Wake Forest at Miami
Wake Forest (12-14, 3-9) at Miami (15-9, 6-5), 1:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
Despite the loss to North Carolina, Miami is still in very good shape going forward, and this is certainly a very winnable game – a must-win, really, if Miami is to have any NCAA Tournament hopes. Wake Forest managed to get its first win in nearly a month against Georgia Tech, but it was a hideous game and the Deacons have won just one road game since beating High Point at the buzzer on December 7th.
Stat to watch: The foul line. This is pretty much the only statistic that Wake Forest excels in, both offensively and defensively. And it’s one of the only statistical areas that Miami has really struggled with in ACC play, in almost every game. Wake Forest still has one of the highest free-throw rates in the country (42.7 ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts, 32nd nationally) and allows just a 31.2 ratio (58th nationally). Miami got to the line a lot before league play, and for some reason, adding a lightning-quick point guard and a physically-imposing big man has translated to fewer free throw attempts. The Hurricanes are 10th in the league in free throw rate (25.7). They’ll have to find a way to get to the line or at the very least keep Wake Forest off it.
Most important players: Trey McKinney-Jones, Miami and C.J. Harris, Wake Forest. McKinney-Jones is a just a freshman, so he has an excuse for making silly plays now and again. But at times, those plays have really hurt Miami and they did against North Carolina. He finished with 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting (3-of-5 from three) but also tied for the team lead with four turnovers. In the second half, he was 1-of-5 (1-of-3 from three) for three points and added three turnovers in 14 minutes. Two of his turnovers came in a 56-second span when North Carolina was making a run to retake the lead. But he mixed in some nice plays, like a lob to Rion Brown for a dunk. But his turnovers led to four of Carolina’s 11 points off turnovers in the second half. It would be great if he could build some consistency and continue to improve his decision-making against Wake, a team that hasn’t offered much defensive resistance.
Harris has not hit many field goals against Miami in his career – in four career games, his most field goals is three – but at home in a loss to Miami last year, he had 24 points because he hit 17-of-18 foul shots. He hit 3-of-3 field goal attempts (1-of-1 three-pointers). That’s an insane amount of free throws and Harris averages 8.3 attempts from the foul line against Miami in his career. The Hurricanes have struggles at times with keeping opponents off the line, and Harris is excellent at getting to the line. Harris had his fist single-digit scoring effort of the season against Georgia Tech (eight points) and was just 2-of-8 from the field, tied for his worst shooting performance of the year. When he has four or fewer free-throw attempts, he has averaged 12.4 points compared to 16.7 with more than four attempts, so Miami has to keep him off the line.
Random stat: Miami big man Reggie Johnson is shooting nearly the same percentage from two (55.1%) as he is from three (50.0%, of 3-of-6).
Prediction: Miami 76, Wake Forest 58
Last week: 7-4
Season: 111-39 (47-20 ACC)