ACC Predictions: UM looks for signature late-season victory

Zach Johnson is one of 16 active players nationally to score 1,500 career points and rack up 350 career assists. Photo credit: Josh Halper

12 p.m. Feb. 9 – Miami vs. No. 8 North Carolina

The Tar Heels have already beaten the Hurricanes this season, 85-76 at the Watsco Center on Jan. 19.

Both teams played well offensively in that game, but a late 3-point barrage led by senior Cam Johnson helped UNC pull away.

Things will be even tougher this time around in Chapel Hill, where the Heels have lost only to the red-hot Louisville Cardinals.

The UNC offense has been clicking in their ongoing six-game win streak, lifting them up to second in scoring in the nation.

North Carolina is coming off a 113-96 victory over in-state rival North Carolina State. Senior forward Luke Maye finished with a season-high 31 points and 12 rebounds.

Freshmen standouts Nassir Little and Coby White have provided the Tar Heels with an elite edge in the second part of conference play.

As usual, UNC’s biggest strength is their rebounding, where their nation-leading average of 43 rebounds per game leads Miami’s mark by more than 10 boards per contest.

The Hurricanes won the battle of the boards in their recent win over Notre Dame for the first time in Atlantic Coast Conference play and will need a similar group effort in order to keep pace on the glass.

Miami’s best avenue to a big upset would involve trying to find a way to limit the amount of open 3-pointers for North Carolina while getting enough rebounds to prevent too many second chances to score.

Prediction: North Carolina 90 — Miami 73

7 p.m. Feb. 13 – Miami vs. Clemson

Miami kicks off a string of four straight unranked opponents against the Clemson Tigers in Coral Gables.

Clemson guard Marquise Reed led the Tigers in scoring and assists with 19.1 and 3.3 per game, respectively. Fellow senior Elijah Thomas is one of the ACC’s best shot-blockers, averaging two blocks.

Thomas’ efficient inside scoring threat, ranks just above Miami’s Ebuka Izundu and below only Duke’s Zion Williamson in the league by converting 65.9 percent of his shot attempts.

The winner of the Izundu-Thomas battle could decide the game.

Miami doesn’t need to be concerned with being overwhelmed with depth, an issue that has sunk them all season. Clemson’s rotation features just six players getting more than 23 minutes per game, half of whom are play 30 minutes minutes or more.

This one should be pretty tight, but the home fans will give the Hurricanes the edge.

Prediction: Miami 64  — Clemson 61