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Can Miami really be the second best team in the ACC?

Dec 19, 2012, 12:26 AM EDT

Shane Larkin

We all know who the best team in the ACC is.

They just so happen to be the best team — well, at least the No. 1 team — in the country.

That’s Duke.

The title of the second best team in the ACC has been up for grabs, however.

Entering the season, the trendy pick to win the league was NC State, and based on the way that they’ve played of late, that’s still a possibility. Lorenzo Brown has played better of late, Scott Wood finally looked like a dangerous shooter against Stanford, TJ Warren has been a beast and Richard Howell is a double-double machine. But the bad news? Brown has been anything but consistent, CJ Leslie — the Wolfpack’s most talented player — has been their third best front court player, Tyler Lewis doesn’t appear ready to play at the ACC level and the team only goes seven deep.

North Carolina looks like they could end up being even more of a stretch. If the beatdown they took at the hands of Indiana wasn’t enough to convince, the fact that they’ve given up 55 points in a half to UAB and 61 points in a half to East Carolina should be a major cause for concern. (For comparison’s sake, UNC gave up a combined 116 points in those two halves while Georgetown gave up a total of 113 points in three straight wins over Tennessee, Texas and Towson.)

Florida State hasn’t been all that impressive. Maryland’s Alex Len has been sensational and Dez Wells has had a couple of really impressive performances, but until Maryland’s back court play gets more consistent, it will be tough to take the Terps seriously as much more than a tournament team.

That leaves us with Miami, who has won five straight games since they have gotten Durand Scott back into the lineup. Those five wins? At home against Detroit, at home against Michigan State, at UMass, at home against previously undefeated Charlotte (by 31) and, on Tuesday night, by 22 points at Conference USA contender UCF.

Could Miami be the second best team in the ACC?

Well, they have a front line big enough to compete with anyone in the league. Reggie Johnson is a double-double machine that happens to double as a rhino on the block with three-point range. Kenny Kadji is the perfect kind of stretch four that can provide some space for Johnson inside. Shane Larkin might be the most underrated point guard in the country, as he’s averaging 15.9 points, 3.9 assists and shooting 51.9% from three this season. Throw in Durand Scott (who is playing the best basketball of his career), Trey McKinney Jones, Rion Brown and Julian Gamble, and Miami has a balanced attack that features five players averaging double figures.

Miami picked the right season to peak. With the rest of the ACC down, Jim Laranaga has enough talent to make a push to be the second best team in the league.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

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