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NC State hosts a more defensive-minded Miami team on Saturday

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The Pack seeks a bounce-back win against a tricky Hurricanes squad.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Miami-Florida Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes have seen nothing in the way of good luck this season, as Jim Larranaga’s crew is already a mash unit a little over a month in. Star point guard Chris Lykes has not played since suffering an ankle injury in early December, while 2020 rotation stalwarts Sam Waardenburg and Rodney Miller are out for the year with injuries. Veteran win Kameron McGusty is also banged up and didn’t play in Miami’s last game.

Few programs could withstand that level of attrition, though Miami is at least hanging in there, and it has lost its last three ACC games (at VT, vs. Clemson, vs. UNC) by a combined five points. The Hurricanes are at least playing better defense this season, which is helping to compensate for the loss of offensive contributors.

— Miami ranks 105th in offensive efficiency and in league games is averaging just 0.91 points per possession, which ranks 14 out of 15. The Hurricanes are shooting just 27.1% from three but have made 51% of their twos, which is a bit above the national average.

— Among the bright spots is sophomore guard Isaiah Wong, who stepped into the void and is taking a quarter of Miami’s shots while he’s on the floor, a substantial increase from last year. He’s hitting 57% of his twos and has been excellent at getting to the line, with 45 free throw attempts in nine games. The Canes need him to be a difference-maker.

— Freshman wing Matt Cross has been outstanding in a secondary role and has been by far the team’s best three-point shooter early on (46.4%). He’s also making 62.5% of his twos.

— But there are ugly numbers in a lot of places. Harlond Beverly is accounting for an above-average workload but has made only 42% of his twos and 22% of his threes. In 1+ seasons, he’s 21-96 from outside, which is not ideal. After shooting 74% at the free throw line as a freshman, he is 14-34 (41%) at the line this year, and that’s just odd.

— Big man Anthony Walker is a solid disruptor on the defensive end and has made 60% of his twos, but he is 2-21 from beyond the arc this season, and 5-40 for his career. He should probably take those attempts out of his repertoire.

— While the Hurricanes’ interior depth has been gutted, they nonetheless rank 11th in block rate and 55th in defensive rebounding percentage. Their overall improvement in the paint has helped the unit improve from 149th in defensive efficiency last season to 42nd this year. Opponents have shot just 43% inside the arc this season.

— Miami’s route to success is shutting down the paint, including the glass, while avoiding fouls. The Canes generally have done those things well all season. Unfortunately for them, ACC foes have shot it better than 42% from three. There’s some bad luck in that number, and it’s been costly.

— Still, the Canes’ defense has kept them in games, giving them a chance down the stretch, and with some different outcomes in those previous three games, they’d look more like a surprise team than one totally worn out by injuries.

— NC State will need to be smart about how it attacks the paint and take care of the ball in the process. It’s not a good idea to assume that Miami will be an easy out.

— KenPom likes State by six.