North Carolina (20-4, 8-2 ACC) vs. Notre Dame (17-6, 6-4 ACC)
Greensboro, N.C. – Greensboro Coliseum
Sunday, 1 p.m.
"We are getting smacked hard right now, but we're getting smacked together." – Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey after his team’s fourth loss in five games
"I don’t know what I’m going to do, but some way somehow I have to figure out a way to do a better job coaching on the defensive end of the floor." - UNC head coach Roy Williams his team's win over Pitt on Tuesday
Defensive Concerns Plaguing Tar Heels: It wasn’t long ago that UNC’s adjusted defensive efficiency ranking surpassed its offensive totals. There is now a wide gap, as the Tar Heels currently rank 32nd in the defensive efficiency measure. That happens when opponents shoot 48 percent or higher in six of the last seven halves. Even so, UNC remains atop the ACC standings at 8-2 as it enters a brutal closing stretch of games that includes matchups with six ranked teams. Junior wing Justin Jackson has kept the offense churning along as he’s second in scoring (20.4 ppg) in ACC-only games.
Notre Dame Spotlight: The Fighting Irish opened its 2016-17 season on a tear, winning 16 of the first 18 games. The grind of ACC play has finally caught up with Mike Brey’s squad, however, as it has lost four of its last five contests. Notre Dame is clicking as usual offensively (see below) but has struggled to keep opponents off the offensive glass (30.8) due its lack of size in the post. Four players are averaging 13.9 points or more per game, although its been senior forward V.J. Beachem that’s carried the team recently, averaging 18.0 points over his last five games.
Offensive Efficiency: Notre Dame once again ranks top-20 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com, and it’s due to multiple factors. The Fighting Irish rank eighth in the ACC in field goal percentage (46.5), but their effective field goal percentage is 54.3 due to their ability to shoot the long ball. Brey’s squad also ranks third nationally in turnovers per game (9.9) and second in assist-turnover ratio (1.69), highlighting its ability to take care of the ball and maximize scoring opportunities.
Knack for Disrupting Win Streaks: Brey’s experienced starting lineup has shown its ability to win on the road at difficult venues this season. The Irish ended Miami’s 21-game win streak at the Watsco Center on Jan. 12 and then stopped Virginia Tech’s 15-game win streak at Cassell Colisuem on Jan. 14. UNC has won 14 in a row at the Smith Center.
Matchup to Watch: Roy Williams lamented his frontcourt’s difficulty in defending Pitt’s smaller counterparts on the perimeter. UNC’s size created a 20-6 edge in points in the paint, and that was just enough to secure a win despite the Panthers’ 13 3-pointers, including eight by its forwards. Notre Dame brings a similar style but with better execution. The Fighting Irish lead the ACC in 3-point shooting percentage (39.9) and rely heavily on drawing opposing bigs out of the paint to create driving lanes and open looks from deep. Starting 4-man Bonzie Colson (who will also play the five spot) stands 6-foot-5 and is able to knock down treys, thereby stressing UNC’s bigs to extend their defensive effort without giving up easy looks or fouling.
Last Meeting: UNC defeated Notre Dame, 88-77, in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on March 27 to advance to its 19th Final Four. The Tar Heels took control with a 12-0 run midway through the second half to build a 63-52 lead. Brice Johnson led UNC with 25 points and 12 rebounds.
Series Record: The Tar Heels lead the series, 20-7.
Projected UNC Starters:
2 Joel Berry (6-0, 195, Jr.) – 15.0 ppg, 3.9 apg
3 Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260, Sr.) - 12.6 ppg, 9.5 rpg
4 Isaiah Hicks (6-9, 242, Sr.) - 12.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg
44 Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Jr.) – 18.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg
24 Kenny Williams (6-4, 180, So.) - 6.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg
5 Tony Bradley (6-11, 240, Fr.) – 7.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg
1 Theo Pinson (6-6, 211, Jr.) – 6.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg (Out with rolled right ankle)
0 Nate Britt (6-1, 175, Sr.) – 5.0 ppg, 2.6 apg
Projected Notre Dame Starters:
35 Bonzie Colson (6-5, 225, Jr.) – 15.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg
3 V.J. Beachem (6-8, 201, Sr.) – 14.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg
32 Steve Vasturia (6-6, 212, Sr.) - 14.1 ppg, 3.3 apg
5 Matt Farrell (6-1, 178, Jr.) – 13.9 ppg, 5.5 apg
23 Martinas Geben (6-10, 255, Jr.) – 3.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg
2 T.J. Gibbs (6-3, 200, Fr.) – 5.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg
0 Rex Pflueger (6-6, 202, So.) - 4.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg
4 Matt Ryan (6-7, 228, So.) – 4.0 ppg, 1.1 rpg