North Carolina (19-3, 8-1 ACC) vs. Notre Dame (15-7, 6-4 ACC)
South Bend, Ind. – Purcell Pavilion
Saturday, 7 p.m.
ESPN (Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas)
“Similar team [as last year]. They spread you, they shoot a lot of threes, they make a lot of threes. They’re shooting 38 percent for the year from the 3-point line.” – UNC head coach Roy Williams
I don't think there's any intimidation factor in this program anymore. To have won two in a row in the state of North Carolina is a little bit mind-blowing. If you make it three in a row, I don't know, maybe the Earth will rotate the wrong way on its axis if we do that." Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey on his team’s hopes for a third-straight win over UNC
“It comes back down to defense. We’ve got to dial in and be consistent. It doesn’t have to be a perfect game to win, but we have to be more consistent.” – ND junior guard Demetrius Jackson
Season to Date: Notre Dame enters Saturday’s contest with a 15-7 (6-4 ACC) record. The Fighting Irish picked up its best win of the season in November, topping No. 5 Iowa, 68-62, in the Advocare Invitational in Orlando. Since then, Mike Brey’s squad has added road wins at Illinois (84-79) and Duke (95-91) to compliment a solid first three months of the season. Notre Dame is 11-1 at home. That lone loss came against Pittsburgh, 86-82, on Jan. 9.
Offensive Juggernaut: Notre Dame possesses the most efficient offense in the country, according to kenpom.com, extrapolated out to 122.8 points per 100 possessions. All five of the Fighting Irish typical starters average double figures in scoring. While Notre Dame may be the most efficient team in college basketball, North Carolina averages more points per game with an ACC-high 84.9 points per contest to the Irish’s 78.8. That can be attributed to the largely contrasting styles of each team. While UNC tries to run the floor at every opportunity, Notre Dame is content with slowing the game down into a half-court pace, playing 66.5 possessions per 40 minutes (303rd nationally).
Jackson Facilitates Offense: One of the major keys to Notre Dame’s offensive success is junior guard Demetrius Jackson. He leads the team in scoring with 16 points per game, but also acts as the team’s facilitator, dishing out 5.2 assists per game, good for 2nd in the ACC. Jackson has struggled to find his footing from beyond the arc, but can still score efficiently elsewhere from the field, converting at a rate of 48.8 percent. Jackson missed the majority of Notre Dame’s Jan. 28 game against Boston College, and while he returned two games later against Wake Forest, he hasn’t returned to the level he was playing at prior to the setback, making just eight out of his last 24 field goal attempts.
No Luck On Defense: While the Fighting Irish are offensively sound, they haven’t broken into the top tier of the ACC yet this season because of shoddy defensive effort. Notre Dame is 227th in the nation in defensive efficiency (105.9), according to kenpom.com. Notre Dame gives up 69.8 points per game, which isn’t a horrible number until considering the slow pace the Fighting Irish play. That scoring mark has increased to 71.3 points allowed per game in conference play, where they are allowing opponents to shoot 44.7 percent from the floor (10th).
Auguste’s Double Trouble: Senior forward Zach Auguste would best be described as Notre Dame’s version of Brice Johnson: a big man who can score and dominate the boards on any given night. Auguste is Notre Dame’s second-leading scorer with 13.9 points per game and the ACC’s third-leading rebounder with 10.1 boards per game. He has recorded 12 double-doubles this season. While his efficiency from the floor has dropped from last year’s 61.9 percent to 53.7 percent, Auguste has improved his ability to get to the free throw line. In 2014-15, the Marlborough, Mass. native attempted 4.1 foul shots per game, and has upped that average to 5.3 trips this season. Auguste is a big body capable of getting UNC’s bigs into foul trouble early and could be a deciding factor in Saturday’s game.
V.J. Be Shooting: Junior forward V.J. Beachem has emerged as one of the biggest 3-point threats in the ACC this season. He has made 54 3-pointers this year, the fourth most in the conference. The product of Fort Wayne, Ind. enters Saturday’s contest playing his best basketball of the season. In his past four games, Beachem has averaged 16.3 points per game on 54 percent shooting. He’ll be the biggest test for UNC’s perimeter defense.
Last Meeting: The Fighting Irish rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit with a 26-3 run to win the 2015 ACC Tournament Championship over the Tar Heels in Greensboro on March 14, 2015. UNC led 63-54 with 9:45 to play and shot 58 percent after halftime, yet could not keep up with a Notre Dame team that made 8-of-10 field goal attempts, including four 3-pointers, during the run. Marcus Paige scored 22 of his 24 points after halftime, while Brice Johnson added 20 points.
Series History: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series with the Fighting Irish, 18-6. UNC is 4-1 against Notre Dame in South Bend.
0 Zach Auguste (6-10, 245, Sr.) – 13.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg
3 V.J. Beachem (6-8, 200, Jr.) - 11.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg
32 Demetrius Jackson (6-1, 201, Jr.) - 16.0 ppg, 5.2 apg
2 A.J. Burgett (6-9, 232, Sr.) - 2.3 ppg, 1.1 rpg
10 Steve Vasturia (6-5, 212, Jr.) - 12.6 ppg, 3.0 apg
14 Bonzie Colson (6-5, 225, So.) – 12.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg
22 Matt Ryan (6-8, 217, Fr.) – 5.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg
13 Rex Pflueger (6-6, 198, Fr.) – 2.5 ppg, 1.3 rpg