North Carolina's Armando Bacot, who leads the Atlantic Coast Conference and ranks fifth nationally in rebounds, could pose a challenge for the undersized Miami Hurricanes when the Tar Heels visit Tuesday night.
Bacot, a 6-foot-10, 240-pound junior, had 29 points and 12 rebounds in Saturday's 88-65 win over Georgia Tech. He is averaging 11.2 boards per game.
"When Carolina is playing well," Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said, "they're good enough to go to the Final Four."
Nobody was initially saying that about the Hurricanes, who were picked to finish 11th in the 15-team league.
Yet, Miami (13-4, 5-1 ACC) shockingly leads the conference, with North Carolina (12-4, 4-1) a half-game behind.
That brings us back to Bacot as well as teammates Brady Manek and Dawson Garcia.
Manek, 6-9, 230 pounds, is averaging 12.8 points and 5.8 rebounds. Garcia, 6-11, 235, is averaging 9.6 points and 5.9 rebounds.
The Hurricanes don't have that type of size or rebounding prowess. Miami's top two big men are 6-10, 225-pound starter Sam Waardenburg and 6-9, 210-pound reserve Anthony Walker.
Neither is dominant. Waardenburg is averaging 7.1 points and 3.8 rebounds. Walker is averaging 5.6 points and 2.2 rebounds.
Miami has been idle since its nine-game win was streak broken in a last-second 65-64 loss at Florida State on Jan. 11. The Hurricanes were outrebounded in that game, 37-25, including 14-6 on offense.
In fact, Miami has been outrebounded by all eight Power 5 teams they have played this season.
Yet, the Hurricanes are 6-2 in those games, thanks to its four outstanding guards led by Kameron McGusty, who ranks fifth in the league in scoring (18.0).
It remains to be seen how sharp the Canes will be following the week-long break, but Walker is confident.
"We played six ACC games fairly quickly," Walker said. "I feel the break was good for us to get our bodies right, get some treatment and regroup, especially after the (FSU) loss."
Miami is 8-1 at home this season, but just 8-26 in the all-time series with UNC (6-10 under coach Jim Larranaga).
Besides history, the issue for Miami goes beyond stopping Bacot.
If Miami can slow him down, Tar Heel guards Caleb Love (15.5 points) and RJ Davis (13.4 points) have been effective from long range. Love is shooting 45.1 percent on 3-pointers and Davis is shooting 43.9 percent.
"Everyone has bought into the 'we' over 'me'," Davis said. "Our team's success is bigger than individual success."
--Field Level Media