winston-Salem Journal): Apparently Reggie Johnson‘s dieting has started to work. The Miami big man started the season two years ago at a whopping 330 pounds and reportedly is now down to 290. He’s still got a ways to go, but believes his diet is helping. If he can play superstar minutes and can run the floor better, Johnson will make a run at becoming the ACC’s best big man. He’s already probably the league’s most polished returning half-court post player, but his weight keeps him from being elite. That said, take Johnson’s words with a grain of salt. It’s a little weird he pointed to his weight two years ago instead of last year (albeit when he was rehabbing a knee injury).
  3. Greensboro News-Record: David Morrison went to Duke’s Operation Basketball and got some interesting notes. First, Coach K is looking for major increases in offensive production from Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry this year. Krzyzewski wants this team’s offense to be less balanced, though Rasheed Sulaimon will definitely be an offensive factor if he lives up to his hype. Morrison also talked with Plumlee about Krzyzewski’s reaction to the Blue Devils’ less-that-stellar finish last season.
  4. Blogger So Dear: Most schools taking international trips already finished them, but Jeff Bzdelik and his young Demon Deacon team headed to Canada and won two exhibition games against Brock University and Ryerson University, 84-79 and 88-80, respectively. CJ Harris and Tyler Cavanaugh led the way for Wake Forest against Brock, scoring 16 points apiece in the win (Harris also added five assists and Cavanaugh grabbed nine rebounds). Saturday Travis McKie starred, finishing with 26 points. Freshmen Cody Miller-McIntyre and Cavanaugh also scored in double figures.
  5. CBSSports.com: Snaer isn’t the only one talking some trash this offseason. Dexter Strickland isn’t too worried about NC State being picked first in the ACC.

    “They talk those guys up every single year and we beat them every single year [...] They are the least of our worries. Beat us one year and then they can talk smack. Until then, you can’t put them in the mix.”

    He also felt pretty strongly about the NCAA Tournament outcome if North Carolina hadn’t been hampered by injuries.

    “I’ll be honest. If nobody got hurt, you might as well have given us the trophy. Nobody had the ability to stop us.”

Share this story

ACC M5: 10.18.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on October 18th, 2012

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: The media agree with the coaches. North Carolina State will enter the season tabbed as the number one team in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The preseason poll, of course, came out in conjunction with the ACC’s Operation Basketball, a media event where coaches and players meet with the press and face some very early judgment from the fourth estate. The last time the media pegged the Wolfpack to win the conference, it was the 1974-75 season.  Also like the coaches, the media picked C.J. Leslie as the likely player of the year and Rodney Purvis as the preseason rookie of the year. Though I’m sure Mark Gottfried and the Wolfpack know they will have to earn these accolades, it still must feel good for Wolfpack fans to ease up on the “no one believes in us” mentality that has defined the team in the past few seasons.
  2. Sporting News: It’s not often that people can talk about how you have slimmed down and you still weigh 290 pounds, but that’s exactly what Miami’s Reggie Johnson has accomplished. The bulky center was over 300 pounds in the past few seasons, but he’s ready to face this campaign with more muscle and less pudge. Johnson’s sheer size has made him a force in the paint, but the addition of some muscle, strength, and agility means that one of the most physically imposing players in the league may have become quite a bit more dangerous. Johnson’s increased offensive prowess comes not just from physical improvements, but from a refinement in his skill set. Coach Jim Larranaga praises the ease with which Johnson finishes with either hand and notes, terrifyingly enough, that Johnson’s prowess at shooting the three may mean that the biggest center in the ACC might soon be hoisting bombs from deep.
  3. Daily Press: Of course, Operation Basketball is not just about the individual coaches, players, and teams, but about ACC basketball as a whole and the plans the member schools and the conference commissioner have for the future. As it often is, one of the hot topics was the potential location of the ACC Tournament. Though John Swofford was quick to point out that future tournament sites would probably be much in line with what the league has done in the past, there were some intriguing possibilities to the north and the south of the traditional conference stronghold of Greensboro. To the south, observers have noted that Orlando and Miami are likely candidates for a future tournament. To the north, the leading candidates seem to be Pittsburgh, Washington, DC,  and, somewhat surprisingly, Brooklyn. The newly completed Barclays Center is apparently, while not an official candidate for this round of site selection, a possibility that the league seems excited about.
  4. Washington Post: Though Operation Basketball is traditionally a day of easy optimism for most of the coaches in the conference, there is always the harsh reality that not every team can have a winning record. Sadly, Virginia Tech and new head coach James Johnson are more likely to end up on the bottom of the conference than near the top. Though the Hokies return a legitimate conference star in Erick Green, the team will only have eight scholarship players for the season, which is unfortunate considering that James Johnson favors a fast-paced offense and a pressure-focused defense. While both tactics are certainly workable for the Hokies, these tactics tend to be exhausting for players and are more typically executed by teams that count depth as a strength. It will be interesting to see how the somewhat mismatched available personnel and Johnson’s coaching style mesh in this coming season.
  5. Wilmington Star News: Typically, this is the time of the year when lots of stories about the increased leadership of this or that player is having a positive influence on the freshmen and underclassmen who are still learning the ropes. These stories tend to be really similar and, unfortunately, kind of run together. The clear winner of this year’s “veterans help rookies” genre is the tale of Wake Forest senior C.J. Harris and his 2002 Jeep. Apparently, only three players on this year’s WFU team have cars, meaning that the younger Demon Deacons are constantly bumming rides and borrowing teammates’ cars.  This is a silly detail, but one that’s much more interesting and humanizing than stories about seniors teaching freshmen the value of practice.
Share this story

