UNC Opponent Preview: Notre Dame

No. 1 seed North Carolina gets its shot at redemption against No. 4 seed Notre Dame, the team that ended its ACC Tournament run in the finals last season. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. on Friday and will be televised by ESPN and the ACC Network.

North Carolina (26-6, 14-4 ACC) vs. Notre Dame (21-10, 11-7 ACC)
Washington, D.C. – Verizon Center
Friday, 7 p.m.
ESPN, ACC Network

Quotables

“Man, Notre Dame, in the ACC Championship [last year], they beat us a couple of years ago in Chapel Hill by one. They beat us up at Notre Dame after we had a double-digit lead. I want another crack at them… I wouldn’t mind seeing Notre Dame and trying to get over that hump one time.” – UNC senior guard Marcus Paige

"That would be really cool again. We've been good against those teams. It's really helped our credibility in the league to do what we've done against Duke and Carolina. It's given us a great identity in the league. But, yeah, to go through both of them again, to go through Carolina, get to the championship game, it would be huge. We've got our work cut out for us." -- Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey on the potential of beating Duke and UNC in the ACC Tournament for the second year in a row

"We'll be the underdog tomorrow night even though we beat them. We know how to handle that role. We handled it in the Big East. Now we have it in the ACC. It fits well." -- Brey

PREGAME NOTES

Since the Last Meeting: Notre Dame enters Friday’s contest with a 21-10 (11-7 ACC) record. The Fighting Irish have won five of eight games since beating UNC last month, highlighted by a 71-66 win over No. 13 Louisville. Mike Brey’s squad lost a pair of games by double-digits to Florida State (77-56) and Miami (68-50) before closing out the regular season with an 89-75 win over N.C. State.

How Notre Dame Got Here: The Fighting Irish skipped to the ACC Tournament quarterfinals via a double-bye after finishing fourth in the conference in the regular season. Notre Dame staged a dramatic comeback against Duke in Thursday’s quarterfinal game, defeating the Blue Devils 84-79 in overtime after trailing by as many as 16 midway through the second half. The Irish closed the second half on a 22-6 run to force extra time, and led wire-to-wire in the overtime period.

Beachem and Auguste Set Tone Early: Junior forward V.J. Beachem and senior forward Zach Auguste led Notre Dame in scoring against Duke with 19 points each on a combined 15-25 shooting. The duo did it in entirely different ways, as Beachem rained in four of his seven 3-point attempts, while Auguste dominated Duke down low, snatching 22 rebounds. Beachem is shooting 42.3 percent from 3-point range this season, while Auguste is averaging 10.8 rebounds per game.

Jackson and Colson Look for More: In the first meeting between these programs, junior guard Demetrius Jackson and sophomore forward Bonzie Colson each scored 19 points for Notre Dame. Jackson has averaged 15 points per game in his last three appearances against the Tar Heels, while Colson’s only significant minutes against UNC came last month. Jackson’s offensive production has been on the decline of late, averaging 12.3 points over his last six games. Colson has also struggled recently, reaching double figures in just three of his last seven games.

Balanced Starting Lineup: Each of Notre Dame’s starters average double figures in scoring on 44 percent shooting or better, and each brings a different threat to the table. Jackson leads the team with 15.9 points per game, but also serves as the Irish’s best distributor, averaging a team-high five assists per game. Auguste has established himself as a force in the paint and on the boards. Beachem is an efficient 3-point shooter. Notre Dame poses plenty of individual threats that collectively make it one of the best offenses in the nation.

Offensive Treat: Friday’s semifinal will pit the fourth- and fifth-most efficient offenses in the country against one another, according to KenPom.com. North Carolina averages 120.1 points per 100 possessions, while Notre Dame follows with 119.6 points per 100 possessions. These two teams play entirely different paces, but for fans of potent offenses, this one looks to be a treat.

Last Meeting: The Fighting Irish rallied from a 15-point deficit to upset the Tar Heels, 80-76, in South Bend on Feb. 6, 2016. UNC led 37-22 late in the first half and held a 10-point lead with 17:03 to play. The Fighting Irish scored 23 second-chance points off 20 offensive rebounds in rallying back despite 21 points from Marcus Paige. Brice Johnson added 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Series History: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series with the Fighting Irish, 18-7.

Projected Starters:
0 Zach Auguste (6-10, 245, Sr.) – 14.6 ppg, 10.8 rpg
3 V.J. Beachem (6-8, 200, Jr.) - 11.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg
32 Demetrius Jackson (6-1, 201, Jr.) - 15.8 ppg, 4.9 apg
14 Bonzie Colson (6-5, 225, So.) – 11.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg
10 Steve Vasturia (6-5, 212, Jr.) - 12.2 ppg, 3.3 apg

Top Reserves:
22 Matt Ryan (6-8, 217, Fr.) – 5.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg
13 Rex Pflueger (6-6, 198, Fr.) – 2.6 ppg, 1.4 rpg

Notre Dame Info
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