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Heel Tough Blog: Notre Dame Preview


UNC Athletics


The Tar Heels are back in action later tonight, as they take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, in a game they can’t afford to lose. The last time we saw Carolina, they fell at NC State, 77-69, as the team finds itself on the outside looking in for the 2023 NCAA Tournament, With four games left before the ACC Tournament, and at 16-11 overall, and 8-8 in the ACC, UNC can’t afford to lose many more games if they want to participate in the Big Dance.


As disappointing as UNC has been, Notre Dame has been underwhelming, considering they returned the core from a team that finished second in the conference just last season. Mike Brey who announced his retirement earlier this season, and has since walked it back, has his team currently 10-17 overall, and 2-14 in the ACC. Despite the bad record, Notre Dame is still a talented, experienced, well-coached basketball team. They have four players currently averaging double figures scoring, led by Nate Laszewski’s 14.7 points. Additionally, Dane Goodwin (12.1), Cormac Ryan (11.5), and J.J. Starling (11.2), all average double figures scoring, as a team, they shoot over 36% from behind the arc, as four players in the rotation shoot over 38% from deep.


After the loss on Sunday to the Pack, Hubert Davis was still preaching patience, as he believes that good things are going to happen to this team. If that’s going to happen, it needs to happen sooner than later, because even if Davis doesn’t want to admit it, they are running out of time, with four games left before a very important ACC Tournament. Carolina did put it all together in the last six weeks of the season last year, but they were also building towards playing a more consistent brand of basketball. This team hasn’t built towards anything, and that’s the biggest reason why they find themselves in the position they are currently in.


A win tonight won’t do anything for Carolina’s NCAA Tournament hopes, but a loss would be a death blow to their chances of making the NCAA Tournament. Carolina has struggled to win at Notre Dame in the past, here’s how they can avoid another disappointing result in South Bend:


  1. Shot Selection: It was an issue again on Sunday, as Carolina shot just 35% from the field, and that isn’t good enough to win on the road, even against a team like Notre Dame. The Heels are still reluctant to shoot contested perimeter shots, even though they aren’t falling. Notre Dame doesn’t have a player on their roster that can guard Armando Bacot, and their guards aren’t very capable defenders. You’ll see some zone tonight from Mike Brey to try and protect his team defensively, and Carolina can’t get caught up in that, and settle for perimeter shots. They need to play inside-out, starting with Armando Bacot, followed by the guards, playing downhill, and living at the rim.

  2. Defend 3 Point Line: As mentioned above, Notre Dame as a team shoots 36% from deep, and they average 9 made three-pointers per game, on almost 25 attempts. They have four players in their rotation that shoots better than 38% from behind the arc, led by Laszewski’s 42%. With all that in mind, you know that Notre Dame will spread the floor to open up driving lanes, making it harder to close out on outside shots. If UNC can adequately defend the three-point line, they should be able to turn Notre Dame’s misses into layups the other way.

  3. Rebounding: Carolina out-rebounded Notre Dame 45-32 in the first matchup back in January, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t do so again, as they don’t have a guy that can match the rebounding prowess of Armando Bacot. Carolina dominated NC State on Sunday 48-34, and if they do something similar tonight, it’s hard to envision them losing this game.

Series History: The Heels are 28-9 all-time against Notre Dame, including 12-4 since they joined the ACC. In South Bend though, Carolina is just 5-4.


KenPom:


North Carolina - 44th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 113.0 (40th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 98.0 (55th)


Notre Dame - 171st. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 109.9 (82nd) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 110.1 (288th)


NET:


North Carolina - 48th.


Notre Dame - 195th.


TV Info: Tonight’s game will tip off at 9 PM on ESPN.


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