ACC Summer Recess: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Posted by KCarpenter on July 18th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: Wake Forest.

Where They Stand Now

Bzdelik Enters Year Three of a Rebuild at Wake

It’s a rare thing when you can be tied for last place in the conference and still be hailed for taking a big step forward. Wake Forest went 4-12 in in league play, part of the four-way tie at the bottom, yet last season can’t be rated all that poorly. When you go from 1-15 to 4-12, it’s certainly a nice step forward, but it’s also a clear sign that you are being graded on a curve. Wake Forest hoops got a lot better last season, but make no mistake: This team is still far from good.

What’s the best way to describe the state of this program? The highlight of the Demon Deacons’ last season is debatable: It’s either a three-point home win over Virginia Tech (a team that finished below WFU in the conference standings) or a one-point home win over Yale (who had a great year… for Yale). There wasn’t a lot to cheer about this season, but the step away from the soul-crushing precipice of the 2011-12 season is enough to chalk up last year as an incredibly mild success.

Outside of team highlights, the past season was also a remarkable showcase for C.J. Harris, who had a terrific year shooting the ball from distance. Harris combined with Travis McKie formed one of the deadliest scoring tandems in the conference.  Of course, it ended up not mattering too much, but it was one sign of genuine hope for a program that has fallen on lean times.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC Tournament: Three Thoughts from Wake Forest – Maryland

Posted by mpatton on March 8th, 2012

In the end it was a dominant win by Maryland. Jeff Bzdelik pulled his starters at the under-four media timeout (to be fair, Nikita Mescheriakov and Tony Chennault had already fouled out by that point).

