This has not been an easy way to start the season for the Miami Hurricanes or the North Carolina Tar Heels, who will meet in an Atlantic Coast Conference game on Tuesday in Coral Gables, Florida.
North Carolina (6-4, 1-2 ACC) and Miami (4-4, 0-3 ACC) have young lineups, especially the Tar Heels, whose recruiting class ranked in the top three nationally. They have four freshmen who were McDonald’s All-Americans, and three of them have combined to start 20 games so far this season.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams said time is what his freshmen need the most.
” The worst thing about our preparation for this season is that we have six first-year players in the mix for significant playing time,” Williams said, “and we had no exhibition games (due to COV ID).”
Still, the Tar Heels first-year players have been productive.
North Carolina’s best freshmen so far have been 6-foot-4 guard Caleb Love, who leads the team in assists and averages 10.2 points; and 6-foot guard RJ Davis, who is averaging 8.9 points while tied for the club lead on 3s. Each has made nine starts.
Additionally, 6-11 Day’Ron Sharpe, who has made two starts in a row, is fourth on the team in scoring (9.6) and third in rebounds (7.4).
Sharpe had 25 points and nine rebounds, both team-highs, in North Carolina’s 66-65 win over Notre Dame on Saturday.
Armando Bacot, just a sophomore, leads the team in scoring (11.4) and rebounding (8.2).
Meanwhile, Miami, which has lost three of its last four games, is increasingly dependent on rookies Matt Cross and Earl Timberlake.
Cross, a 6-7 forward who signed with the Hurricanes when he was ranked as the nation’s 86th-best pick, has been a revelation as he has found a myriad of ways to score, from innings to 3s. He leads the team in field goal percentage (54.2) and is second in triples (45.8). He is averaging 8.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
Timberlake, a 6-6 shooting guard who came to campus as the nation’s 36th pick, has played just three games due to an offseason injury, but has been a great passer, in addition to averaging 8.0 points and 5.7 rebounds.
With all the talk from freshmen, the Hurricanes would still love to recover senior guard Chris Lykes from an ankle injury. He led Miami in scoring last season (15.4), but has missed the last six games.
The Hurricanes recovered guard Kameron McGusty from the disabled list in Miami’s most recent game, a 66-65 loss to Clemson on Saturday. McGusty had nine points in 28 minutes off the bench.
” I’m trying to figure out what I can and can’t do with my hamstring,” McGusty said. “But I can’t wait for Tuesday against North Carolina.”
Guard Isaiah Wong leads the Hurricanes in scoring, averaging 17.9 points per game.
Miami has lost two straight games, the other was an 80-78 loss to Virginia Tech, but both would have been victories if Isaiah Wong’s shots had entered the bell. Against Virginia Tech, Wong’s triple in and out. Against Clemson, Wong took an 80-foot baseball pass from Cross, caught him in the lane, and had his one-motion flip off the board and then off the rim.
” Adversity tends to build character,” said Miami coach Jim Arrange, “and we’ve had a lot of adversity.”
North Carolina is 25-8 against Miami, but the Hurricanes have improved 6-9 against the Heels since Larrañaga arrived in 2011.
–Field level media
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.