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UNC Basketball vs. Miami: Game preview, prediction and more

It’s amazing what beating just one team can do for a team’s season.

On Saturday afternoon, the UNC men’s basketball team took down Virginia, 54-44. Not only was it the Tar Heels’ first time winning in Charlottesville since Feb. 25, 2012, but it also was a victory that, coupled with the Duke loss, moved them back into sole possession of first place in the ACC.

North Carolina isn’t on a hot streak, per se, but it has won consecutive games for the first time since January, when exceptional defense led to a 10-game winning streak.

UNC will return home for the first of three straight home games on Monday, Feb. 26, as it hosts an ice-cold Miami squad. The Hurricanes have lost six straight; their last win came against Virginia Tech on Saturday, Feb. 3.

Despite its recent struggles, Miami still has plenty of talent on its roster: Norchad Omier, Nijel Pack and Wooga Poplar to name a few. This is the same Hurricanes squad that, minus a few departures, is one season removed from its first Final Four appearance in program history.

If the Tar Heels aren’t careful, they could be staring a fourth-consecutive weekday loss in the face. This has trap game written all over it, but the hope is Saturday’s big win will be enough of a motivating factor for North Carolina.

Let’s check and see some areas we need to be looking at for Monday’s game:

Key to victory for UNC

Feb. 24, 2024; Charlottesville, Virginia; North Carolina Tar Heels guard RJ Davis (4) attempts a shot while Virginia Cavaliers Ryan Dunn (13) and Blake Buchanan (0) defend him during the first half at John Paul Jones Arena. Hannah Pajewski-USA TODAY Sports
Feb. 24, 2024; Charlottesville, Virginia; North Carolina Tar Heels guard RJ Davis (4) attempts a shot while Virginia Cavaliers Ryan Dunn (13) and Blake Buchanan (0) defend him during the first half at John Paul Jones Arena. Hannah Pajewski-USA TODAY Sports

Plain and simple: UNC has to shoot the ball better.

Miami has the ability to dig teams in a deep hole because it can get out and run in transition at any given moment. The Hurricanes have a deep scoring rotation. Four players average double-digits, led by 17.1 points per game from Norchad Omier.

The Tar Heels shot a subpar 32 percent from the field on Saturday, but luckily, UVA shot even worse at 27.6 percent. If North Carolina had been playing another up-tempo team like Duke, there’s a chance the mood in Chapel Hill could be a soggy one today.

Whether it be another solid shooting performance from Cormac Ryan or another double-double for Armando Bacot, UNC needs to find more scoring contributions against The U.

Something to watch

Feb. 24, 2024; Charlottesville, Virginia; Virginia Cavaliers guard Dante Harris (1) attempts a shot while North Carolina Tar Heels guard Cormac Ryan (3) defends during the second half at John Paul Jones Arena. Hannah Pajewski-USA TODAY Sports
Feb. 24, 2024; Charlottesville, Virginia; Virginia Cavaliers guard Dante Harris (1) attempts a shot while North Carolina Tar Heels guard Cormac Ryan (3) defends during the second half at John Paul Jones Arena. Hannah Pajewski-USA TODAY Sports

Some of the concern heading into the UNC-UVA game was on the Tar Heels’ ability to win in Charlottesville, while some was on North Carolina’s ability to play improved defense.

UNC killed two birds with one stone Saturday, winning by 10 and holding the Cavaliers to under 30 percent from the field.

Before Saturday, Tar Heel opponents scored 74 points in six straight games. Four of those opponents reached the 80-point plateau, a far cry from UNC’s 10-game winning streak, when no one scored more than 70 points against UNC.

Which North Carolina defense will we see on Monday evening?

What you need to know

WHAT? UNC (21-6, 13-3 ACC) vs. Miami (FL) (15-13, 6-11)
WHEN? Monday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. ET
WHERE? Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.
TV? ESPN (Watch and stream the game live on WatchESPN)
RADIO? Sirius XM (Channel 193 or 382)
LINE? N/A
LAST MEETING? UNC won 75-72 in Coral Gables, Florida, on Saturday, Feb. 10
ALL-TIME SERIES? UNC leads, 27-10
PREDICTION? UNC 102, Miami 77

Story originally appeared on Tarheels Wire