  • Starting with Wake Forest, this game didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. The Demon Deacons played Maryland tough the first 15 minutes and fell apart. After leading 26-21, Maryland went on a 35-9 run including the beginning of the second half. The biggest issue all afternoon for Jeff Bzdelik’s squad was production from players not named Mescheriakov, CJ Harris and Travis McKie. Those three scored 52 of Wake Forest’s 60 points (it would’ve been more had Bzdelik left them in to the bitter end). Chennault and Carson Desrosiers combined to go 1-13 from the field. That won’t cut it coming from starters. Period.
  • On Maryland’s end, it’s really tough to judge how impressive the Terrapins were against Wake Forest. There’s no argument that they didn’t dominate the game, but Wake Forest also lost all of its will to win after giving up its five-point lead in dramatic fashion down the stretch in the first half. The best news from Mark Turgeon’s standpoint is that he got to rest his thin line-up for much of the second half, which will keep the teams’ collective legs fresh for a game tomorrow against North Carolina.
  • In contrast to Wake Forest’s starters, Maryland’s combined to go 25-43 from the field (58%) thanks to one of Nick Faust‘s best games of the year (19 points on ten shots) and a very strong game from James Padgett (5-6 from the field). This Maryland team could make North Carolina work tomorrow if Faust and Padgett can combine for more points than Terrell Stoglin.
Share this story

ACC Season Wrap-Up and Tournament Preview

Posted by mpatton on March 8th, 2012

First, here’s a quick preview of the ACC Tournament. You can find the rest of the power rankings after the jump.
The two Thursday games you should keep a close eye on are Clemson – Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest – Maryland. I trust Miami and NC State will have no trouble putting away their opponents, though Georgia Tech has played a couple of very good games this year.
While North Carolina is the prohibitive favorite, I think Florida State probably has the second best chance. Hear me out: Duke is playing without Ryan Kelly, which means the Plumlees and Hairston are it inside; factor in a history of ignoring the conference tournament for North Carolina combined with Kendall Marshall feeling “tired,” and I think you’ve got a recipe for a team not from North Carolina to win the ACC Tournament for the first time since Maryland in 2004.
I also expect strong runs from bubble teamers NC State and Miami, as both try to secure their at-large hopes with another marquee win.
  1. North Carolina (27-4, 14-2) – It’s funny how the difference between a successful season can come down to one game. Had North Carolina lost to Duke at Cameron, people would’ve pointed to the Tar Heels’ lofty preseason expectations and how they came up short. Instead, Roy Williams’ squad finally showed the world just why it was ranked so high early in the season. Kendall Marshall hit shots, the defense clicked and the game felt over by the first media timeout. Now the Tar Heels have the inside track for a one-seed, owning the head-to-head victory with Michigan State that will definitely come in handy. There are still legitimate questions about North Carolina’s intensity, but if that intensity is in the ballpark of Saturday night opponents should be scared. Don’t pencil the Tar Heels into the Final Four before seeing the ACC Tournament. This team’s worst enemy until the final weekend will be itself. One person in particular to keep you eye on is Marshall. He was snubbed from first-team All-ACC (he missed by two votes), so I expect him to come out aggressively Friday. He’s also shows recent offensive improvement, coming up with two of his best performances of the year in rivalry games against NC State and Duke. When he’s taking and hitting open looks, the Tar Heels are impossible to guard.
    Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

The Best Scoring Wings in the ACC

Posted by KCarpenter on March 2nd, 2012

When we talk about the All-ACC First Team, conventional wisdom holds that a few things are certain. Tyler Zeller and Mike Scott are iron-clad locks. To a lesser extent, John Henson seems fairly likely to make the team as well. That leaves two guard spots. On some level, it seems insane that Kendall Marshall‘s probable third place finish in the conference books for the single-season assist record, but his lack of dominant scoring, defense, and a general unwillingness to place so many Tar Heels on the first team probably hurts Marshall’s chances. The worst thing about this is that the negatives against Marshall probably hurt most of the other point guards in the league as well. As good as Lorenzo Brown has been, if Marshall isn’t going to make the first team, Brown’s chances aren’t looking so great either. For now, let’s set aside true point guards.

