Marcus Paige, J.P. Tokoto, Rion Brown

North Carolina’s loss not a surprise, but Miami winning is

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Was it really unexpected, though?

Given what we’ve seen North Carolina do this season, was it really surprising that they lost to Miami 63-57 on Wednesday night at home, the fourth straight time the Heels have lost to Miami?

Let me spell it out for you: North Carolina has beaten Louisville, Kentucky and Michigan State this season. They’ve lost to Belmont (at home), UAB, Texas (at home) and Wake Forest prior to Wednesday.

This team has been nothing if not … consistent. Which is why I’m not going to use this space to talk about the Tar Heels, who head to Syracuse on Saturday in a game that North Carolina is clearly going to win.

Let’s talk about Miami.

This team lost six of the seven players that were in their rotation last season. They lost to St. Francis (NY) to start the season. They were taken to overtime by Georgia Southern. Central Florida, Nebraska and Virginia Tech picked them off. But in the last two games, the Hurricanes went up to the Carrier Dome and very nearly pulled off the upset against the Orange before stealing a win out from under North Carolina’s feet.

How are they doing it?

Well, Jim Larrañaga has his team playing zone for the first time in his 25 years as a head coach, and they’re doing it pretty well. They’re daring teams to shoot over them, they’re corralling rebounds and they’re doing just enough on the offense end of the floor to hang around.

It’s probably not sustainable, but given the slower tempo that they are playing, it means that they probably aren’t going to be getting embarrassed too often this season.

At the very least, the job that Larrañaga is doing must be commended. No one thought this team would do anything in the ACC.

A week in, and they’re competing with the big boys on the road.

BUBBLE BANTER: All of the action on the fringe of the NCAA tournament

Fred VanVleet
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Tonight’s bubble action. This post will be updated as the games are completed.

Cincinnati at UCF, 7:00 p.m.
Pitt at No. 12 Miami, 7:00 p.m.
No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.
Ole Miss at Florida, 9:00 p.m.
Georgia at No. 22 Kentucky, 9:00 p.m.
Arkansas at Mississippi State, 9:00 p.m.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: A Big 12 and a Big Ten showdown

Denzel Valentine
(AP Photo/Al Goldis)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 10 West Virginia at No. 6 Kansas, 7:00 p.m.

The last time these two teams got together, West Virginia actually knocked off Kansas in Morgantown. It was the third time in the last three seasons that WVU has beaten KU at home. So there’s some revenge at stake here. But there’s also the whole Big 12 title race, which West Virginia currently leads. If the Mountaineers win tonight, they’ll be up by two games on Kansas with the tie breaker and just seven games left to play. The Jayhawks regular season title streak could be over if that happens.

THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 8 Michigan State at No. 18 Purdue, 7:00 p.m.

We think the Spartans are back to their early season form after wins over Maryland (at home), Northwestern, Rutgers and Michigan. If Michigan State really wants to prove something to the college basketball world, they will go into West Lafayette tonight and get a win. Denzel Valentine vs. Raphael Davis will be fun.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. Pitt will pay a visit to No. 12 Miami in a game the Panthers could really use a win in. Pitt hasn’t been the most consistent team in the country and without adding a few quality wins they could be looking at the bubble.
  2. Duquesne will be paying a visit to No. 19 Dayton, who moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 thanks to VCU’s loss on Saturday.
  3. Georgia is right there on the bubble, and they will have a chance to try and push themselves into a better spot when they play at No. 22 Kentucky tonight.
  4. Creighton probably has to win out to have a shot of making the NCAA tournament, and that includes tonight, when they host No. 5 Xavier.
  5. No. 7 Virginia will be hosting Virginia Tech, who picked off the Wahoos in Blacksburg earlier this year.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 1 Villanova at DePaul, 8:30 p.m.
  • No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.