UNC vs. Miami: Three things to watch

After two impressive back-to-back ACC wins, the UNC Tar Heels are riding high, but that happened before this season. The challenge for Hubert Davis and his team is to maintain their high level of play, not let the intensity and focus fade, and really become a team that could be a force in March. They will be tested when they travel to Coral Gables tomorrow night to face Miami, which leads the ACC with a 5-1 conference record, including a road win over Duke. Here are some things to watch out for:

Under Jim Larrañaga, Miami’s calling card on offense has been fast guards and big sportsmen executing high pick-and-rolls to extend the defense and bring down their guards, requiring a strong, smart assist defense to force. bad looks and turnovers. This year’s edition has a few wrinkles, showcasing backdoor cuts from the wings, but to beat Miami you need to do a good job defending the point of attack. UNC had what can be called an adventurous season defending the pick-and-roll, with Davis changing his plan several times because his previous covers weren’t quite working out. Looks better lately; Davis no longer has his big drops and they’ve done well changing ball handler paths, and Caleb Love and RJ Davis are fighting harder to get through ball screens instead of requiring hard switches. Miami may be their toughest test yet, as both Kameron McGusty and Isaiah Wong are very quick and very good scorers across the board – Wong hasn’t had a great outside shooting year, but he’s been decent in conference and has a solid track record. Davis, Love and Leaky Black will have to do an expert job of navigating the screens and managing to stay in their man’s hip pockets so their team’s defense doesn’t get cut out. Miami is a decent shooting team, but they have faith inside. Stop that and this game is much easier.

UNC picked up three players against Georgia Tech: Kerwin Walton and Dawson Garcia returned from Covid-19 protocols, and Puff Johnson saw court for the first time in nearly a calendar year after recovering from a series of injuries. Both Walton and Garcia had decent shares of minutes and looked rusty: Walton was 0-2 from deep, while Garcia missed all four field goal attempts, many near the basket. They were remarkably active, however, with Walton throwing in some fine assists and Garcia grabbing 11 rebounds in 20 minutes. If they can regain their attacking prowess after a few extra days of training, they will be real assets to the team – Garcia to give Armando Bacot and Brady Manek a break, and Walton possibly helping replace Anthony Harris on the winger, who missed the game against Georgia Tech for undisclosed reasons and whose return is undetermined. Johnson, if he’s really healthy and ready to go, potentially adds a dimension that this team doesn’t really have at the forward positions, with his length and his shot – he blocked a three-pointer in his minutes of foul weather, and UNC has missed for blocked shots this year. It will be interesting to see how many of them we see on Tuesday.

Offensively and defensively, the strength of this Miami team lies in their guarding game. Wong, McGusty and Charlie Moore are the Hurricanes’ three double-digit scorers, and they’re good perimeter defenders though they’re all susceptible to being exploited inside. Swingman Jordan Miller is probably their best defender overall, and starting big man Sam Waardenburg doesn’t offer much edge resistance. It’s obviously a good opportunity for reigning ACC two-time Player of the Week Armando Bacot to continue to feast on the inside, but players like Love and Garcia should also be looking to attack inside the team. defending the Canes and getting some of their interior scoring mojo. comeback – Garcia after missing time, and Love because as hot as he was on the outside, he struggled a bit to score on the inside in conference games. Miami seems like a good opportunity for him, especially as a ball player, to rediscover some of the scoring talent he displayed at the start of the year.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, all of you.