BROOKLYN (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – If the Miami Hurricanes want to claim the ACC crown, the road to the title will be a very tough one.
North Carolina begins its pursuit of a potential second straight ACC tournament title and seeks payback for a lopsided loss earlier this season when it meets Miami in a quarterfinal matchup Thursday in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The No. 1-seeded Tar Heels are primed to defend their tourney crown after claiming the regular-season championship in one of the league’s most competitive campaigns.
“It was a big time thing,” coach Roy Williams said on his weekly radio show of the first-place finish. “Fifteen teams, and 15 really good teams. It’s the deepest league there is and the deepest conference there is in college basketball. I told the guys that I was really, really proud of them.”
Junior forward Justin Jackson, named the ACC’s Player of the Year, leads the way with 18.3 points per game but shot 33 percent while averaging 11 points in the final two games of the regular season.
The ninth-seeded Hurricanes survived a 62-57 contest against Syracuse in Wednesday’s second round and should have some confidence going up against a Tar Heels team they defeated by 15 points at home Jan. 28.
Senior forward and Brooklyn native Kamari Murphy had a career-high 16 points and 10 rebounds versus the Orange, as Miami seemingly solidified an at-large bid in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
TV: Noon ET, ESPN, ACC Network
ABOUT MIAMI (21-10): Leading scorer Davon Reed had 14 points and backup guard Dejan Vasiljevic contributed 13 on Wednesday, and they combined to make six of the Hurricanes’ nine 3-pointers.
Freshman standout Bruce Brown slumped to five points on 1-of-6 shooting but was the catalyst in the first meeting with the Tar Heels, scoring a personal-best 30 points while chipping in five assists and four rebounds.
Miami has held seven straight opponents to 66 points or fewer and limited North Carolina to 35 percent from the floor earlier in the season.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (26-6): Jackson was honored as first-teamer and junior guard Joel Berry II made the All-ACC second team after finishing second on the team in scoring (15.1) and first in assists (3.7), while senior forward Kennedy Meeks (12.5 points, team-high 9.1 rebounds) was an honorable mention pick.
Berry erupted for 28 points while making all five of his 3-point tries in a win over Duke at the end of the regular season while senior forward Isaiah Hicks (11.9) chipped in 21.
North Carolina leads the nation in rebounding margin (plus-13.0) but was beaten on the boards 41-36 in its loss to Miami.
- Reed is averaging 18 points while shooting 7-for-14 from beyond the arc in his last two contests after a three-game stretch in which he averaged 9.7 points and made 2-of-12 3-point tries.
- North Carolina is 50-14 as the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament, including a 5-0 mark against No. 9 seeds.
- Hicks and senior G Nate Britt are tied for third in school history in career ACC wins – including the tournament – at 57, one behind leaders Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green.
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(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)