ACC preview: Miami out to avoid letdown

The task for Miami is simple: following up a win over North Carolina with another solid performance. But if Jim Larranaga’s team hasn’t fully moved on from that victory, it could find itself in trouble against a deep and talented Maryland club.

The Hurricanes welcome the Terrapins to Coral Gables for a 6 p.m. tip Sunday evening and given the adversity Miami has already faced — which includes playing six true road games already and losing starting center Reggie Johnson a few weeks ago — this group may be well equipped to handle the situation.

Prior to Johnson’s pre-Christmas injury, the Hurricanes (11-3 and 2-0 in the ACC) were playing as well as any ACC team not named Duke. They beat Michigan State, won at Massachusetts, beat Charlotte and won at Hawaii. But then a blowout loss to Arizona and an overtime loss to Indiana State on neutral courts in Honolulu derailed what had been built up.

“When we got to Hawaii we were exhausted …,” Larranaga said Thursday night after his team beat UNC at the Dean Smith Center. “Trey McKinney-Jones was in the hospital with a 105-degree temperature, Durand Scott’s back tightened up on the trip — he couldn’t move, he couldn’t bend over. Shane Larkin tweaked his ankle and Reggie Johnson broke his thumb, so there was a lot of things.

“We played very well the first night without Reggie, beating Hawaii, but then we lost to a very good Arizona team, and the against Indiana we just totally ran out of gas with about five minutes to go.”

But the Hurricanes have won consecutive road ACC games and finally return home to take on Maryland (13-2, 1-1) for just their second home game since Dec. 14.

Pick: Miami 64-60

Jan. 12

Duke (15-0, 2-0 ACC) at N.C. State (13-2, 2-0)
Full Court Press: There are plenty of keys in this game, but the most important one will be how the Wolfpack handle the stage. They have more talent in their first six than Duke, will be at home and have every incentive one can imagine to win. Scott Wood must hit a few threes, Lorenzo Brown must continue running the show like a pro, Richard Howell has to rebound and avoid foul trouble, and C.J. Leslie can’t bring down his teammates. The possible X-factor is freshman forward T.J. Warren, perhaps the top sixth man in the ACC. Duke must get a big day from Seth Curry on the perimeter, Mason Plumlee in the paint, and some production from its bench. Ryan Kelly won’t play, meaning someone else needs to step up to help keep Duke among the ranks of the unbeaten.
Pick: N.C. State 82-77

Virginia (11-4, 1-1) at Clemson (8-6, 0-2)
Full Court Press: Virginia followed its win over North Carolina by losing at Wake Forest, so a loss at Clemson will more than cancel out that victory. The Cavaliers must win the rebounding battle and get good looks against the Tigers’ usually excellent defense. Clemson has to find ways to score, which has been an issue against most decent teams, and no doubt will be versus Virginia. The Cavaliers’ perimeter shooting will be the difference.
Pick: Virginia 58-52.

North Carolina (10-5, 0-2) at Florida State (10-5, 2-0)
2 p.m.
Full Court Press: The last time UNC went to Tallahassee the Tar Heels lost by 33 points. That was last season when the Heels won 32 games and then provided four of the top 17 picks in last summer’s NBA draft. The current Heels don’t compare to last year’s team and while Florida State isn’t as good either, the Seminoles are still capable of routing the struggling Heels. The more Ian Miller plays for Florida State, the better.
Pick: Florida State 74-66.

Virginia Tech (9-6, 0-2) at Georgia Tech (10-4, 0-2)
2:30 p.m.
Full Court Press: The Yellow Jackets have played pretty well in ACC games but haven’t won yet. That should change against a Hokies team that has completely fallen apart. Virginia Tech has dropped its last four games by a total of 104 points even with the nation’s leading scorer, Erik Green, doing his thing. Georgia Tech freshman big Robert Carter should have some success but most important is that the Jackets need to convert in transition and at the rim better than they did  in Wednesday’s loss at N.C. State.
Pick: Georgia Tech 77-65.

Boston College (9-6, 1-1) at Wake Forest (8-6, 1-1)
4 p.m.
Full Court Press: One of these teams is going to win a second consecutive ACC game. Boston College scored 54 second-half points at Virginia Tech on Wednesday, led by Ryan Anderson’s 26 for the game. Travis McKie and C.J. Harris have to play well for Wake Forest to beat anyone, especially teams from solid leagues. The Demon Deacons have beaten Xavier and played Duke tougher than expected and they beat Virginia. They are playing well and that should continue.
Pick: Wake Forest 66-61.

Season record: 124-26