(2) Miami-Florida (22-3) at Wake Forest (11-14)
Saturday, February 23, 1 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum (14,665) -- Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Television: RSN, CSN-BAL+, ESPN3. Home Record: Miami 12-0, Wake Forest 9-4. Away Record: Miami 10-1, Wake Forest 1-8. Neutral Record: Miami 0-2, Wake Forest 1-2. Conference Record: Miami 13-0, Wake Forest 4-9. Series Record: Wake Forest leads, 8-6.
GAME NOTES: The second-ranked Miami Hurricanes control their destiny as it relates to winning the ACC regular-season title, and they'll take another step toward that goal should they beat Wake Forest on Saturay afternoon.
Miami's season has been one for the ages, as head coach Jim Larranaga has directed the Hurricanes to a 22-3 overall record, which includes a perfect 13-0 league ledger. The team hasn't lost since slipping up versus Indiana State (57-55 in OT) on Christmas Day in the finale of the Diamon Head Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii. All the 'Canes have done since then is win 14 straight, the most recent of which occurred at home against Virginia on Tuesday, 54-50.
At just 11-14 overall and 4-9 in conference, Wake Forest will try to play the role of spoiler as it looks to hand Miami its first league loss. The Demon Deacons are 9-4 at home this season, but they've lost two of their last three at Joel Colisem. Overall, Wake has dropped two straight, six of its last seven, and eight of its last 10. Georgia Tech was the latest team to knock off the Deacs, doing so in Winston-Salem last Saturday, 57-56.
Wake Forest owns a narrow 8-6 lead in the all-time series with Miami, and the Demon Deacons have won six of the previous seven meetings on their home floor.
With a record as impressive of theirs, it's no surprise the Hurricanes are excelling at both ends of the court this season. Miami is averaging 68.9 ppg while allowing just 58.4 ppg, and the team is in the black with regard to both rebounding (+2.3) and turnover (+1.2) margin. The 'Canes are shooting 46.1 percent from the field, which includes a 35.2 percent showing from 3-point range, while foes are connecting on only 37.9 percent of their total shots, and a mere 30.2 percent of their long-range bombs. The team boasts three double-digit scorers in the form of Durant Scott (13.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Shane Larkin (13.1 ppg, 4.3 apg, 51 steals) and Kenny Kadj (12.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 34 blocks), and it was Larkin who served as high man for Miami in its recent win over Virginia, as he hit for 11 points while handing out six assists. Rion Brown came off the bench to tally 10 points, and the team as a whole shot 46.8 percent from the floor, despite missing six of its seven 3-point tries. As for the Cavaliers, they were held to 38.2 percent field goal efficiency, which included a 5-of-15 effort from downtown.
Unlike their counterpart today, Wake Forest has had trouble at both ends of the floor this season, the team ranking ninth in the 12-team ACC in scoring offense (67.0 ppg) as well as scoring defense (69.4 ppg). The Demon Deacons have been especially lax when it comes to defending against easy shots, the squad ranking dead last in the conference in permitting 45.2 percent of the opposition's field goal attempts to find the bottom of the net. They also rank last in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.8) as well as in 3-point baskets per game (5.2, tied with Clemson). C.J. Harris (14.8 ppg) and Travis McKie (14.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg) are Wake's top offensive performers, and the duo combined for 30 points in the narrow loss to Georgia Tech last weekend. Devin Thomas tallied nine points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Deacs, who shot a dismal 29.2 percent from the floor, which included a 5-of-20 effort from beyond the arc. They did manage a 23-of-25 showing at the free throw line, and the Yellow Jackets shot just 39.3 percent from the floor. A total of 17 turnovers hurt Wake as well, and Tech outscored the home team in the paint (28-16).
Despite hosting this game, the Demon Deacons don't have much of a chance at pulling off the upset. Expect Miami to take control early as it sets it sights on the ACC's regular-season crown.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Miami-Florida 73, Wake Forest 60
02/23 10:31:52 ET