How Many of This UNC Trio Will End up as ACC First Teamers? (News-Record)

So, for better or worse, the two guard spots on this team are probably going to go to a pair of dominant wing scorers. Among the candidates, listed in order by points per game, we have Terrell Stoglin, Harrison Barnes, C.J. Harris, Travis McKie, Erick Green, Austin Rivers, Michael Snaer, and Seth Curry. So how do we pick two? These are individual awards, so I don’t feel particularly obligated to award team success, though I know that typically the voters for these honors use that criterion rather heavily. For now though, let’s pretend that Stoglin, Harris, McKie, and Green all have an equal shot.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC Game On: 02.28.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on February 28th, 2012

We are in the home stretch of the regular season. It would be sad if that didn’t mean that tournament play is in the air. After a high stakes weekend where Miami made its case for the big tournament while Virginia and North Carolina State faltered at a critical moment, this week kicks off with a fairly lopsided matchup.

The Infernal Showdown

  • #7 Duke at Wake Forest at 9:00 PM on ESPNU

The last true road game of the season for Duke, the Blue Devils need to win this game to contend for a #1 seed. Duke should be more than up for the task, but they come into Winston Salem playing a Wake Forest team that has nothing to lose. After last year’s miserable season, the Demon Deacon’s forward progress is admirable, but when push comes to shove, this is a team that has only won four conference games. After a red hot start, Travis McKie has cooled down. Actually, outside of the still-incandescent C. J. Harris, the whole team has cooled off. With their season heading nowhere fast, Wake Forest doesn’t have much to do outside of ruin Duke’s day and make Nikita Mescheriakov and Ty Walker‘s Senior Night memorable. With the worst defense in the league and one of the worst offenses, Wake Forest would need an exceptional game (marked by frequent trips to the line, effective perimeter defense, and a lot of luck) to surprise the Devils. Still, it’s the last week of the regular season and strange things happen when teams play for pride.

Share this story

ACC Game On: 2.15.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on February 15th, 2012

Winning on the road in the ACC will always be difficult as Virginia discovered at Clemson last night. It’s tempting to paint this win as a big upset and while it’s certainly a meaningful win for the Tigers, let’s not forget that Clemson was favored heading into the match-up. It’s a good win, but not particularly surprising. So in that same vein, tonight, we have two tough road tests on the schedule.

The Headliners

  • #7 North Carolina at Miami at 8:00 PM on ESPN

Miami, with the big win against Duke and solid in-conference performance, has played its way onto the bubble. Unfortunately, the Hurricanes are still very much a marginal team when it comes to the Big Dance. Miami needs to either win tonight against North Carolina or beat Florida State in the rematch of last weekend’s game, and probably needs to do both to warrant serious tournament consideration. Beating North Carolina is a tall order, but the results of the teams’ last meeting offers some encouragement for the Hurricanes. The 17-point win in the ACC conference opener happened before the integration of Shane Larkin into the Miami starting line up and before North Carolina’s loss of Dexter Strickland. Miami now starts an ultra-quick three guard line-up that includes Larkin, who managed six steals in 24 minutes last meeting, while North Carolina now lacks a speedy perimeter defender. Duke exposed North Carolina’s susceptibility to a well-timed three-point barrage and Miami is better positioned to exploit that than ever. Also worth mentioning is the stellar job that the Hurricanes did in limiting the effectiveness of Harrison Barnes who went 2-of-12 in the previous face-off. Miami has these advantages and the homecourt and have a real chance at upsetting the Tar Heels. Yet, when push comes to shove, North Carolina still has the clear edge. What the Tar Heels lack in perimeter speed they make up for with size and length. While the duo of Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji has been tough to defend, Tyler Zeller and John Henson match up well. Henson can be effective against Kadji’s inside-out game and Zeller has the offensive savvy to get Johnson into foul trouble early.

The Opening Act

  • Georgia Tech at Wake Forest at 7:30 PM on ESPN3.com

If Boston College didn’t exist, these two teams would each only have a single conference win. Still, one of these teams will leave this game the winner and despite Wake Forest’s home court advantage, I think Georgia Tech has the edge in this game because of their superior rebounding. Wake Forest can offset most of their disadvantages through a big night from Travis McKie and C.J. Harris, but even then, it’s not clear if the Demon Deacons can get enough significant contributions from the rest of the team to walk away with the win. In any case, this game should be closely contested even if aesthetically unpleasant.

Share this story