As a Tar Heel fan, I can’t help but sit back and laugh at how disastrous this season has been. North Carolina State was their potential olive branch in making things right for a late season momentum builder, failing to capitalize on that. Their postseason hopes now look bleak, needing a combination of a late run and some bubble team madness. Possibly even too little too late already, needing to win the ACC tournament. Before that happens, the Tar Heels need to get past the lowly Fighting Irish.
North Carolina Vs. Notre Dame Prediction & Pick
The Pick: UNC -6
The lack of consistency gives me some pause, but I can’t help but back the Tar Heels in a must win situation. While I faded them in their last outing, I can now back them as Notre Dame’s defense is practically non-existent and will be exactly what the Tar Heels need in order to bounce back. They pale in comparison to the Wolfpack’s defense as I figured North Carolina State was going to rattle them from the perimeter and turn that into quick points on the other end.
Now North Carolina will benefit from more consistent looks in multiple facets of the court as Notre Dame’s defense is as bad as it gets. Especially in the interior, already witnessing Armando Bacot carving them up in their last outing. Notre Dame hasn’t improved in the slightest since then as they have practically given up on that area of the court, ranking 287th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency.
Bacot will be poised for success once again as he has been the lone consistent force for the Tar Heels offense. He currently averages 17.3 points per game and plays with a high motor over the full course of the game. Notre Dame defends the interior at one of the least successful rates in the nation, consistently conceding high opportune looks at the rim. When Bacot is unable to finish, his high motor puts him in position to rebound for second chance opportunities.
Not only will Bacot benefit from higher quality looks at the rim, but so will the likes of Caleb Love and Pete Nance who both have mightily struggled throughout the season. They average a combined 30% shooting from the field, having a tendency to take pressured shots off the dribble. Should they attack the rim instead, this gives the Tar Heels a better chance of putting points up on the board and negating their typical scoring lulls.
North Carolina Vs. Notre Dame Odds
As for if oddsmakers think it will happen, they certainly do as they opened the Tar Heels as a -6 favorite on the road. Bettors are backing them as well, taking UNC up to -6.5 as of writing in some shops. They comfortably beat Notre Dame in their initial contest, now being in a desperation spot in their rematch. To avoid the continuation of their poor luck rating, UNC would be wise to run it up on them to avoid a potential let down. A loss here all but seals their postseason fate except for an ACC Championship run.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a quick pace as oddsmakers opened the total at 148. Bettors are leaning towards the over, taking the number up to 148.5. This comes as no surprise as both units have struggled on the defensive end while both containing efficient offensive units. Especially in a schematic sense with North Carolina struggling to stop fast break points while Notre Dame cannot stop a nosebleed in the interior.
North Carolina Vs. Notre Dame Key Matchups
Can North Carolina’s defense slow down the Notre Dame perimeter offense?
Notre Dame three point shooting vs UNC perimeter defense
As previously mentioned, North Carolina is one of the worst transitional defenses in the nation. They rank near dead last in limiting fast break scoring, constantly giving opposing units an opportunity to put up points in a hurry.
Lucky for them, Notre Dame is as slow as it gets by ranking 314th in Adjusted Tempo per Kenpom. Instead, they run at a snail’s pace in order to set up half court sets based on getting open perimeter looks.
UNC’s defense has mightily improved in this area when slowed down, being able to smother those looks into low quality opportunities for success. ND will be unable to generate second chance opportunities as North Carolina has the clear rebounding advantage as well.
Back the Tar Heels in a desperation spot as the Fighting Irish will be incapable of capitalizing on UNC’s defensive weaknesses.