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February 7, 2014

UNC-Notre Dame Preview

Basketball Preview

UNC ended one of their storied ACC rivalries with a victory when they defeated Maryland Tuesday night and they will look to kick start a new conference rivalry when they take on Notre Dame Saturday at noon.

Notre Dame isn't the same type of team they have been in recent years as they sit just one game above .500 in their overall record and have a 3-7 record within the conference. It's safe to say this isn't how they would have liked to see their first year in the ACC start out but it will still be kind of cool to see the Heels play the Fighting Irish on their home court with an ACC logo sitting on the hardwood.

Notre Dame only lost by 6 to the No. 1 ranked Syracuse Orange on Monday and it should be interesting to see if this is a deflated team or a more motivated one that UNC will encounter. Either way, if UNC keeps playing the way they have been then the Heels should be the favorites to continue their winning ways and extend their winning streak to five.

Let's take a look at some of the storylines heading into this weekend's contest.

Shortening The Rotation

Roy Williams likes to play an aggressive up-tempo style of play and that usually means he likes having the ability to throw as many bodies at an opponent as possible. This year, he simply doesn't have enough reliable bodies to throw on the floor as he would like and the last few games have shown that.

Only six players reached double-digit minutes against the Terps with Brice Johnson being the only guy that reached that number while coming off the bench. Johnson has apparently been giving quite an effort in practice the last couple weeks and the result was a conference career high 19 points his last time out.

Kennedy Meeks cooled off against Maryland after having a nice stretch of games, playing just 18 minutes, but the Meeks/Johnson combo gives Williams the ability to play a versatile game and match-up well with whatever type of team the Heels are facing. Meeks can bang down low while Johnson can get out on the break and use his quickness inside.

It appears Marcus Paige will be the full-time point guard going forward and the James Michael McAdoo experiment at small forward is being limited to must-need situations only.

Having said all of this, don't be surprised if guys like Joel James, Jackson Simmons and Nate Britt don't earn more minutes at some point but Williams' substitution habits paint a clear picture about who he trusts to get it done on a consistent basis.

Effort

Williams has harped on the effort his team has given all year long and it's obvious during their losses that when they lose it usually has something to do with the lethargic way in which they played that day.

During UNC's current four-game winning streak the Heels have given themselves extra chances to score the points and even though they haven't always converted those opportunities it has helped give them a better chance of winning.

Two categories, steals and offensive rebounds, illustrate this point of how UNC has given themselves a better shot at winning basketball games. In the past four games, UNC has outdone their opponents in the combined stat columns of steals and offensive rebounds by a margin of 83-59.

The aforementioned Johnson has been the main target of Williams' frustrations, in particular, on the defensive end where Williams feels he isn't quite as enthusiastic. That might be turning a corner and wouldn't it be wonderful if Johnson became a two-way terror that could start offensive breaks as well as he can finish them by becoming a solid rim protector.

J.P. Tokoto has demonstrated an ability to shut down perimeter scorers with his one-on-one defense but hasn't done a good job keeping himself on the court as he's been reaching a lot and getting himself into foul trouble. He's another guy that can improve the entire stock of this team by simply improving in an area that takes just a little more individual focus.

FIGHTING!!!! Irish

Don't let the record fool you. This is not a traditional 3-7 team.

Despite their win-loss columns, Notre Dame has been competitive in nearly every game they've played this season. They've only lost two games all season (Indiana State and Virginia) by more than 10 points and don't forget they knocked off No. 7 Duke to begin their maiden voyage in the ACC.

They were down by 13 points to Syracuse in their last outing but outscored the best team in the nation 37-30 in the second half. They held ACC Player of the Year candidate C.J. Fair to just six points---although they did give up 33 points to Trevor Cooney---which is only the second time that's happened to the athletic senior from Baltimore all year long.

They won't let UNC come in on a high horse without throwing a little mud on the horseshoes and seeing how dirty the Heels are willing to get. If UNC plays like they have been, the game should be close. If they take the foot off the pedal for even a second, this game could send Williams' squad into the Duke game in a world of hurt and with a few more 5 a.m. practices under their belt.

Notre Dame
(12-11, 3-7)
vs.
North Carolina
(15-7, 5-4)

Game Day
Date:
Saturday, February 8, 2014
Time: 12:00 PM EST
Venue: Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center (9,149)
TV: ACC Network

Radio: Tar Heel Sports Network & SiriusXM (Sirius 108/XM 191)
Series: UNC leads 16-4
Last Meeting: UNC beat Notre Dame, 102-87, on November 26, 2008, in the Maui Invitational.

2013-2014 ACC Standings

Notre Dame at a glance
Location: Notre Dame, Indiana
Nickname: Fighting Irish
Colors: Blue & Gold
Conference: ACC
Arena: Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center (9,149)
2012-2013 Record: 25-10 (11-7 Big East)
Last Game: Notre Dame lost 61-55 at #1 Syracuse on Monday night.
More on the Fighting Irish:
Schedule | Stats | Roster
Official Site | Rivals Site

Last starting line-up
(against Syracuse)


F - Pat Connaughton
F - Zach Auguste
C - Steve Vasturia
G - Garrick Sherman

G - Eric Atkins

Statistical Leaders
Scoring: Garrick Sherman (14.5 PPG) Eric Atkins (14.0 PPG)

Rebounding: Garrick Sherman (8.0 RPG) Pat Connaughton (7.4 RPG)

Assists: Eric Atkins (4.8 APG) Pat Connaughton (2.7 APG)

Team Statistics
Points Per Game:
74.4
Rebounds Per Game: 35.3
Assist Per Game: 15.7
Field Goal Percentage: .459
3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .359

North Carolina at a glance
Last starting line-up
(against Maryland)

F - James Michael McAdoo
F - J.P. Tokoto
F - Kennedy Meeks
G - Leslie McDonald

G - Marcus Paige

Statistical Leaders
Scoring: Marcus Paige (17.1 PPG) James Michael McAdoo (14.8 PPG)

Rebounding: James Michael McAdoo (6.8 RPG) Brice Johnson (6.3 RPG)

Assists: Marcus Paige (4.5 APG) J.P. Tokoto (2.7 APG)

Team Statistics
P
oints Per Game: 75.9
Rebounds Per Game: 41.3
Assist Per Game: 15.9
Field Goal Percentage: .456
3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .321

Game Notes: ND | UNC

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