#6 Notre Dame (24-11) vs #1 North Carolina (31-6)
When: Sunday, March 27th 2016
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Time: 8:49 ET | TV: TBS
We already know that two Atlantic Coast Conference teams will represent the Final Four and one of them will come from today’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish versus North Carolina Tar Heels contest. Notre Dame was one of the few teams who actually beat the Tar Heels this season, but they were also blown-out by them in the most recent meeting. The Irish took down North Carolina on February 6th in South Bend 80-76 after trailing by nine at halftime. The second meeting didn’t go as well in the ACC Tournament semifinals where the Tar Heels won 78-47, holding the Irish to just 30.0% shooting. Notre Dame has won their three tournament games by a total of 13 points including Friday’s 61-56 victory over Wisconsin. The Badgers lead most of the 40 minute contest, but the Irish defense stepped up in the end to advance. V.J. Beachem is averaging 17.3 points in the tournament – more than five above his seasonal average – and hitting 9-of-17 from 3-point range. Point guard Demetrius Jackson leads the team in scoring (15.5) and assists (4.7) while forward Zach Auguste (14.3 points, team-high 10.9 rebounds) has 22 double-doubles.
The Tar Heels are playing their best ball right now after winning the ACC regular season and tournament titles. North Carolina has cruised into the Elite Eight by winning their first three tournament games by a combined 50 points. The Tar Heels shot 51.6% from the field in Friday’s 101-86 win over Indiana. Senior point guard Marcus Paige matched the program record in the NCAA Tournament with six 3-pointers and scored 21 on Friday – his highest total since registering the same against Notre Dame on February 6th. Paige, who struggled shooting most of this season (39.6%), has hit 11-of-21 from 3-point range in the last three games. Brice Johnson (16.8 points, 10.5 rebounds) has recorded 22 double-doubles to tie Billy Cunningham (1964) for the single-season team record and needs 13 boards to boast the most in program history for one season. Kennedy Meeks had 15 points and nine rebounds Friday after averaging 4.2 and 3.8, respectively, over the previous five games.
Indiana was the best test North Carolina is going to receive in this tournament until next weekend. The Irish are squeaking by so far, but that ends today. The Tar Heels should win this by double-digits easily.
Pick: North Carolina -10