Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, February 8, 2013 at 7:00 AM
It hasn’t been often in the past where a matchup like North Carolina-Miami attracted a lot of attention in college basketball. But, suddenly, it’s one of the showcase games on a Saturday afternoon in the build-up to March Madness!
And, it’s BACKWARDS!
It’s #8 Miami that’s currently in line for a seed as high as #2 in the Big Dance. And, it’s North Carolina who’s UNRANKED, and only in position to get into the Dance as a spoiler because they can’t seem to sustain any success that comes their way.
Sharp sports bettors have already made good money fading overrated North Carolina in the right spots, and riding this new Miami bandwagon. Has the market finally adjusted? Did Miami peak too early, only to find out that North Carolina is positioned to peak right when they need to? Let’s run this earl Saturday matchup through our gauntlet of key indicators. Note that we’ll be doing the same thing tomorrow for the prime time “GameDay” matchups of Louisville at Notre Dame that will air in prime time on ESPN.
N. Carolina: 16-6 (6-3 in the ACC)
Miami-Fla: 18-3 (9-0 in the ACC)
Miami already has wins over Duke and NC State. North Carolina hasn’t played Duke yet, and lost to NC State. It should be noted that Miami wasn’t playing at full strength earlier in the season, and that it took awhile for the pieces to really gel. They really have been as good as 9-0 in the ACC would suggest since things clicked. Those early season losses will hurt in resume discussions when the selection committee is deciding where to finally put them. North Carolina is always talented…but they don’t really have championship talent at the moment. That gives them a chance to upset Miami Saturday…but they’ll need a below par performance from the Hurricanes to pull that off.
N. Carolina: #24 with Sagarin, #36 with Pomeroy
Miami-Fla: #10 with Sagarin, #10 with Pomeroy
You regulars know we use the publicly available numbers from Jeff Sagarin at USA Today, and from college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy. They agree on Miami at #10 for the season, and that’s with the weight of early losses pulling the Hurricanes down. There’s not agreement on Carolina. Sagarin has them in the top 25, the equivalent of a #6 seed in the Big Dance. Pomeroy has them a dozen spots lower, more like a #9 seed.
COMPUTER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS
N. Carolina: #47 with Sagarin, #57 with Pomeroy
Miami-Fla: #5 with Sagarin, #6 with Pomeroy
Well, maybe Miami’s resume won’t look so bad after all with those early losses! Remember that there are more than 300 teams being rated. It’s true that Miami is in uncharted territory for the program. But, they’re much more battle-tested this year than the media has realized. Remember that North Carolina schedules reasonably tough in November and December because they like being on TV. Miami actually scheduled much tougher this season. Big thing to remember come March.
WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN’S TOP 50
N. Carolina: 2-5
Though Miami grades out with the toughest schedule, it’s currently Carolina who’s played more games vs. Sagarin’s top 50. To this point, they have clearly been outclassed. They’ve lost five of seven, and will be the underdog early Saturday in Miami. The maturity just isn’t there yet to produce when needed against quality. Miami of Florida HAS produced when challenged. Will that lead to overconfidence against Carolina? That’s what’s so exciting about handicapping Miami games right now. They’re either for real, and an exciting new addition to the landscape…or there about to burn up under the spotlight.
JOE LUNARDI’S BRACKETOLOGY
N. Carolina: projected #9 seed
Miami-Fla: projected #2 seed
It’s never too early to be thinking about the Dance. North Carolina is safely in, but is still positioned to play spoiler because of their inconsistency. And, that poor record vs. quality suggests playing spoiler may be a longshot. They have a chance to change some minds Saturday. Miami’s in position to make history for the program, under a head coach in Jim Larranaga who’s actually been to the Final Four already (with George Mason).
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS
N. Carolina: #61
Now, let’s get to the chess game. North Carolina has struggled on offense by Dance standards. If you’re thinking about 300-plus teams, then ranking #61 is something to be proud of. If you’re trying to pin down who the best 40 teams in the nation are, then that’s a very poor offensive ranking. It’s WAY behind what you need to be doing if you’re hoping to make headlines in March. The best teams attack the basket for easy deuces while earning free throw attempts…or they do a lot of damage from long range. Carolina can use their athleticism to outmatch weak teams, but the offense sputters vs. quality. Miami shows up well enough here…but may have trouble themselves if they’re able to work into the Sweet 16 or beyond. Edge in this matchup: Miami.
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS
N. Carolina: #33
This is where Miami really shines. As long as they keep their heads on straight, they’re going to battle every opponent to the wire. You always hear us saying “Defense Wins Championships!” Miami has been playing championship caliber defense this season. In this sense, they are extremely legitimate. They’re not playing over their heads offensively. They’re not abusing a soft schedule. They might be a Cinderella story in terms of being a new kid on the block. The new kid on the block is a BULLY that plays great defense!
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED TEMPO RANKINGS
N. Carolina: #3
As you’ve seen in other write-ups this season and past years, whenever there’s a big difference in pace, it’s typically the HOME team that’s able to enforce its preferred tempo on a game. That means Miami will try to slow things down to keep North Carolina from betting easy baskets. Carolina will be forced into a wrestling match that doesn’t particularly suit their talent or schematics. Come March, you’ll need to remember that Carolina will be well-positioned to outplay FAST teams who have soft defenses. Come early Saturday, they’ll be dealing with the exact opposite of that.
If Miami has its head on straight, they’re positioned to take care of business. They match up VERY well as a home favorite given the numbers we’ve seen above. The problem for handicappers is…Kansas matched up very well with TCU, Florida matched up very well with Arkansas, and you just never know when a favorite is going to lose focus and come out flat! You wouldn’t think Miami would do that against a big name program like Carolina. But, smashing Duke on this floor could inspire the kind of overconfidence that’s poison to an up-and-comer.
JIM HURLEY will be working very closely with his on-site sources to get a read on Miami’s mindset. If the Hurricanes are ready to play, and Vegas underestimates their blowout potential…Miami could be a major release for NETWORK. On the other hand, if Miami’s likely to be flat, then talented Carolina would be a tasty upset special.
You can purchase the final word Saturday morning here at the website(after building your bankrolls Friday Night in the NBA!). Other big games we’re looking at Saturday:
#11 Louisville at #25 Notre Dame (preview coming tomorrow)
#23 Pittsburgh at #17 Cincinnati
#3 Michigan at Wisconsin (Wisconsin should be ranked!)
#5 Kansas at Oklahoma
Iowa State at #13 Kansas State (Iowa State should be ranked!)
#15 New Mexico at UNLV
A slew of March Madness teams will be in big TV games this weekend. Be sure you’re cashing tickets AND scouting the Big Dance.
If you’re ready to talk about seasonal packages, give us a call in the office at 1-800-323-4453. JIM HURLEY is driving the BIG MONEY BANDWAGON on THE ROAD TO MARCH MADNESS!