(Editor’s note: Special thanks to Akula Wolf with http://www.backingthepack.com/ for working on this collaboration and providing advanced scouting on NC State)
Coming off of an exhilarating and clutch win over FSU, Miami returns to action in Raleigh with another huge match-up against the suddenly struggling NC State Wolfpack (Wednesday 9PM EST Raycom/ESPN3). While the Hurricanes may have saved their NCAA hopes by thrashing Florida St, 78-62 on Sunday, NC State comes in losers of 4 in a row. They likely need to win their last 2 contests as well as make a run in the ACC Tournament to salvage any chances of being selected. Earlier this year the Wolfpack did defeat UM 78-73 at the Bank United Center. After the game Coach Jim Larranaga questioned his ‘Canes, and they responded with 5 wins in a row. That game may have been the turning point in Miami’s season, but this game may be its most important. It is unclear whether Reggie Johnson will be cleared in time for this match-up.
Atlantic Coast Conference Standings
|North Carolina (7)||12-2||25-4|
|Florida St. (15)||10-4||19-9|
Projected Starting Lineups:
C Reggie Johnson 6’10 290 JR
or Raphael Akpejori 6’10 230 SO
F Kenny Kadji 6’11 260 SO
G Shane Larkin 5’11 160 FR
G Malcolm Grant 6’1 188 SR
G Durand Scott 6’4 198 JR
F Richard Howell 6’8 250 JR
F CJ Leslie 6’8 209 SO
F Scott Wood 6’6 177 JR
G CJ Williams 6’5 224 SR
G Lorenzo Brown 6’5 189 SO
Keys to the Game: Avoid the “Woodshed”. After the FSU game Jim Larranaga admitted they had a goal of knocking down 10 threes and 20 free throws. And while they only knocked down 9 threes, they made up for it with 23 free throws. Against NC State we imagine Coach L might set a number to the amount of touches they allow for Scott Wood. In January Wood lit up the ‘Canes for 21 points, including 4-6 from downtown.
Win with Depth. NC State only plays 7 players and their starters tend to play 30 minutes or more nearly every time out. Wood, CJ Leslie, Lorenzo Brown. and CJ Williams are all very talented players, but we wonder if extended minutes haven’t left those guys with tired legs. In the meantime Miami has enjoyed sparkling bench play of late featuring the all around game of Rion Brown, the red-hot shooting of Trey McKinney Jones, and the ferocious athleticism of DeQuan Jones. The biggest mismatch in this game is the ‘Canes depth. This becomes even more a factor if Reggie Johnson is cleared in time to play.
Key Match-up: Scott Wood VS Trey McKinney Jones/Rion Brown. As we noted earlier, Wood killed UM the last time these two teams played. Something tells me this time around TMJ and RB will stick to Wood like glue, while keeping him busy on the defensive end as both have been shooting the ball very well in the last few games.
Prediction: Miami has come too far to let their NCAA hopes falter. Injuries, suspensions, and a new system have not deterred the resilient ‘Canes. CJ Leslie and Scott Wood are too good to let the Wolfpack roll over, but there’s no way UM shoots just 2-20 again on threes as they did in the first match-up. Kenny Kadji is a force to be reckoned with, and Malcolm Grant continues to return to form. Look for Grant to score in double figures in this one. Miami makes another statement on the road, 77-70.
Here is our full Q&A with Akula Wolf of http://www.backingthepack.com/
Please check their site to see our answers to their questions.
C6: If you could pick an all time NC State team who would be the starting five, and who would be the go to player?
BP: Wow, that’s tough. Do I go with the best players in school history regardless of era, or do I try to build a team that could compete in today’s game? David Thompson is a no-brainer, of course, and he’d be the focal point of the offense.
I’d probably go small and take Chris Corchiani and Rodney Monroe as well. Ronnie Shavlik and Tommy Burleson would make up my front court. Julius Hodge is my sixth man. Anthony Grundy. Tom Gugliotta. Thurl Bailey. Todd Fuller. Kenny Carr. Sorry, I accidentally built a whole team.
C6: NC State has struggled of late. What has been their main weakness in the recent losing streak? Has depth been a concern?
BP: I don’t know that there’s any one thing to point to. Well, other than sadness. NC State just couldn’t close out Duke in Durham and it seemed to snowball from there. They were flat against Florida State a couple days later, and then didn’t play that poorly against UNC, but the Heels were really good that night. The Clemson game was a complete choke job in the final minute. It happens.
Depth is always a concern for this team, but I don’t think that’s been any more trouble of late than it has been all season.
C6: In the last match-up Scott Wood played extremely well. Who else on the Wolfpack do you feel will give the ‘Canes problems? Which players on Miami do you feel will give NC State issues?
BP: State has several players that can give most teams problems, it’s just a question of how they’re playing on the night in question. That’s one of State’s issues; it’s hard to know what to expect out of anybody on a game-to-game basis. Calvin Leslie and Lorenzo Brown can be big difference-makers, Scott Wood can hit six threes to change a game, but all of those guys have an ability to fade into the background or shoot their way out of the game.
I was really impressed by Kenny Kadji in the first meeting and I think he’ll create plenty of trouble for State’s frontcourt guys. I think that Scott and Grant have the potential to be tough matchups as well.
C6: What does NC State need to do to get back in the Tournament discussion? Do you feel Miami is worthy of a selection?
BP: State probably needs to win four games in a row, at minimum. It’s always hard to tell, though. I think Miami is definitely worthy of a selection, and the situation could be a lot different for that team had Reggie Johnson been available and in game shape all season.
C6: How do you see the game playing out/what is your prediction for the outcome?
BP: I have no idea how they’re going to respond to the losing streak at this point, so your guess is as good as mine. I’ve had a feeling for a while that Miami would have its revenge, and I still feel that way.
Thanks again to Akula Wolf for working with us.