North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Miami Hurricanes Preview and Pick

North Carolina Tar Heels (18-1) -9, 155 O/U at Miami Hurricanes (14-3) +9, 155 O/U, BankUnited Center, Coral Gables, Florida, 9 PM Eastern, Wednesday
by Badger of Predictem.com

Now that their undefeated season has gone down the tubes, the North Carolina Tar Heels will look to get back on the winning track when they travel to Coral Gables, Fla., to take on the Miami Hurricanes in Wednesday night ACC action.

The Tar Heels lost their first game of the year on Saturday when Maryland came into the Dean Dome and sprung an 82-80 upset. The loss knocked them from the No. 1 ranking down to No. 5, but it was just the latest nail-biter in recent action for the Heels. North Carolina squeaked by Georgia Tech 83-82 the game before the upset, and needed overtime to beat Clemson (90-88) on the road earlier in ACC competition.

Miami has also gone on a mini losing streak since starting out the season as one of the biggest surprises in college hoops with a 12-0 record. The Hurricanes dropped a stunner on the road at North Carolina State last Saturday, 79-77, in overtime. The loss at NC State was their second in a row after dropping a 76-66 decision at Boston College earlier in the week, and both losses dropped the Hurricanes out of the top-25 rankings.

The good news for the Hurricanes is that they are finally back home in the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables. Miami has been flawless at home this season, going a perfect 9-0 with an impressive 22.2 points per game margin of victory.

Most basketball sportsbooks opened the game with North Carolina as a 9-point favorite, with a 155-point total. The early numbers on the moneyline have North Carolina at a -330, with Miami getting a +290.

North Carolina not only has one of the countrys top offenses, but they dominate most of the ACCs offensive categories as well. The Heels own the ACCs best scoring offenses at 91.1 points per game (2nd in NCAA) and one of the top rebounding margins per game at 11.2 more than their opponent.

Forward Tyler Hansbrough lead the Tar Heel attack with an ACC-high of 21.3 ppg, 10.2 rpg, and the ACCs 2nd-best shooting percentage at 54.5 percent from the floor. Hansbrough is by no means a one-man show, as the Heels also have three other players (Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson and Danny Green) that average double digits in scoring.

Miami has a decent offense that goes through guard Jack McClinton first. McClinton scored 26 points last time out versus NC State, and for the season he averages 16.4 points and nearly 3 assists per game. James Dews rounds out the backcourt and is the Hurricanes next best scoring threat (11.5 ppg), but forward Raymond Hicks and center Anthony King are also capable options (13 points each at NC State). As a team they are averaging 76.8 points per game and shooting 44.2 percent from the floor and 39.9 percent from 3-point range.

One of the reasons the Tar Heels lost to Maryland last week is their defense, or lack there of at times. For the season they allow opponents to shoot 42 percent from the floor, and Maryland took advantage of that by shooting 47 percent in the upset. They also allow an average of 71.3 points per game, which usually isnt a problem when they go for 90-plus a game, but in close games their defense is an Achilles heel.

Miami is a little stronger on defense, but they have to be since they dont have the offensive firepower of the Heels. Their 62.8 points per game allowed is strong (56th overall), and their 38.7 percent shooting percentage allowed is second in the ACC behind only Maryland (21st in NCAA), and we already know how well Maryland did versus the Heels.

The Tar Heels own the series versus these two schools, winning 10 of the 12 total meetings overall and four of the five meetings since the Hurricanes joined the ACC. Miami did however spring an upset on North Carolina at home back in 2003, by a score of 64-61 in overtime.

What makes this an enticing game for sports bettors is the fact that both teams have been strong moneymakers all season long. North Carolina is 12-4 ATS (6-0 on the road, but 1-3 in last four games), while Miami is 8-1-1 ATS (4-0 at home, 2-1-1 in last four games). Their records against the spread in head-to-head matchups are dead even at 3-3, with North Carolina covering the last two in a row as 24.5-point favorites (Jan. 07 - a 105-64 win) and 1-point underdogs (Feb. 06 - a 80-70 win).

Badgers Pick: I expect the Tar Heels to come out with a little revenge on their minds in this one, following the stinker at home versus Maryland. That, along with the fact that Miami really hasnt played anyone good until the start of their ACC schedule (now 1-2 in ACC) makes me lean toward the Tar Heels in this game, even though it is on Miamis home floor. The Hurricanes will keep it close for most of the game, but the Heels will get them in foul trouble and wear them down with their depth late in the second half and cover this game in the end. Take the Tar Heels minus the points.