HOOPS Preview: Notre Dame At North Carolina
NOTRE DAME (15-10, 5-7 ACC) VS. NORTH CAROLINA (19-7, 8-5 ACC)
Where: Dean Smith Center (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
Rankings: North Carolina was ranked No. 21 in the Associated Press poll last while Notre Dame is unranked. The Tar Heels will likely move up when rankings are released later today.
Time/TV: 7 p.m. ET/ESPN
Last Meeting: North Carolina 69-68 on Jan. 13, 2018.
Series Info: North Carolina leads the all-time series 22-7.
Notre Dame will travel to Chapel Hill this evening looking to avenge a one-point loss at home last month to North Carolina.
Both the Irish and Tar Heels are on multi-game win streaks and will look to improve their standings in the ACC with just a few games left before the postseason.
Here is a preview of both teams heading into the matchup.
NOTRE DAME OVERVIEW
In the first matchup with the Tar Heels, Notre Dame shot 34.8 percent and fell just one point short without senior point guard Matt Farrell.
The Irish make the trip down to Chapel Hill with a healthy Farrell and some revenge in mind after being unable to close out Roy Williams’ group in the first meeting.
Sophomore guard TJ Gibbs led the way with 19 points while senior big man Martinas Geben had 14 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Nik Djogo put up 12 points in the loss.
Notre Dame enters this matchup on a two-game win streak with two home wins over Boston College (96-85) and Florida State (84-69).
Farrell put up a career-high 28 points against the Eagles on Saturday while junior guard Rex Pflueger also scored a career-high 19 points. Gibbs contributed 19 points of his own to the team’s total.
For the second-straight game, the Irish shot 49 percent or better from the field which followed a month-long slump where the team did not hit the 40 percent mark for eight-straight contests.
The Irish defense also picked up its play against Florida State allowing the Seminoles to 40.6 percent from the field after allowing three-straight opponents to hit 49 percent or better.
Notre Dame has not won a road in four tries and will face a North Carolina team that is off two good wins over Duke at home 82-78 and NC State 96-89.
Will Farrell’s presence be enough for the Irish to pull off the upset?
NORTH CAROLINA OVERVIEW
Junior forward Luke Maye continues to be a double-double threat averaging 18.7 points and 10.5 rebounds in 26 games. During the team’s current three-game win streak, Maye is averaging 24.7 points and 11 rebounds.
The backcourt is led by senior point guard Joel Berry, who is averaging 17.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Berry is joined by junior guard Kenny Williams, who averaged 6.2 points per outing last year, but is posting 11.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists this season.
A pair of senior wings closes out the starting lineup for the Tar Heels: Cam Johnson and Theo Pinson. Johnson, a graduate transfer from Pittsburgh, is averaging 13.1 points and 4.8 rebounds in 15 games since an injury. Pinson is sitting at 8.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists.
The Heels can go deep into their rotation, which allows them to wear down opponents. A trio of freshmen headline the bench for Williams.
Big men Sterling Manley (5.7 PPG 4.0 RPG) and Garrison Brooks (5.0 PPG and 3.8 RP) provide height and toughness on the inside with the duo standing 6-10 and 6-11, respectively. Sophomore guard Brandon Robinson (2.4 PPG) helps relieve Berry and company in the backcourt in the absence of freshman guard Jalek Felton (2.9 PPG).
The rest of the bench includes underclassmen as well: freshman guard Andrew Platek (2.2 points per game), sophomore guard Seventh Woods (1.9 PPG) freshman big man Brandon Huffman (2.2 PPG).
North Carolina still ranks as the No. 1 rebounding team averaging 43.3 boards per game while opponents are at just 31.7.
The Tar Heels are No. 24 nationally scoring 83.3 points and allow 73.6 (No. 222) while shooting 46.5 percent from the field and 36.9 percent behind the arc.
Per KenPom.com, North Carolina ranks No. 3 in offensive rebounding percentage (38.7 percent), but lost that battle to the Irish in the first meeting. If the Tar Heels can reverse their fortunes in that department, it could be tough sledding on the road for Notre Dame.
North Carolina shot 42.6 percent from the field in the first matchup, but the Irish outrebounded the Tar Heels 45-37 overall including 20-13 on the offensive glass.
Do those numbers stay around the same the second time around?
Both teams have some momentum heading into this matchup, but this isn’t the same Irish team that North Carolina faced the first time due to Farrell’s absence.
How much of a difference does the senior make for the Irish? One would imagine more than the one point that separated the two programs in South Bend.
But, winning in Chapel Hill won’t come easy.
North Carolina 80, Notre Dame 73
I see the Irish playing better offensively in this one than last month, but the road hasn’t been favorable to Notre Dame in terms of the win column.
Notre Dame is going to have to find a way to slow down Maye in this matchup along with not allowing Berry, Williams and Johnson to get hot from three.
The Irish make it a tough battle, but North Carolina comes out with the win.