Be Ready Miami, NC State Wants This One

miami hurricanes north carolina state wolfpack acc tournament greensboro revengeFebruary 2nd. Raleigh. Under a second remaining and Miami got a game-winning tip-in from Reggie Johnson, that still has North Carolina State riled up.

The Canes rolled in, ranked fourteenth in the nation, riding an eight-game win-streak, while the Wolfpack were number nineteen, without some key players and having already suffered a handful of heartbreaking losses.

State fell by three at Virginia, by two at Wake Forest a few days prior and by one at Maryland a week before that.

The 16-5 record entering a nationally-televised showdown against Miami was not indicative of the true team North Carolina State was at that point of the season, the same way a five-seed in the ACC Tournament doesn’t clearly paint a picture of the squad the Hurricanes will face today.

The Wolfpack enter Saturday’s semi-final contest with nine losses to the Canes’ six, but seven came in ACC play, while Miami only dropped three in conference, coming in the final five games of the regular season.

North Carolina State was a bit erratic down the stretch since their early February loss to Miami, going 6-3 in the regular season, but has come to play in Greensboro, taking out Virginia Tech in the first round, 80-63, and upending four-seed Virginia in round two on Friday, 75-56.

The top-seeded Hurricanes are obviously a step up from two lesser conference squads from the Old Dominion state, but North Carolina State is a capable team when bringing its best, and safe to say they’ve been waiting six weeks for this rematch against Miami.

Look at Duke a few weeks back, salivating for another shot at Miami, after getting throttled, 90-63 in late January – as well as the Hurricanes hoping for a rematch against the Blue Devils in Sunday’s ACC Tournament championship game, looking to make right what went wrong in Durham on March 2nd.

(Scroll around online for Friday night social media rants where Miami fans were semi-upset that Duke lost to Maryland and won’t be available for a rematch should the Canes upend the Wolfpack today.)

North Carolina State wants every bit of Miami and the Canes will need to be ready for a heavyweight title fight this Saturday afternoon, much like the one it participated in with Duke : Part Deux at Cameron Indoor.

Revenge, if channeled properly, is the ideal motivator. A win over Miami and an ACC Conference title game berth will do more for the Wolfpack’s post-season that the Canes, who are slated as a two-seed and are gunning for a one with two more wins.

Meanwhile, North Carolina State is hovering somewhere around an eight-seed in some mock brackets and could skyrocket by winning the ACC post-season tourney.

On any given day, this Miami team has the talent and depth to take it to anyone. Unfortunately that brand of Hurricanes basketball hasn’t been the norm as of late.

A mid-February lull with lackluster wins over Clemson and Virginia, followed by a fifteen-point loss at Wake Forest, snapping a fourteen-game win-streak.

Miami responded with a good win over a not-so-good Virginia Tech team and did show up to play in a hard-fought three-point loss at Duke, but a two-point loss to a bad Georgia Tech team put an ACC regular season championship on hold for a few days, before thumping Clemson 62-49, pulling away in the second half for a blowout, after starting slow.

Then there was pesky Boston College and a second-round match-up in Greensboro that proved infinitely more difficult than expected when Miami couldn’t find a groove.

Tied 55-55 with just over three minutes remaining, the Hurricanes broke off a 14-3 run and played like the one-seed they are, but prior to that, they let the eighth-seeded Eagles hang around much longer than they should’ve.

Play that way today and Miami is going to get creamed. Bank on it. Against a team like North Carolina State, there is no margin for error early and time late to make up ground. This Wolfpack team can score and rolls into this round hot, with proper motivation.

Miami needs the team that found a way in big moments during a double-digit win-streak, as well as that team that didn’t finish in Durham when the Blue Devils threw all they could at the Hurricanes, needing to survive back-to-back missed three-point attempts to escape overtime in their own rowdy house.

Saturday’s semi-final can prove to be a pivotal game for a team trying to get its mojo back, especially after limping down the stretch a bit.

North Carolina State provides a great challenge and if Miami wants to roll into the NCAA Tournament on a high, reaching the conference title game is a must, where Maryland or North Carolina will be waiting, should the Canes win today.

Be ready, Miami. North Carolina State is. A-game or bust today. No other option.

Christian Bello has been covering Miami Hurricanes athletics since the mid-1990s. After spending almost a decade as a columnist for CanesTime, he launched – the official blog for : The #1 Canes Shop Since 1959. Bello has joined up with and will be a guest columnist at this fall. Follow him on Twitter @ChristianRBello.