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

to play.”

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

Haith said.