College Basketball Handicapping Picks: Notre Dame Fighting Irish at #14 North Carolina Tar Heels

Notre Dame Fighting Irish at #14 North Carolina Tar Heels
Dean E. Smith Center – Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Monday, March 3, 2014, 7:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: North Carolina -11 1/2
Current Line: North Carolina -10 1/2
Opening Total: 144 1/2
Current Total: 144 1/2
Opening Money Line: UNC -700 / Notre Dame +510
Current Money Line: UNC -625 / Notre Dame +465 

North Carolina is a 10.5 point favorite at home against Notre Dame Monday night.
North Carolina is a 10.5 point favorite at home against Notre Dame Monday night.

The North Carolina Tar Heels had a slow start to ACC play with a 1-4 record. However, the Tar Heels have since won 11 straight games to improve to 12-4 in conference and 22-7 overall. Virginia has already clinched the outright ACC regular season title. UNC is tied with Duke for third and both teams are behind 13-3 Syracuse. The top four teams will get double byes in next week’s ACC tournament.

North Carolina looks to remain hot as they host the 15-15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Monday night. The Fighting Irish are 6-11 in conference and in 11th place. Notre Dame is questionable to even make the NIT, unless they make a deep run in the ACC tournament. The Fighting Irish have lost 3 of their last 4 games and close out the regular season tonight.

North Carolina leads the series against Notre Dame 17-4. The Tar Heels have won 4 straight games in the series and 6 of the last 7. UNC won in South Bend 73-62 February 8 in the first game between the teams as conference rivals. Notre Dame hasn’t beaten North Carolina since 1992. The Fighting Irish are making their first trip to Chapel Hill since 1993.

Notre Dame is coached by Mike Brey. The Fighting Irish have losses to Indiana State, at Iowa, North Dakota State, Ohio State at Madison Square Garden, North Carolina State, at Georgia Tech, at Maryland, at Florida State, Virginia twice, at Syracuse, at North Carolina, at Miami, and Saturday against Pittsburgh 85-81 in overtime. Notre Dame has key wins over Miami-(OH), Santa Clara, Army, Cornell, Delaware, Indiana in Indianapolis, Canisius, Duke, Virginia Tech, Boston College twice, Clemson and Georgia Tech. The Fighting Irish are 8-18-2 ATS and the total is 15-12 this season.

Notre Dame is outscoring teams 72-71 this season. The Fighting Irish are shooting 45.7% from the field and 36.1% from 3 point range. Notre Dame makes 72.2% of their free throws. Fighting Irish opponents are shooting 44.6% from the field and 38.3% from 3 point range. Notre Dame is #335 out of 351 teams in three point defense. The Fighting Irish average 34.3 rebounds and opponents average 30.1 per game. Notre Dame averages 15.4 assists, 10.4 turnovers, 5.95 steals and 3.1 blocks per game. Opponents average 14.2 assists, 10.9 turnovers, 6 steals and 3.9 blocks per game.

Guard Jerian Grant had to leave the team after only 12 games because of academics. He was the leading scorer for the Irish averaging 19 points, 6.2 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 2 steals per game. Guard Eric Atkins averages 13.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. Center Garrick Sherman averages 13.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Guard/forward Pat Connaughton averages 13.5 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal per game. Zach Auguste, Demetrius Jackson, Steve Vasturia, Tom Knight and Austin Burgett will also get significant time into the rotation. Forward Eric Katenda is out for the season with a knee injury.

North Carolina is coached by Roy Williams. The Tar Heels have losses to Belmont, at UAB, Texas, at Wake Forest, Miami-(FL), at Syracuse and at Virginia. UNC has key wins over Oakland, Richmond & Louisville in a tournament in Connecticut, at Michigan State, Kentucky, Davidson, Boston College, Clemson, at Georgia Tech,  NC State twice, Maryland, at Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, at Florida State, Duke, Wake Forest, and Saturday at Virginia Tech 60-56. The Tar Heels are 16-13 ATS and the total is 14-14 this season.

North Carolina is outscoring teams 77-68 this season. The Tar Heels are shooting 46.1% from the field and 33.9% from 3 point range. UNC is #345 out of 351 teams nationally in free throw shooting at 62.6% from the line. Tar Heel opponents are shooting 40.3% from the field and 31% from 3 point range. North Carolina is in the top 40 nationally in both categories. The Tar Heels average 40.8 rebounds a game and give up 31.8 to opponents. UNC is #8 in rebounding nationally. The Tar Heels average  15.7 assists, 12.5 turnovers, 7.8 steals and 5.3 blocks per game. Opponents average 11.3 assists, 14.2 turnovers, 6.3 steals and 4.1 blocks per game.

UNC guard Marcus Paige averages 17.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Forward James Michael McAdoo averages 15.3 points, 7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1 block per game. Guard Leslie McDonald averages 10.5 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. Forward Brice Johnson averages 10.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.4 blocks per game. Forward J.P Tokoto averages 8.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Forward Kennedy Meeks averages 7.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Guard Nate Britt averages 5 points, 1.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game.

Notre Dame is 8-20-2 ATS overall, 7-18-1 against ACC teams, 10-26-2 after a straight up loss, 6-17-2 in Monday games, 0-3-1 after failing to cover, and against teams with winning records.

North Carolina is 6-0 ATS at home, 9-2 overall, and in ACC games, 8-2 after a win, 20-7 against teams with losing road records, 11-4 in Monday games, and 1-5 after failing to cover.

North Carolina has two close calls on the road against mediocre NC Statea nd Virginia Tech. However, they return home for senior night against Notre Dame, who is just playing out the string. I think Carolina wins, but Notre Dame keeps it closer than 10.5 points. The Tar Heels could find themselves looking ahead to their showdown at Duke Saturday.

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