When the Going Gets Tough – ND/UNC Preview

After starting with four games against the bottom-half of the ACC, the schedule ramps up…significantly.  It starts with a trip to the Bend by the defending National Champs.  When the going gets tough…

Playing the last 2.5 games without Bonz or Farrell should be beneficial to the Irish moving forward.  Farrell may be back today, which might be the only chance the Irish have of a W.  While the defense has been excellent since allowing 87 to Dartmouth, the last two games, offensively, have been incredibly difficult to watch.

Look at it this way.  Dayton scored 106 last night against VCU.  The Irish have scored 104 the last two games combined.  Think Farrell is important?

Five Things to Know About the Heels

1. This year’s Heels are nowhere near last year’s Heels.  They come in at 2-2 in the ACC, and 0-2 on the road, having lost to Florida State and Virginia.

Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Tony Bradley are gone, and they haven’t had a freshman make a significant impact yet.  UNC still will have the best player on the floor today, as fifteenth-year senior Joel Berry is still a stud.

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Captain of the “All-Eyebrows” Team (Brandon Dill / AP)

2.  Luke Maye leads the Heels in scoring (18.2) and rebounding (10.8), and has turned into a very solid college basketball player.  He’s a poor man’s Kevin Love, and can really shoot it (49% from deep).

However, he has disappeared in UNC’s four losses:  11.3 PPG, 28.3% FG, 33.3% 3PT.

Expect Brey to really focus on limiting Maye’s shots, possibly with a large dose of Austin Torres.  If Maye goes off, the Irish have no shot.

3.  Pitt transfer, Cameron Johnson, missed the first 11 games, and is now back in the starting lineup.  People were raving about this pickup in the offseason, but I never understood it.  He wasn’t that good at Pitt.

4.  Other than the fact that ND’s best two players are injured, ND and UNC have almost identical resumes.  Both are 13-4.  Both got torched by Sparty.  Both lost to a mid-major at home (UNC lost Wofford).

5.  Still amazed that the NCAA gave UNC a pass in the academic scandal that people have been talking about for what seems like a decade?  Don’t be.

The NCAA could not conclude that UNC violated any NCAA rules.  Basically, they said that because some non-athletes gained the same benefits, they could not determine if rules were broken.  While by the letter of the law, rules may not have been broken, the class was a complete fraud.

If you want to know more, listen to this podcast.

Ten Stats to Impress Your Buddies

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Marty has been a force. (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

1.  Let’s start with the biggest positive of ACC play for the Irish:  Martin Geben.

Since Bonz went down, Marty is trying to do his best Jack Cooley impersonation.  10 PPG / 12 RPG in his last three games.  Sure, most of those buckets are dunks, but he has picked up the slack on the glass.

2. How good has ND’s defense been?  By the numbers, it has been great.  They are giving up 55.2 PPG over the last five games and teams are shooting 37%.

Digging deeper, maybe these are just really bad offenses (KenPom offensive efficiency in parentheses)…

Multidirectional Louisiana (241)
GT (200)
NC State (43)
Syracuse (109)

Hold UNC under 70…then we’ll talk great defense.

3.  T.J. Gibbs picked up an ACC POY award for his performances in wins over NC State and Syracuse.  Gibbs struggled in Atlanta, but he single-handedly kept the Irish in the game against Syracuse in the first half (15 of 19 points).

His continued development is going to be a huge story come March.

4.  ND’s four guards were absolutely terrible in the first half on Wednesday.  I mean…TERRIBLE.

1-18 FG, 0-7 3PT, 0-4 FT, 5 TO.

I have never seen a group play so horribly for a half of basketball.

5.  Before Wednesday, Rex had been Stove-like on offense for a couple weeks.  I’ll give him a pass for the goose egg against GT since he had the flu, but I cannot forgive his decision-making late in games with the ball.

This is now the second time in a loss that he has passed up a three or a pass to open player in the post (see the Indiana game) for a pull up 16-footer.  Forgetting that he is 1-47 on the season shooting said shot, the Irish were down five with less than a minute to play.  He has to shoot that triple.  Has to.

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Keep shooting it, D.J. (Matt Cashore / USA TODAY Sports)

6. Hopefully, D.J. Harvey knocking down two second-half triples against GT gets him going offensively.  Before those, he was 1-18 over the previous 60 minutes.

7.  ND’s KenPom rankings show more balance than in previous years.

Rank: 17
Offensive Efficiency: 28
Defensive Efficiency: 31
Tempo: 280

For a team that publicly indicated that they wanted to play fast a few weeks ago, Farrell’s injury has ground that train to a halt.  The Irish played fast and loose in that first half against NC State, with Farrell.  Today probably isn’t the day to go back to that.

8. UNC?  Their defensive efficiency (12) is actually better than their offensive efficiency (21).  That seems odd.  How odd?

2017 – O (9) / D (11)
2016 – O (1) / D (21)
2015 – O (11) / D (37)

Better defensive numbers than I expected.

9.  How bad has Notre Dame’s offense been the last two games without Farrell?

52.0 PPG / 33.0% FG / 23.1% 3PT (9-39)

The Irish were shooting it at 40% from deep before this…which was in the Top 30 in the country.  Now, the Irish are tied for 57th at 38.2% with…UNC.

10.  The Irish are 3-5 against UNC since joining the ACC, and have lost their last three against the Heels.  ND won the last matchup in Purcell Pavilion in 2016 over #2 UNC, 80-76.

Television / Spread

ESPN, 6 pm EST / 5 pm CST

UNC -5

Prediction

It all depends on if Farrell plays.  If he doesn’t, UNC wins by 12-15.

I have a hunch from Farrell’s quotes in Tom Noie’s story that he plays, and plays well.  Lord knows they need his offense.

Notre Dame 76 UNC 73

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