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UNC Opponent Preview: Notre Dame

No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 6 seed Notre Dame square off for the second time this postseason with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Tip-off at the Wells Fargo Center is set for 8:49 p.m. on Sunday and will be televised by TBS.

North Carolina (31-6) vs. Notre Dame (24-11)
Philadelphia – Wells Fargo Center
Sunday, 8:49 p.m.
TBS (Brian Anderson, Steve Smith, Dana Jacobson)

Quotables

“I think we can learn a lot of things from that game. Like Coach said, they're playing at a really high level right now. But I think we are as well. So especially with one day to get ready for them, we're so familiar with what they do and they know what we do. So I think mainly for us just going out there and focusing on what we do best and playing with nothing to lose and that should be good enough for us.” – Notre Dame junior wing Steve Vasturia on his team’s loss to UNC in the ACC Tournament

“I misplaced it. That's been misplaced. Those are ones that you burn, you don't go back to.” – Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey on the game tape from the ACCT semifinal loss

“We're still the toughest team left. We're the toughest team left in this thing.” – Brey

PREGAME NOTES

How Notre Dame Got Here: The Fighting Irish entered the NCAA Tournament as an at-large No. 6 seed. Notre Dame has squeaked by each round of the tournament, defeating 11th-seeded Michigan, 70-63, in the opening round and then No. 14 seed Stephen F. Austin, 76-75, on a last-second Rex Pflueger putback to advance to the Sweet 16 in Philadelphia. The Irish rallied for a gritty win Friday against Wisconsin, 61-56, after scoring the game’s last eight points in the final 19 seconds. Mike Brey’s squad took lead after Demetrius Jackson stole a pass and scored following his own bucket to make it a one-point game with 13 seconds to play.

Auguste a Force Underneath: Zach Auguste has continued his excellent season into March Madness. The senior forward is averaging 13 points and 13 rebounds per game in the NCAA Tournament, recording a double-double in each round. Auguste is tied with his Sunday adversary, Brice Johnson, for the ACC lead in double-doubles with 22. In two games against UNC this season, Auguste has scored 10.5 points on 47 percent shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds per contest, although UNC did hold him to his first single-digit scoring outing since Jan. 28 in the ACC Tournament semifinal.

From Ferrell to Farrell: UNC will go from playing against a Cousy Award finalist in Indiana point guard Yogi Ferrell to a player making just his fourth career start in Matt Farrell. The sophomore point guard was named the surprise starter in Notre Dame’s opening round game against Michigan and has started each game since. Farrell has averaged 6.7 points and 3.7 assists in 27 minutes per game during the NCAA Tournament. What makes Farrell a potential player to watch is his ability on the defensive end of the court, where Brey has praised him for his efforts against Jackson on the practice court.

Vasturia Slumping: Junior guard Steve Vasturia has struggled since Notre Dame’s loss to UNC in the ACC Tournament semifinals. The Tar Heels shut Vasturia out, forcing him to miss all six shots he took from the field. Since then, he has averaged 6.7 points per game on 25 percent shooting, including a 1-for-6 outing against Wisconsin. Vasturia is an integral part of Notre Dame’s offense, and a return to form would be a huge lift for the Irish as they try to advance to the Final Four.

Clutch When It Counts: The Fighting Irish have sweated out their last two wins by a combined six points and trailed entering the final minute of each contest. Notre Dame outscored Stephen F. Austin and Wisconsin in the last minute by a combined margin of 14-3. The Irish could consider it luck, or just a knack for the dramatic, but either way, this team will not shy away from a last-minute scenario with a trip to Houston on the line. After losing three of its first four games decided by five points or less, Notre Dame has since won seven of its last nine.

Last Meeting: UNC throttled Notre Dame, 78-47, in the ACC Tournament semifinals at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., on March 11, 2016. The Tar Heels blew open the game with a 24-0 run in posting a record margin of victory in a ACCT semifinal. Marcus Paige led five Tar Heels in double figures with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting. Isaiah Hicks added 11 points and 15 rebounds. UNC held the Irish to a season-low 30.0 percent shooting.

Series History: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series with the Fighting Irish, 19-7.

Projected Starters:
0 Zach Auguste (6-10, 245, Sr.) – 14.3 ppg, 10.9 rpg
3 V.J. Beachem (6-8, 200, Jr.) - 11.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg
32 Demetrius Jackson (6-1, 201, Jr.) - 15.5 ppg, 4.7 apg
5 Matt Farrell (6-1, 175, So.) – 2.4 ppg, 1.6 apg
10 Steve Vasturia (6-5, 212, Jr.) - 11.4 ppg, 3.2 apg

Top Reserves:
22 Matt Ryan (6-8, 217, Fr.) – 5.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg
13 Rex Pflueger (6-6, 198, Fr.) – 2.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg
14 Bonzie Colson (6-5, 225, So.) – 11.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg

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