Rightfully so, no one is giving the Irish much of a shot to knock off the Tar Heels tonight after that 31-point beatdown two weeks ago. Brey said yesterday that he “misplaced” the tape from that game. He’s correctly using the analogy from last year when they lost by 31 at Duke, then came back to beat them in the ACC Tournament. This is March…anything can happen. Now if both teams play like they did on Friday night, another 31-point defeat may be in order.
Some things to remember to give us Irish fans hope:
*ND is 3-2 against UNC since joining the ACC three years ago.
*Auguste and Bonz had 34 points and 20 rebounds (10 offensive) combined against UNC in South Bend, as the Irish were only outrebounded 41-40.
*The Irish are the only team to make consecutive Elite 8 appearances. They won’t be scared of the spotlight.
Game 1 – ND 80 UNC 76
Game 2 – UNC 78 ND 47
He has a partially torn calf muscle and is in a walking boot, but says he doesn’t want to wear it tonight. “Maybe I need a seatbelt on the bench.” This guy is classic.
Brey-ism of the day: Brey is more worried about UNC this year than he was Kentucky last year, “because they’re men.”
Five stats to impress your buddies
*Beach is now averaging a team-high 17 ppg in the tournament.
*Zach Auguste and Brice Johnson both have 22 double-doubles this year. They likely both will get to 23 tonight.
*ND made 31 of 38 (82%) free throws in their win over UNC. Auguste had six of the seven misses.
*Matt Farrell did not play in the February win, while all five starters scored in double figures. Man, it seems like that hasn’t happened since that game.
*Vasturia/Jackson update. In the 31-point loss to UNC, they were a combined 1-16. That’s not good. In 10 games since the Louisville game…
Jackson: 43-116 (37.1%), 11-44 (25%) from deep
Vasturia: 27-92 (29.3%), 7-35 (20%) from deep
If they could both just shoot the ball well like they did in that Louisville game…
What the Irish need to do to make their first Final Four in 38 years
With Matt Farrell in the starting lineup, the Irish appear on paper to have a significant disadvantage. The four-guard lineup risks Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks (and Isaiah Hicks) playing volleyball around the rim. For weeks, I have been hoping for the breakout performance from Bonzie Colson, and the Irish are absolutely going to need it to have any chance of advancing. Bonz had 19 and 10 in the win in South Bend, and 15 points in the pathetic performance two weeks ago. He’s the key.
So if Bonz is going to get more minutes, that would mean Farrell doesn’t play that much, right? Well, I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Something is wrong with Vasturia. I have no idea if it is shaken confidence or an injury, but he hasn’t been right for about a month. I’d like to see Bonz get about 25 minutes, and if Vasturia is ineffective, he needs to go the bench.
The Irish are going to need to slow this one down, because UNC could run away with this one early if the pace gets out of control. The Heels were absolutely fantastic in the first half on Friday (62% FG, 89% 3-Pt, 90% FT), and if ND starts out of the gate like they have all year, this one could be just like two weeks ago. A good start is essential. Yeah, the Irish won in South Bend after falling down by 15 in the first half, but that was in South Bend. Fall behind by double-digits early tonight…it’s probably over.
And finally, they need Demetrius Jackson to play like a first round draft pick for all 40 minutes. He has been great in spurts, but for the Irish to win, he has to be the best player on the floor…all game. If he disappears for long stretches, or waits until there are five minutes left in the game to start taking the ball to the rim, the Irish are in trouble. Remember what made the Irish successful in their win against UNC, taking the ball to the rim and getting to the free throw line. I think he knows that this is his time. The question is, can he deliver?
This likely is meaningless as I called for ND to be in control of Wisconsin throughout on Friday, leading to a 9-point win. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Here’s how I truly see this game going tonight.
ND gets down by 10 early (because they always do), but they actually play a solid first half and go down 4-6 at half. Bonz and Auguste keep it interesting with their toughness. They make a run in the second half, get everyone really excited, but UNC is just too good down the stretch. Too much Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige, and not enough support from the Irish backcourt.
North Carolina 77 Notre Dame 69