6 ND vs 1 UNC
Time: 7:49 PM CT (TBS)
Spread: UNC -9
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish got by a tough Wisconsin team 61-56 to advance to the Sweet 16, but its run may be coming to an end against No. 1 seeded North Carolina. The Tar Heels are heavy 9 point favorites in the game which will air at 7:49 PM Central time on TBS.
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Notre Dame has been a tough team this tournament, notwithstanding that it has not knocked off a higher seed yet. NCAA basketball oddsmakers do not expect this to change, but the Irish were tough in the second half against Wisconsin, outscoring the Badgers 42-33 in the final stanza.
V.J. Beachem led the way scoring 19 points on 7 of 11 shooting, and Zach Auguste had another strong double-double off the bench with 13 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. Junior guard Demetrius Jackson had six assists to go with his 16 points.
Jackson is something of an x-factor for the Irish. He can be so good, but he has issues with efficiency and can also be turnover prone at times. He shot just 6 of 18 in the win over Wisconsin but had connected on 10 of 16 in the two wins prior to that against SF Austin and Michigan. He shot just 44 percent on the season and 32 percent from three, but he led the team in assists (4.7 per game) and he can force turnovers to the tune of 1.2 steals per game.
Auguste is a monster in the middle and if the Irish are to take down UNC, it will be his defense and rebounding that keys the victory. He averaged 14.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks/steals per game this season in 29 minutes a game and his 55.9 percent field goal percentage led the team, as well.
Auguste had a huge 16 point, 15 rebound effort in the win over S.F. Austin, while connecting on 8 of 9 from the field in the game. He has had a double-double in every game this tournament, and can be a total game changer on the boards. The Irish will be banking on that.
The North Carolina Tar Heels have basically punished its first three opponents in this tournament. The average margin of victory has been 16.7 points, and the Tar Heels put up 101 points on Indiana while surrendering 86. UNC also scored 84 points per game on average against Florida Gulf Coast and Providence, illustrating just how dangerous this team can be on the offensive end of the ball.
Does UNC have the defense to slow the Irish though?
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Brice Johnson may be the key. The 6’9” senior forward was all over the place in the opening round win over Florida Gulf Coast, setting a UNC-record for blocks in a tournament game with eight. In the subsequent wis over Providence and Indiana, he had another five blocks (combined) while coming down with 20 boards in both games (combined, again).
Johnson has averaged 19.7 points per game in this tournament and he was good for 16.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game this season for the Tar Heels. The shot blocking has been something of a revelation considering he had just 1.5 per game over the course of this season, but going along with his 1.1 steals per game one can see what a game changer he is on the defensive end in addition to his stellar scoring.
Johnson puts UNC over the top, but this game may be closer than the spread set by college basketball oddsmakers. The Irish are a tougher team than given credit for and knocking off the defending champion Badgers (graduating seniors from that team notwithstanding) was a good way to show the Irish are for real in this tournament. Beating the No. 1 overall seed would of course be one step closer to ramming that point home.