The eighth-ranked Miami-Florida Hurricanes continue their surprising run through the Atlantic Coast Conference as they play host to the North Carolina Tar Heels at the BankUnited Center on Saturday.
Duke and NC State were the favorites to take home the conference crown when the season began, but Jim Larranaga's Hurricanes continue to prove that they are the team to beat in the ACC. Miami comes into this contest with a lengthy 10-game win streak in tow, and has tied a school-record for its highest AP ranking ever. The Hurricanes made it a perfect 9-0 in league play with Tuesday's 72-50 blasting of Boston College, moving to 10-0 at home this year. Earlier this season, Miami became the first school not named Duke of North Carolina to start the conference slate 7-0 since 1981 (Virginia).
Roy Williams' Tar Heels are usually in the mix for the conference crown each season, but a rebuilding year was expected in Chapel Hill in 2012-13 and that is pretty much what has transpired thus far. UNC has still been ultra- competitive at 16-6 overall, but is three games back in the league standings at 6-3. North Carolina does enter this contest with a little bit of momentum, having won three straight games, including an 87-62 rout of Wake Forest on Tuesday.
The Tar Heels own an 18-3 advantage in the all-time series with the Hurricanes, but a 68-59 road win in Chapel Hill on Jan. 10 has Miami eyeing up its first regular-season sweep of North Carolina.
Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo simply overpowered the Demon Deacons, as they combined for 43 points to lead North Carolina to a home win over rival Wake Forest earlier this week. Bullock, who was 7-of-10 from the floor, including 4-of-5 from behind the arc, led all scorers with 23 points. McAdoo wasn't far behind with 20 points of his own. P.J. Hairston added 11 points in 12 minutes of work off the bench for UNC, which shot .516 from the floor, including 9-of-15 from 3-point range.
Despite shooting a modest .448 from the floor on the year, North Carolina remains one of the most explosive offensive teams in the country, ranking in the top-10 nationally in scoring at 79.1 ppg. McAdoo was touted as UNC's next All-American and has shown flashes of that brilliance, although not sustained dominance, leading the Heels in both scoring (15.3 ppg) and rebounding (8.4 rpg). Bullock (14.0 ppg) and Hairston (12.4 ppg) have provided offensive support and give the team a pair of viable long-range threats, combining for 98 of the team's 158 3-pointers to date.
Many an offensive juggernaut has fallen victim to Miami's stifling defensive play this season. The Hurricanes are holding foes to just 58.9 ppg on the year, while limiting them to just .378 shooting (18th nationally heading into the week). The healthy return of center Reggie Johnson (9.8 ppg, 9.1 rpg) only bolsters the roster the rest of the way. Johnson has missed nine games this season, but Miami soldiered on thanks to the play of guards Durand Scott (13.8 ppg) and Shane Larkin (12.8 ppg) along the perimeter, while Kenny Kadji (13.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg) has stepped up in the frontcourt. Trey McKinney Jones (9.6 ppg) provides a third threat from the outside.
Miami continue to get contributions across the board and the win over Boston College this week provided Rion Brown with an opportunity to shine, as the junior guard led all scorers with a career-high 22 points off the bench. Kadji finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Scott and Larkin tacked on 11 and 10 points, respectively.