The Eye Of The Hurricane
This is far more about what Miami did than Carolina did not Saturday afternoon in Coral Gables.
But, don’t kid yourself, what the Tar Heels couldn’t do contributed heavily to their 87-61 blowout to the ACC-unbeaten Hurricanes who, frankly, keep playing like their nickname bearing down on the Final Four in Atlanta. If there is a better college team in the country than Miami, I haven’t seen it. And probably won’t.
Still, it would have helped if Carolina had made more than one of its first eight shots while the ‘Canes were going 5-for-6 out of the blocks. And getting back on defense would have been nice, especially when 6-11, 242-pound Kenny Kadji beat all of the half-hearted Heels down the court for a snowbird.
Fighting through screens instead of giving into them, and getting out on the shooters, might have held Miami to under 58 percent shooting from the arc (15 of 26). And, after proving he’s still not big enough and strong enough to play with true college post men, maybe James Michael McAdoo ought to try a two-handed dunk since his flying one-handers get blocked by real men.
Carolina has a freshman point guard who’s learning the college game. Miami has a sophomore point guard who went to spring training as a kid until Shane Larkin told Barry Larkin he liked basketball more than baseball. The kid has his dad’s athletic DNA and has become the motor that makes Miami a devastating transition team.
The Heels were completely outclassed, the same way the ‘Canes drubbed Duke back in January, and it now looks like the March 2 trip to Durham is the only thing separating Miami from going undefeated in the ACC’s first 18-game regular season. The team that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2008 and only once in the last 10 years will be one tough out in the Big Dance.
Bronx-born Jim Larranaga, who took George Mason on that magical run to the Final Four in 2006 (beating UNC on the way), has the coaching chops to get his new team back there. The 63-year-old sideline journeyman may have taken one look at the upper class-laden Miami roster and deduced that taking his talents to South Beach was good way to end his coaching career.
The veteran ‘Canes can ’em from outside, bank ’em from the elbow and dunk ’em from down low. And they made it hard for the Heels to get any good looks inside of 20 feet, where Carolina avoided complete obliteration by hitting 5-of-11 three-pointers (three from P.J. Hairston) in the first half. But Miami scored 12 points on Tar Heel turnovers, and once the lead was in double digits, there was no comeback coming. We knew it. Carolina knew it and Miami would not allow it.
The U moved to 10-0 in the ACC by shooting 55 percent and holding Carolina to 39, limiting the Tar Heels to a season-low six trips to the foul line by keeping them out of the bonus in both halves of a fast and physical game. As discussed ad nauseam, Carolina has no low post play and cannot create the usual number of free throw attempts.
With Lebron James and D-Wade watching from the stands, suiting up the Heat stars could not have made it any more one sided.
It was a close to a perfect game as you will see in basketball, great shooting and defense that kept Carolina from executing most anything. Reggie Bullock remained the most consistent Tar Heel with 14 points and seven rebounds, but Bullock wouldn’t start and might not get many minutes for Miami. That’s how suddenly disparate the talent is between the two teams.
Marcus Paige and McAdoo, who have played so well of late, went 4-for-21 and both of them were as much out of their element as Miami usually is against the Tar Heels. Paige missed all five of his treys and McAdoo could not contend with Kadji, Reggie Johnson or Julian Gamble, the ‘Canes massive front line.
The game marked the beginning of the second half of the ACC season for the Tar Heels, who have to go to Duke Wednesday on Mike Krzyzewski’s 66th birthday and still have to visit Clemson, Georgia Tech and Maryland. They also have Virginia, State, Florida State and Duke at home, none of which will be easy.
So if they awake Thursday with a 6-5 ACC record, how hard will it be to get the 10 conference wins and 20 overall needed to insure a bid to the NCAA Tournament? After all, this is a season of mediocrity in what is usually the best basketball league in America. Only two teams are ranked and have proven themselves true contenders for the ACC and national championships.
Carolina is neither of them, but plays both of them within a span of four days. From the eye of the Hurricane to the chaos of the Crazies.