Game 31: Notre Dame (15-15, 6-11) @ North Carolina (22-7, 12-4) Date: March 3, 2014 Time: 7:00 p.m. ET Place: Chapel Hill, N.C.; Dean E. Smith Center TV: ESPN Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference Nickname: Tar Heels Location: Chapel Hill, N.C. 2012-13 record: 25-11 (12-6 in ACC) All-time leading scorer: Tyler Hansbrough - brother of former Notre Dame standout and Big East player of the year Ben Hansbrough - is not only the all-time leading scorer in North Carolina’s illustrious basketball history, but the ACC’s top scorer. Hansbrough tallied 2,872 points (20.3 points per game) while leading the Tar Heels to the national title in his senior season. He shot .535 from the field in his career and averaged 8.6 rebounds per game, including 10.2 as a junior. He was the ACC Rookie of the Year and the conference’s Player of the Year as a senior. The Wooden Award winner had his No. 50 retired and was drafted 13th overall by the Indiana Pacers. He currently is a member of the Toronto Raptors.
Head coach Roy Williams (11th year at North Carolina) - Williams, 63, is in his 26th year as a head coach. He has compiled a remarkable 722-187 (.794) record. He’s won two national titles at North Carolina in three trips to the Final Four and has three other trips to the Elite Eight. Williams took Kansas to the Final Four four times and finished runner-up twice with an Elite Eight appearance and four other trips to the Sweet 16. Williams’ teams have won 15 regular-season conference championships (Big 8/Big 12/ACC) out of 25 seasons.
You should know
Since losing at Virginia by 15 on Jan. 20, North Carolina has won 11 in a row by an average margin of 11.3 points per game. The Tar Heels opened ACC play by losing the first three -- at Wake Forest, at home against Miami, and in Syracuse…In league play, North Carolina ranks first in rebounding (40.4 per game, 4.0 more than second place Maryland), first in rebounding margin (+6.4), first in assists (15.8/game) and first in offensive rebounds (15.1/game, 2.4 more than No. 2 Syracuse). The Tar Heels are 14th in the ACC in free-throw percentage (.629) and tied for 11th in three-pointers (4.8/game)…Since a shocking home loss to Miami on Jan. 8, the Tar Heels have won seven in a row in the Dean E. Smith Center by an average margin of 14.4 points per game.
Top players G-Marcus Paige (6-1, 175, Soph.) - ACC Player of the Year candidate. Ranks first in the ACC in three-pointers made (2.5/game), third in assists (3.9), fourth in free-throw percentage (.850, 51-of-60), fifth in three-point field-goal percentage (.392), sixth in scoring (16.3 ppg.), and eighth in steals (1.5/game). Averaging 17.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists on the season. Scored 35 points in one-point overtime victory at North Carolina State on Feb. 26, including 7-of-12 from three-point range with six rebounds and five assists. Converting .891 from the free-throw line (115-of-129) in 29 games. F-James Michael McAdoo (6-9, 230, Jr.) - No. 2 scorer for the Tar Heels at 14.2 points per game while pacing the squad in rebounds at 6.8 per contest. In league play, McAdoo ranks sixth in rebounding (7.5) and 14th in scoring (13.8) while placing third in offensive rebounds (54) and field-goal percentage (.475). Since converting 6-of-6 free throws against Notre Dame on Feb. 8, McAdoo is 14-of-31. Shooting .523 from the field on the season, McAdoo has made just 16-of-45 (.380) in the last five games.
Inside the Irish
In his 14th season at Notre Dame, Mike Brey has never finished below .500 in a season. His 2013-14 squad is in danger of snapping that streak. A loss tonight at North Carolina would conclude Notre Dame’s first regular season in the ACC with a 6-12 mark. Brey’s worst conference record during his 13-year run in the ACC was 6-10 in 2005-06. The last time the Irish finished under .500 overall was in 1998-99 - the eighth and final season under John MacLeod - when they were 14-16 overall and 8-10 in the Big East…Notre Dame trails the 21-game series against North Carolina, 17-4. The Irish won the first match-up on Feb. 15, 1958, in Chicago, and then lost the next nine to the Tar Heels -- one in Louisville, five in Charlotte, one in New York, one at Notre Dame and one in Greensboro…Notre Dame’s last victory against North Carolina came in Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11, 1992 when the Irish defeated the Tar Heels, 88-76. North Carolina has defeated the Irish four straight, including a Feb. 8 loss at Purcell Pavilion (73-62) and a 102-87 smashing in Maui on Nov. 26, 2008. The Tar Heels would go on to win the 2008-09 national championship…Digger Phelps’ 1986-87 squad, which went 24-8 and advanced to the Sweet 16, defeated No. 1-ranked North Carolina on Feb. 1, 1987 by the score of 60-58.
The Irish will conclude their first season in the ACC without ever achieving a semblance of momentum over an 18-game stretch. Even with an unexpected victory at the Dean Dome in Notre Dame’s first appearance in Chapel Hill since 1993, the Irish would finish their 18-game ACC season without winning three games in a row. In fact, the Irish have won two in a row just once and likely will finish 1-8 on the road in the ACC.
Notre Dame must face one of the hottest teams in the country and a ferocious rebounding squad in North Carolina. Just two days ago, Pittsburgh manhandled the Irish on the backboards, out-rebounding the Irish, 38-22, including a shocking 21-to-5 on the offensive glass. The Tar Heels grabbed 15 offensive rebounds against the Irish on Feb. 8. Tonight’s game has the makings of a tip drill.
Mike Brey’s squads are some of the most resilient in the land year-in and year-out, but this doesn’t appear to be one of those years. Every team has a breaking point, which the Irish may have reached in the 85-81 overtime loss to Pittsburgh Saturday. The NCAA tournament is down the drain and the NIT is slipping away. The Irish need an indifferent effort from the Tar Heels, which certainly is possible. But Roy Williams’ squad has that flip-the-switch ability that can turn a competitive game into a three-touchdown blowout.
Notre Dame has made a habit of falling behind early on the road, making a valiant comeback and then falling by single digits. A slow start against North Carolina tonight and the Irish will reach the tipping point. The tank is empty and the only relief in sight is a nine-day break between the end of the regular season and the start of the ACC tournament.
Pointspread: North Carolina by 10 ½ Prister’s Prediction: North Carolina 79, Notre Dame 59 Prister’s record: 20-10 straight up; 9-18 vs. points