Miami-North Carolina Preview
North Carolina and freshman Harrison Barnes endured growing
pains after entering the season with high expectations.
Those days seem to be a long way away now.
The sixth-ranked Tar Heels enter the ACC tournament on a
seven-game win streak and as the No. 1 seed when they take on Miami
on Friday at the Greensboro Coliseum.
North Carolina (24-6) was ranked eighth in the preseason, with
Barnes heralded as one of the top freshmen in the nation. The Tar
Heels sputtered to a 4-3 start to drop out of the rankings, with
Barnes averaging 11.3 points on 33.8 percent shooting.
The forward is playing much better now, averaging 17.1 points
during this win streak. He helped the Tar Heels end a three-game
skid to then-No. 4 Duke with 18 points Saturday in an 81-67 win
that clinched the regular-season title.
Barnes was named the ACC rookie of the year and realizes that
the pressure is back on the Tar Heels now.
“It’s just a slight change of focus knowing that the target’s on
our back,” he said. “We’re coming in as the No. 1 seed so
everyone’s going to come have it out for us. We have to come ready
This season seemed to be headed in the opposite direction after
point guard Larry Drew quit before a game against Florida State on
Feb. 6. The Tar Heels have since won eight of nine and appear to be
“I think they’re still hungry and they see themselves getting
better,” coach Roy Williams said. “When you see yourself get
better, that gives you more confidence. You get greedy, you want
Miami (19-13) is clearly focused on Barnes since he keyed North
Carolina’s seventh straight win in the series, 74-71 on Jan. 26. He
made a 15-footer with 1:09 left to tie the score and added the
go-ahead 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds to go.
“We gotta find Harrison Barnes immediately because he hit two
big shots,” Hurricanes guard Malcolm Grant said. “We gotta find him
when he comes into the arena and make sure he doesn’t do that
The Miami game was the second one for freshman Kendall Marshall
after replacing Drew in the starting lineup. Marshall is averaging
7.0 assists in his 13 starts and has given the Tar Heels steady
leadership despite being in his first season.
“He accepted that challenge and really took it upon himself to
really expect more out of himself, to try to do more and try to be
more perfect,” Williams said. “He’s done an amazing job. It’s one
of the best step forwards I’ve seen a freshman take.”
The ninth-seeded Hurricanes reached the tournament semifinals
last season, but barely avoided elimination on day one this time.
They rallied from 10 down with 42.5 seconds left in regulation in a
69-62 overtime win over Virginia on Thursday.
Miami missed 17 of its first 19 shots in the second half before
scoring the final 10 points in regulation. Grant finished with 16
points as the Hurricanes made all five shots in overtime.
“You’ve got to give these guys credit in not quitting and making
plays down the stretch to give us a chance to win,” coach Frank