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Heel Tough Blog: Notre Dame Preview

University of North Carolina Athletics

Believe it or not, the final week of the regular season is here, and with that, the Tar Heels' final home game is tonight, meaning it’s Senior Night in Chapel Hill. Carolina is coming off a win over NC State over the weekend, as they erased an eight-point halftime deficit, to earn a regular season sweep of the Wolfpack. With Duke’s win last night, Carolina can’t outright win the ACC regular season title, but a win tonight would earn them a share of the regular season title, something Carolina hasn’t won since 2019. 

Notre Dame is only 12-17 this season, but they are 7-11 in the ACC and have won 5 of their last 6 games, beating NCAA Tournament bound teams Wake Forest and Clemson in the process. This late season turnaround followed the team losing at home by 20 to The Citadel, which led first-year head coach Micah Shrewsberry to call his team out publicly, and even offered to go to compliance to help players transfer out of the program. Shrewsberry arrived in South Bend after taking Penn State to the NCAA Tournament, which doesn’t happen by accident. While it’s going to take some time to get his players on campus, the last six games are an indication of how good of a coach Shrewsberry is, and the problem he will pose in the ACC for the foreseeable future. Markus Burton is enjoying a special freshman season, averaging 17.3 points per game, while shooting 42% from the field, and 30% from deep. 

Tonight is the final time that Armando Bacot will play in the Smith Center, after five great years at UNC. It’s unknown if R.J. Davis will return for his super senior season next year or not, meaning that tonight could be the final home game for him as well. Carolina will honor Davis, just in case he doesn’t opt to return for a fifth season. Both guys have talked about wanting to leave a positive legacy, and a step towards that could be achieved by winning an ACC regular season title, which they can earn a share of tonight. 

Carolina didn’t play the way they wanted to in the first half on Saturday, and that’s a big reason why they found themselves down at the half. While the second half was fun, and dominant, Carolina needs to start playing a full 40 minutes, if they want to play deep into the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. Here’s how they can take a step in the right direction tonight against the Fighting Irish: 

  1. Be Ready to Play: Going into the NC State game, everyone thought Carolina would come out with their hair on fire, after barely beating Miami earlier in the week. That wasn’t the case in the first 20 minutes, as State built a 45-37 halftime lead, while shooting 58% from the field, and over 60% from behind the arc. Carolina can’t afford to look at Notre Dame’s record, and not be ready to play. This team is as hot as any team in the league, having beaten Wake Forest and Clemson last week, as they’ve won 5 of their last 6 games. They need to be locked in defensively, and not let Markus Burton get hot and in rhythm, because he’s more than capable of willing his team to a win, despite being a freshman in the ACC. 

  2. Force Turnovers: Carolina’s defense hasn’t been as dominant as it was earlier in the season, and a big reason why is they’ve quit forcing turnovers. Even in the comeback win over the weekend, it wasn’t because they were forcing turnovers, it was because they forced missed shots. Notre Dame averages nearly 13 turnovers per game, and given how few of possessions they want to play, that’s a high turnover rate. Notre Dame isn’t going to want to run and up down the court, which means Hubert Davis should deploy the full-court press early in the game, to speed the game, and see if they can handle the pressure. All season long, Carolina’s defense has fueled its offense. Hopefully tonight it’s because they are forcing turnovers, and are getting out in transition for easy baskets. 

  3. Rebounding: On paper, Carolina has a plus-4 margin in the rebounding department, and that needs to translate to the court. Notre Dame wants to shorten the game, which means Carolina needs to keep them off the offensive glass, and on the flip side, they need to get the offensive glass, to get second-chance points. If Notre Dame can compete tonight, it will be because they control the pace and tempo of the game, and that only happens if they hold their own against the best rebounding team in the league. 

Series History:

  • Carolina is 29-9 all-time against Notre Dame, and they are 13-5 against the Irish since they joined the ACC. In Chapel Hill, Carolina is 9-1, and they are 8-1 in the Smith Center. 


  • North Carolina - 10th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 118.0 (27th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 94.0 (6th)

  • Notre Dame - 122nd overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 102.5 (163rd) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 97.7 (25th) 


  • North Carolina - 9th. 

  • Notre Dame - 125th. 

TV Info:

  • Tonight’s game will tip at 7 PM on the ACC Network. 

The Four Corners Podcast:


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